PokerStars Ambassador, Spin & Go Specialist Nick Walsh Talks Strategy, Small-Field Success, & Poker Life

February 13, 2023
PokerStars Ambassador, Spin & Go Specialist Nick Walsh Talks Strategy, Small-Field Success, & Poker Life

Small-field sit and go tournaments have become a huge part of the online poker scene. Players like the fast action and ability to finish a tournament in a short time. Tournament like PokerStars’ jackpot-style Spin & Go’s promise even faster action and a chance at even bigger payouts.

Some players zero in on these events, polishing their skills for some nice long-term results. PokerStars ambassador Nick Walsh was one of those players earlier in his career. Walsh, originally from Wisconsin and now living in the United Kingdom, put in plenty of volume in these events.

That success helped lead to his current role with Stars, heading up the company’s Twitch efforts. Walsh recently spoke with USPoker at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) about his life at the tables. He also offered some tips for players who enjoy jumping in Spin & Go’s.

Ramping up his PokerStars Spin & Go game, playing for a share of $150,000

As an online poker pro and streamer, Walsh found the Spin & Go action as his early ticket to success. He fine-tuned his strategy and played event after event, adding significantly to his bankroll. Initially, Walsh jumped into cash games online before eventually finding his niche.

“I think my professional career really started when I started playing heads-up hypers, and became exceptionally good at those,” he says. “That was where I made probably the most money. And then as I realized the games were getting tougher there, I realized Spin & Go’s were essentially the same format, with one extra player to start, because the heads-up aspect of Spins is the most important.

“That’s where you win the most money. So I transitioned into Spins because it was much softer.”

Nick Walsh

Because Walsh played the events so much, some big multipliers also occasionally came his way. But those bigger prize pools weren’t the main portion of his winnings, Walsh notes, and he found success no matter the amount.

“It’s not a high return on investment, but they’re really fast,” he says. “So you can play a ton of them in a day. And that’s kind of how I made my way into becoming more professional.”

That eventually included being part of what many players in these events hope for – landing a jackpot prize pool. He was lucky enough to play for a $150,000 shared prize.

“Unfortunately, I lost a flip for the $150,000,” he says. “I had pocket nines against Ace-Jack preflop and he hit the Jack on the river. I still won $15,000. So a nice score, but obviously pretty disproportionate.”

Looking back, Walsh loved the experience of just being in a spot most online poker players would envy.

“It’s incredible,” he says. “Most people will play and never hit that kind of level. So I was really lucky that I spiked it.”

Spin & Go strategy tips

Many players may not be able to find the ultimate jackpot by playing Spin & Go’s. But savvy players can find some winnings like Walsh. He regularly streams his Spin & Go action and offered USPoker readers three tips to success in these types of small-field events.

1 – Know your preflop game

Because Spin & Go’s are such a fast format, preflop skills are probably the most important, Walsh says. Pay attention to what other players are doing during this portion of the event.

“Having really solid preflop information is already going to make you much better than other players,” he says.

Being aware of your opponents’ play and some confidence in your own skills and strategy can really pay off in the long run.

2 – Pay attention to flop betting 

On the flop, Walsh recommends paying attention to your own betting. Some of those betting strategies from larger tournaments may not carry over.

“You can’t assume that what you learned with multi-table tournaments is going to be the same for Spins because first of all, there are no antes,” he says. “So that already immediately changes the size of the pot. There’s also a lot smaller betting. One-third pot is probably a very common flop bet size. One-quarter pot is actually probably used a lot more frequently in most situations in Spin & Go’s.”

Those smaller bets don’t mean toning down the aggressiveness however, Walsh says. 

“What I’m saying is that your flop sizings are going to size down, but you’re going to continue to barrel very aggressively on the turn as well,” he says. “So you’re kind of setting yourself up to win pots on the turn in the same way that you do in regular multi-table tournaments as well.

“But the sizings are different because you can do a lot more with a smaller bet because it represents such a larger amount like a larger amount of chips than if you were playing at maybe 90 blinds deep, where you need to bet bigger in order to build the pot to get there.”

3 – Understand the variance and bankroll involved

Just by their short-field, quick-paced nature, Spin & Go’s can come with plenty of variance. Players should know what they are getting into and be ready for this if choosing to try and win regularly in these events. 

“You need to make sure you have the bankroll to play because people are like, ‘I’ll load up 20 buy-ins and see how it goes,’” Walsh says. “A really good player can swing 20 buy-ins in a day.

“So you need to have 100 to 200 buy-ins, depending on what stakes you’re playing and depending on how good you are, in order to weather the swings. And then overall long term, you can make it out and make some money.”

A jack of all trades in the Bahamas

Now Walsh is now involved with numerous part of the poker industry – playing, streaming, and commentating. PokerStars made him the head of the company’s streaming efforts in 2022.

At the PCA, calling the action was a major part of his trip. Overall, he enjoyed the experience and being part of the Stars commentating team.

“Just being in the Bahamas is amazing,” he says. “This has been a nice fit for me as well because when we’re working in Prague or in Barcelona, James Hartigan, Joe Stapleton, and I are really flat out because we’re there to cover that event and we have a relatively small team.

Here we have this massive team and all the other team pros are here, so we get to swap them in and out. So I get a little bit of time to catch the sun. Working with James and Joe is really my dream. I think that worked out great.”

* Photos courtesy PokerStatrs

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