How to beat Rush or Zoom poker

Variants like Rush poker offers a fast and exciting twist on no-limit hold’em, but require a few strategic adjustments. We dissect the action

In recent years, many new and interesting poker formats have been brought to market, mainly by online poker operators trying to make themselves stand out from the pack. In this piece we will look at one of the most popular new variants – Full Tilt’s Rush poker – and show you how to beat it.

Rush poker has two major differences from a traditional poker game. First, instead of sitting down at a regular poker table, you join a player ‘pool’ which, for ring games, typically consists of a few hundred opponents. In each hand you are seated with a random selection of those opponents, in a random position, meaning it’s much more difficult to build up reads.

The second key difference is that if you don’t like your hand, you can ‘quick fold’ and get moved to a new table instantly. Nobody at your table will know you’ve folded until the action reaches you. This means you can slash the time between playable hands and stay constantly in action.

Indeed, with Rush poker you can play three or four times as many hands an hour as you can at a standard cash table, meaning you can play literally thousands of hands in a lunchtime session.

Rush Poker doesn’t require many adjustments to play well, but with so many hands per hour the small adjustments it does require are critically important.

The dilution effect

In regular ring games table selection is incredibly important. In fact it’s probably the number one factor in being a winning player. However, in Rush, your opponents change every hand. This means that a single huge donator gets ‘shared’ among all the entries in the pool. Effectively, fish are diluted, and so are very strong players.

Consequently, it is the average skill level in the entire player pool that matters, as you can’t rely on winning a lot from a single weak player.Equally, you don’t have to worry as much about losing a lot to a single strong opponent. So, in order to beat the game consistently, you need to be a stronger player than the average of the player pool.

There’s only one way to know if you’re above the average skill level, and that’s to start small and work your way up through the stakes. After you’ve proved yourself in the small games over a few thousand hands you can take a shot at the higher levels, always being willing to drop down again if your bankroll dictates it.

The size of your bankroll is an interesting consideration in Rush. People often wrongly claim that Rush is high variance compared to regular games. It’s not, but because of the very large number of hands it’s possible to play in a short period of time, it can seem like the swings are enormous. If your bankroll is technically big enough to play a regular game, it should be big enough to play Rush too.

The ‘quick fold effect’

Because players can ‘quick fold’ bad hands and immediately get a new one, the typical Rush game is a bit tighter than a regular game. What’s more, it’s easy to get into a ‘rhythm’ and ‘quick fold’ hands without really thinking about whether the situation is profitable first. It’s very common for players to miss blind-stealing opportunities in particular.

Because it’s so easy to ‘quick fold’, the blinds can be significantly easier to steal. The blinds are less likely to take a chance and get involved with you, and opponents who are still to act are also less likely to play back at you. Consequently, you should be raising much more often in late position to pick up the blinds. If you’re on the button in an unopened pot, a raise is practically mandatory, as is a raise from the small blind if it’s folded to you.

Occasionally you’ll come across a thinking opponent who will be doing the same as you, and opening with a lot more hands from late position. In such a case, you can loosen up and defend more frequently. Try putting on the pressure with a reraise if you think you’re up against an obvious steal.

Despite this proliferation of stealing, the typical opponent’s range when calling a raise (and especially when three-betting) is narrower than it would be in a regular game. That means that when you see a flop, you should expect to be up against a strong hand more often than normal, and in particular high cards and big pairs.

Players in normal ring games tend to ‘mix it up’ with suited connectors and small pairs when they are getting bored of folding, but in Rush that doesn’t happen, as good hands come along often enough to keep most players entertained. Consequently you should be more cautious when making continuation bets, as your opponent’s range is typically skewed towards hands that can call on high-card flops.

Keeping track of foes

At first glance, Rush might seem like a game where keeping track of your opponents is impossible. In a regular game, you’re sitting with the same people for extended periods and you can remember how they played previous hands. But in Rush, you can’t rely solely on your memory, as there are too many players to keep track of and your opponents and their positions are changing every hand.

In Rush it’s even more important to keep good notes. Using colour codes to highlight opponents with particular tendencies can make it easier to get a feel for the table dynamics at a glance. You’ll want to mark players who are overly tight (whose blinds you can steal easily) and who are frequent stealers (who you can play back at preflop).

Another alternative is to use a HUD. Programs such as PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager now support Rush Poker, so using these tools could make keeping track of your opponents easier. As always, however, make sure you have collected a decent amount of hand data on a specific opponent before you take the HUD’s information too seriously.

Discipline and punish

All poker requires discipline, but because Rush Poker is essentially an accelerated version of the game, the ‘long term’ comes into play much more quickly than normal. That means that if you have a leak it will be ruthlessly exposed, and if you’re a long-term loser you will, on average, lose much more per hour playing Rush. Consequently, you need to be extremely disciplined when you enter this hyper-accelerated world.

It’s a good idea to start at lower stakes than you would usually play, and turn off the ‘auto top-up’ options for the game so that you can keep track of how much money you’ve invested. If you’re not careful, you can run up huge losses in a Rush game without really realising what’s happening.

However, on the flip side of the coin, if you’re a long-term winner you can win a lot more money per hour in a Rush game than you normally would at a single regular table. If you normally multi-table, you should consider replacing some of your tables with Rush entries and see if your profit per hour increases. After all, it can be considerably easier to manage a single Rush window than three to four regular tables.

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