Sit-n-Go Strategy Guide Part 2
This is a continuation of DavSimon's Single Table Tournament (SnG) strategies. Click here to read DavSimon's
Sit-n-Go/Turbo Strategy Guide
SnG Strategy Guide - Section 4
Alright, now we know what stakes we should be playing at, we now have to decide if we are going to play a single table SnG or a two-table SnG. There are three-table SnGs at Party Poker and affiliated sites as well but the two-table and three-table SnGs are so similar, I will simply refer to the two-table variety.
Single Table SnG
In the single table SnG category there are several different types of games to choose from. There are full table (9-10 players), there are 6-max and there are ”Turbo” varieties of each. At most sites in a “normal” single table SnG, the blinds increase at 10 minute intervals…(Party and Party skins increase the blinds after 10 hands). The turbo SnGs usually increase the blinds every 5 minutes…..twice as fast. I generally prefer the 10 minute blind structure games, it gives a player a little more time to warm up to the table dynamic before the blinds get out of hand and force you to play. In most “normal” SnGs I will hang back, play very few hands and observe my opponents when the blinds are low. I will make notes on what types of hands they will play (if they show them), what position they play them in…..and how much they value a particular type of hand. Over time I have developed a tempo of sorts to my SnG game, and the 10 minute blind levels help me make good….not hasty decisions. I give myself plenty of time to complete each and every tournament so that I don’t feel like I have to make a move to finish the game because other things require my attention. I can’t even begin to list the times I have been short stacked, on the verge of blinding out only to patiently wait for my opportunity to make a move and a comeback. This type of patient short stacked game is simply not possible in a turbo SnG. When the blinds increase every 5 minutes you do not have the luxury of waiting around for good hands…particularly if you have lost a couple pots and are short stacked. People call turbo SnGs a “crapshoot” while I don’t completely agree with that assessment, luck certainly plays a much larger roll in the outcome when the blinds increase twice as fast. The principles of good play still apply in a turbo SnG, but you will be forced to play more hands and push thinner margins to be successful. Many people choose the turbo SnGs because they are short on time…and/or simply prefer the fast paced high-action style of play. When I first started playing single table tournaments, I played about ½ normal speed and ½ turbo. I initially liked the turbo SnGs because they offered a bit more value than a “normal” SnG…generally the buy-in is a few dollars higher than a normal SnG, but the rake or entry fee is the same as its slower paced counterpart. So effectively you are paying the same fee and have the potential to win a larger prize pool. After a few months I realized my variance in turbo SnGs was significantly higher than it was in “normal” SnGs and chose to specialize in normal speed games.
The final variety of single table SnG is the 6-max. Short handed or 6-max SnGs follow the same blind structure as a “normal” full table SnG (increases every 10 minutes)…there are just fewer opponents at the table. Although the blinds increase at 10 minute intervals the pace of a 6-max game is fast. Since there are fewer players the blinds come around much faster than in a full table game. Consequently, you have to loosen up your starting hand requirements and play more hands. After a couple blind increases and particularly if an opponent gets knocked out early the 6-max games effectively play more like a turbo SnG than a regular speed SnG. Again the benefit of a short handed game is that the pace is fast and exciting and there are fewer opponents to beat. People who enjoy playing a lot of hands are drawn to these types of games. The big downside to 6-max, is that only the top 2 positions are paid. Therefore to get any return on your investment you have to place first or second. To be perfectly honest I have not played many 6-max SnGs and do not have many tips for playing short handed from the start. I am quite adept at playing short handed once a normal table is reduced to six people, but by then I typically have an adequate read on many players and a good understanding of the table’s dynamic. There is a refined set of skills required to play 6-max that I simply have not developed. This does not prevent me from playing them from time to time…I have even played a couple 6-max MTTs on Ultimate Bet and I am beginning to enjoy them. Once I have more experience with 6-max I will make additions to this section.
Two Table SnG
Two table SnGs happen to be my favorite type of SnGs to play. I generally try to play at least one per day…often I will play several. Two table SnGs come in two varieties…the “normal” (10 minute blind level increases) and turbo. If people thought a single table turbo SnG was a crapshoot….wow….play a two table turbo, talk about fast action once you eliminate ½ the players. The blinds increase so quickly and by the time you have eliminated 9-10 players the blinds are a significant portion of your stack. I typically avoid the two table turbos for the same reasons I avoid the single table turbo games. However, I truly enjoy the unique challenges of the normal paced two table SnGs. There are clear benefits to playing a two table SnG….they have twice as many players so the prize pool is twice as large. Although the prize pool is significantly larger the tournament entry fee is exactly the same as their single table counterparts….which provides an exceptional value. Additionally, in most cases the two table SnGs pay out to 4th position. The payout structure generally is: 1st Place: 40% 2nd Place: 30% 3rd Place: 20% 4th Place: 10%
The one exception I am aware of are the two table SnGs at Pacific Poker. At the smaller limits I believe they pay 5 positions and at the higher limits they pay only the top 3…..which I really like! While in the standard format 4th place does not pay a whole lot, you get your buy-in plus about 50% back. Although it does not amount to much money or a big win, that small amount can make the difference between a winning or losing session. Two table SnGs do take considerably more time to play…usually 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours vs. roughly 1 hour for a single table SnG, however the greater value and increased payout makes them easily worth the extra time, to me. The obvious challenge is that there are more opponents to defeat to get a payout, but another challenge is that in a two table SnG you absolutely have to remained focused. Why…you might ask….well, as soon as you have reads on the opponents and the table dynamic it changes!
