What is Spin and Go poker and why is it so popular?

Since PokerStars’ Spin and Go games were introduced to the world of online poker, they’ve been a runaway success – the winning formula that cardrooms had long sought to produce a fast-paced game to appeal to casual players. The result – a three-handed, short-stacked, winner-takes all Sit and Go. The unique gimmick, a prize pool randomly generated that could go up to huge jackpots, was the real kicker.

The video below is how a $1 million Spin and Go table played out.

At one point, it was estimated that the game accounted for over 20% of online poker giant PokerStars’ revenue – and it’s certainly easy to see why. The low stacks and fast action give plenty of opportunity for beginners to win, they usually only take a few minutes of play time, and they provide the chance to win big from a low investment without the need to sit in a multi table tournament for hours on end.

The major downside of Spin and Go poker to balance all this out is, of course, the pretty hefty rake, brought in by the fact that the majority of all the games will have a prize of just two times the buy-in in a three-handed game. While this varies from casino to casino, in general the rake is kept high, the games are kept short, and the cardroom makes a lot of money from casual players while leaving the pros to their grinding elsewhere. It’s surely a game for the casual player to have a chance of winning a huge jackpot, not one for pros to make a steady profit from… right?

How ‘Bighusla’ proved a point in Spin and Go

Well, this isn’t exactly a fair picture – two years ago, online specialist ‘Bighusla’ issued a famous challenge, declaring his intention to play 5,000 $30 Spin and Gos and return with a sizeable profit. Few people believed that it was possible, and he soon received plenty of takers. Yet Bighusla’s assertion proved to be correct – he made a very respectable ROI of over 8% per tournament – without hitting any huge jackpots or taking rakeback into account.

So, how did he do it? Well, one advantage of the image of Spin and Go poker is that it doesn’t attract pros, and is laden with amateur players. That makes playing some solid ABC poker a decent bet over the long haul, taking a profit from the generally weak players that tend to play it (this might be one rare situation where Daniel Negreanu’s oft-mocked ‘more rake is better’ assertion actually stands up.) Of course, since Bighusla showed the way, some bigger players have decided to move in, but in general it’s still full of very loose, ineffective players.

Of course, the nature of Spin and Go means it’s difficult to work things out mathematically. Even without factoring in the tiny possibility of a huge jackpot, you’ll still need a big bankroll because with short stacks, LAGs who’ll shove with anything, and only three players, the variance is pretty high. Yet there certainly seems to be a possibility there for pros and serious players looking to build a bankroll as well as the casual fish.

A growing format which gave rise to imitators

The popularity seems to be expanding, too. While the initial runaway success saw imitators on virtually every cardroom on the internet, the format is now extending to new games. PokerStars has now launched Omaha Spin and Gos, which will bring a new dynamic to proceedings. As Lex Veldhuis said when promoting the game: “Omaha is just perfect for Spin & Go. There will be a lot of action because you can play so many hands, but it’s also really hard to knock people out in PLO. This will make for some very intense situations when the multipliers get high. I can’t wait to try them.”

So, Spin and Go Poker certainly seems to be here to stay for now. While the efforts to come up with newer games to entice casual players continue apace, the success of Spin and Go has made it far less necessary for online casinos.

That hasn’t stopped them trying to find the next success story on similar lines, but it’s possible that developments such as Omaha Spin and Go, or other very similar variants, are the way things are likely to go. Given the recent growth in Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) in general, the two may well combine to produce imitators just like the original did. Love it or hate it, it’s certainly not going away.

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