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PokerStars launched their Beat the Clock format at the end of 2016 and since then, recreational players have been flocking to the format. Similar to a Spin and Go, the game is a four-handed Zoom tournament that lasts a mere five minutes. At the end, players receive a prize based on their chip stack.

For those that haven’t tried out this format, it can be quite fun and a great way to play a little poker when you have a few minutes to spare. If you’re still on the fence on whether to try out this variant, here’s a quick overview to help get you started.

All You Wanna Do is a Zoom, Zoom, Zoom and an All-In

Beat the Clock games are played four-handed Zoom NL. Also, you only get one time bank of five seconds. As such, you’re going to be making snap decisions left and right in this game.

A conservative style is pointless unless you’re running exceptionally well. Opening up your range is necessary in this format and a simple starting strategy would be to move up your aggression level one tier from how you’d normally play.

This means that hands you’d speculate with are now raising hands and you will want to speculate with certain sub-standard hands more in position.

Especially in position, you want to keep the pressure on your opponents. Like many Zoom games, your average player is looking for a reason to fold and go to the next hand. Give them that reason whenever possible.

Also, don’t be afraid to push your big hands early and often in this game. You’ll be paid off a bit more often in this format due to the “all or nothing” mentality of many players.

Survival is a Losing Play

First, some of you will need to step out of your general comfort zone if you want to have a chance at staying afloat in these games. Those that are happy with squeaking into the money on a regular basis with hopes of going deep occasionally will not be able to turn a profit in this game.

Due to the way the prize pool is distributed, playing to make the money is going to be a +EV move. If you make it to the end of these games with a short stack, you will be rewarded with a “prize” less than your initial buy-in.

I tested this on one of my early test runs in this game. It was getting close to the end of the game and I only had a couple of blinds above my starting stack. I stalled a bit to get to the end and see what my payout would be. I then received about 60% of my buy-in as my payout.

The better your chip position, the better the payout. On average, I’ve made back about double my buy-in in events where I finished middle of the pack. A third place finish netted me about 5x my buy-in.

On average, you want to finish in the top half or better in order to make a profit for an individual game.

Best Suited for Truly Aggressive Players

When deciding whether to take a crack at Beat the Clock, ask yourself whether you have the type of aggressive style that will allow you to build mountains of chips on a regular basis.

If you’re the type of player that likes to speculate and outplay players on later streets, this game may not be for you. A lot of the action will occur pre-flop or on the flop at latest. Those that like to slowly build a stack and “tell a story” with their game should just avoid this variant altogether. There’s simply not enough time to do so.

The players best suited for this variant are those that either build a mountain of chips in the early levels or are heading to the next tournament. They play a virtual maniac style where the only goal is to get enough chips to win and if they bust out, there’s always another game.

With that said, even maniac players will experience crazy variance in these games. Is it possible to turn a profit in these games? Sure there is, but don’t expect to get rich. Beat the Clock should be viewed as a fun format and one used to get a “quick poker fix” rather than to build a bankroll.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.