How to Give ’em What For(ward):
FastForward Poker, A New User’s Guide. 

By Michael Stone

When the VCR first came out, it was a godsend for the impatient.  Not only could you tape your favourite shows off of the TV, and watch them at your leisure, but when the commercials came on you could just press the button with those two little arrows.  The machine would let you gently speed up the tape to quickly get back to the adventures of Ross and Rachel, Homer and Bart, or the gang at Cheers.

This same lack of patience – or alternatively, this need for more action – can make slogging through hand after horrid hand at a poker table a less than thrilling task.  But now, thanks to PartyPoker’s new cash game variant, FastForward poker, you can quickly and more efficiently fold your rag hands, while dramatically increasing your hourly profits.

When you sit down to play FastForward you don’t pick your table and seat.  Instead, you are entered into a player pool.  When you’re ready to go the program places you at a seat, and deals you a hand.  This is the first big difference between FastForward and regular cash game poker.  The second difference is even more key: if you don’t like your hand, you don’t have to wait for your turn to fold.  Just press the ‘Forward Fold’ button at any time, to quickly shoot it into the muck.  You will then be moved to a new table, full of new players from the pool, all in new seats, where you’ll be dealt another hand.  Don’t like that one?  Fold it!  Repeat as needed until you are dealt pocket aces.  And then… profit!

Not so fast, Mr./Mrs. Rock-Solid Nit.  This strategy will be left for your opponents.  In this article I’m going to present to you a higher-level strategy.  One I – and many others – have used to increase their profits at the FastForward tables.  And, while we’re at it, increase our fun.

But before we get into that strategy, let me address you, dear reader.  If you are reading this then you’ve probably cut your teeth on tournament poker, whether in regularly-scheduled Red Club games, Red Hot Poker Tour live games, or online PartyPoker tournaments of the slow and turbo-speed varieties.  In a tournament, after the first couple of levels, you will be used to going all-in preflop.  A lot.  The stack-to-blind ratios are very short as the tournament progresses, and there will be very little betting after the flop.  The big stacks may be as shallow as 20 big blinds, and the short stacks that took too long to get busy may be down to 5 big blinds.  Contrast this with the average cash game, where most players buy-in for about 100 big blinds, and there will be a lot of post-flop play.  So don’t get too excited about getting your AK all-in preflop in a cash game.  In a tournament, yes, for sure, do that all day long.  High five your mom and give thanks to the poker Gods for the opportunity.  But in a cash game this is a cardinal sin.  Sure, you’ll have the opportunity to rebuy and stay at the table.  But this is nothing more than a very good strategy … for kissing your profits goodbye.

When you play FastForward poker, you’ll notice that one of your highly developed poker skills will almost never be utilized.  That is, your reads on your opponents.  Because you are moving tables constantly, and playing with so many different players, you won’t have time to identify each opponent’s playing style, and develop a counter-strategy to combat that style.  Instead, you must rely on another basic strategy: playing smart position poker.  Basically, you want to be playing strong and aggressive from late position, stealing the blinds a lot.  And from early position you want to tighten up your range of hands.  FastForward poker is great for learning just which hands you can play from each position, profitably, and can thus be used as an excellent training tool for beginning players learning about relative hand strength from each seat around the table.

Because FastForward bills itself as an opportunity to quickly muck your trash hands, in favour of getting another hand and another opportunity to play at a different table, many players will be using the Forward Fold button constantly.  Because of this a lot of the time your opponents left to act behind you will have already folded!  So go ahead and raise a lot of hands in position, and steal a lot of blinds.  And without the ability to give you an image, it will be tough for your opponents to tell that you are raising way more than your fair share of hands.

If you are using this strategy – i.e. opening a lot of pots in the hopes of stealing a lot of blinds – you’d think that there would be other smart players using the same strategy sitting with you at the table.  Are you going to let them run over you and steal your blinds at will because you have a garbage hand?  Of course not!  A good counter-strategy to this is what has become known as “3-betting light”.  In case this terminology is unfamiliar to you, remember this: the big blind is considered the first bet.  The person who opens with a raise is thus putting in the second bet.  If that open gets re-raised, it is called the third bet, or more commonly a 3bet.  In a game where lots of players are opening a wide variety of pots, a 3bet is an effective strategy to employ, because it shows that you have a hand of great strength, and more often than not your opponent will not have a hand strong enough to call.  So if you think that the button is just being aggressive and using his position to steal the blinds, 3bet him!  Don’t worry about your cards (although it does help to sometimes have a real hand).  When this strategy pays off, the rush is almost as thrilling as the profits.

But once again we have to ask ourselves a question: if we are smart enough to 3bet with a wide variety of hands, won’t our opponents use this same strategy on us when we raise the button?  Of course they will!  So how do you we counteract their counteraction of our strategy?  Well this is when poker gets into higher levels of thinking.  If you think that your opponent thinks you are raising him light (i.e. with a weaker than normal hand), and he’s raising you back lightly, raise him back light again.  This is called (I hope your abilities to count will help you predict the name) a 4bet.  Very often when I raise from late position, and someone in the blinds reraises me, I may have a notion that they are a good player (if they have a big stack, or if my intuition is sounding major alarm bells), and I will go ahead and raise them one more time.  The great thing about cash games is that you usually have a deep enough stack to do this, unlike in turbo tournaments where you sometimes only have room to go all-in as an open.  If I have 100 big blinds, and my opponent has the same, I can open for 3bbs, he can raise to 9bbs, and I can reraise to 27 bbs, and still have a full 73 bbs left in my stack to play post-flop poker should he call!  So go ahead and put in some light 4bets once in a while, pick up some pots that weren’t yours in the first place, and try not to smile too hard as your bankroll swells.

If you have mastered FastForward poker, playing your single solitary seat in the player pool, here’s another tip for increasing your profits and stimulating your adrenalin rush: add more seats!  Any player in a FastForward pool can sit at up to 4 tables at once.  If your fundamentals are strong – if you know how to value your hands from each position, if you pick good spots to 3bet, and if you have the cojones to 4bet light once in a while – go ahead and fire up some more tables.  It is possible that your average profit per table will go down, because you are paying less attention to each individual hand.  But if you can keep up with the speed of the game, and minimize your loss of attention, then your overall hourly rate will surely increase.  This is very key information to have; if it leads to additional profits for you, I accept gratuities for offering it up.  Oh and while you’re dinning at Chez Stone, try the veal, why don’t you?

If you learn to correctly implement the strategies outlined above, your points, profits, and levels of adrenalin will increase to unheard of levels.  And you’ll feel the same sense of wonder that you first felt when you skipped over that cheesy Insurance Commercial to get back to the antics of Roseanne and Dan, or Alex P. Keaton.

 

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