As opponents start getting knocked out the poker room moves people from table to table in an attempt to keep the tables balanced, so that one table is not disadvantaged by having to play short handed in thereby paying more blinds. Once 9/10 opponents are knocked out of the game the table is consolidated to a single “final table” therefore you will have a read on some of the people, but not all of them and the table dynamic will completely change. Another challenge of a two table SnG is that there are more chips in play. Once you get down to short handed play, the blinds are typically lower (compared to stack size) than a single table SnG. Often you will have a large stack, a couple middle stacks and a couple small stacks. This, in my opinion, is how new players become good players…you are exposed to varying situations and styles of play from game to game. How do you play from a small stack, how do you play as a large stack, how do you play a middle stack when a desperate small stack has position on you….etc. These situations make you truly pay attention and evaluate your play and you have to play a bit more strategically than you would in a single table SnG. What I mean by that is occasionally you will find yourself in a short stacked situation when there are 10 or 11 players left and there are still two short handed tables running. I will sometimes employ a stalling tactic, whereby I will take as much time as possible to make my decisions….essentially letting the time counter run down before I act. There are a variety of reasons for doing this, obviously I am hoping another short stack at the other table will bust out and we will then be consolidated at one table so the blinds come around slower. This small thing can often give you the time and breathing room you need to make a comeback. An added benefit of doing this is that you can sometimes “tilt” the table. People play SnGs for many reasons…but one big reason is that they do not have the time to devote to a large MTT. When you cut into their playing time by stalling, it irritates them, to say the least. Occasionally they will be so relieved that it is their turn to act they will make decisions much more quickly than they normally would…and hasty decisions tend to be bad ones. It also gets them angry at you and they will sometimes try to seek revenge by playing into you, so you wait for a big hand and watch when all the tilting players call your all-in bet just to knock you out of the game. I have doubled, and even tripled up like this innumerable times…then suddenly you are no longer the short stack. This is a controversial tactic and some people feel it is unethical, I am not here to teach you how to be friendly to your opponents…I am trying to teach you how to be successful and make money within the rules of the game. Until they implement hand-for-hand play in two table SnGs I will continue to do what is necessary to give myself every opportunity to win….I suggest you do the same.
**NOTE: There is another type of one and two table SnG I will address later, and that is the “Satellite” SnG.
Sit-n-Go Strategy Guide - Section 4 Summary
• What are the different types of SnG tournaments
• Single full table
• Single full table turbo
• Single table 6-max
• Two table SnG
• Two table turbo
• Differences and strategies for playing each
SnG Strategy Guide - Section 5
As promised, I will write a little about the final type of SnG….the Satellite SnG. Satellite SnGs are a bit different from the normal type of SnG in that the payout structure is very small. Generally only the winner gets the prize…and occasionally 2nd place will get their buy-in back. They provide an opportunity to win a larger buy-in for a tournament you may otherwise not be able to justify with your bankroll. Satellite SnGs offer a great value for the dollar, but in the end they can be very frustrating as well. For example this weekend I played a few Satellite SnGs, one was at Pacific Poker…it was a 11+1 single table buy-in, and first place wins a $110 seat to the “Weekly Whopper” after an hour of solid play I took second place and received nothing for my efforts. On Poker Stars I played a couple two table SnGs which were $13+1 buy-ins for a $215 seat in the big Sunday Freezout. The first one I made a very bad call and went out in 8th or 9th at the final table…the second one I again lost heads up, I had my opponent exactly where I wanted him and he caught his card on the river to severely cripple me to the point of being all in to cover the blinds for three hands straight. I eventually lost and received $19 for the effort while my opponent received the $215 seat. All of the 17 other opponents got nothing. Again….these Satellite SnGs provide an excellent value because your ROI is very high….but you simple must win for it to pay off. Until you have gained a good bit of experience I would recommend staying away from these types of SnGs….particularly if you are just starting out. You time and money may be better spent in a regular SnG where even if you don’t win you will get some return on investment thereby building your bankroll. These satellites can take a toll on your bankroll, although they buy-ins are small….but more importantly they can take a toll on your self confidence. I have become very good at shrugging off disappointment due to being a MTT player, but bubbling out of 2 Satellite SnGs this weekend is still a bitter pill to swallow for anyone.
Reading opponents is an extremely important skill to develop. You may not be able to put your opponent on an exact hand but putting him on a range of hands is critical to making good decisions. I have often recommended writing down on a scratch piece of paper what you think you opponents are holding….even if you are not involved in that hand. In order to develop this skill you must practice and pay attention to what is going on at the table even if you are not currently playing a hand. I would encourage you….for at least 1 solid week to play one table at a time and write down your opponents suspected holdings based on the action and what is on the board….and every time a hand is shown take note if your read was correct, close or completely wrong. It may seem like an awful lot of work, but I promise you after following through with this exercise you will be a much better player. You will be able to follow the action, even if slightly distracted (important skill needed to multi-table) you will be able to pick up on subtle betting habits of opponents, whether his pause is a trap or whether he is actually considering a move. You will be able to tell whether your opponent is acting quickly and decisively or if he is simply using the “action buttons” to call or fold.
***Side Note***: I would urge you to refrain, or at least reduce your use of the “pre-action buttons” particularly in SnGs and Tournaments. When I multi-table it is sometimes necessary, but it gives your opponents information and you can miss out on good stealing opportunities. I have auto folded many hands in late position when I could have easily stolen the blinds because the action folded around to me. By doing this you essentially give the button or small blind the opportunity to steal and cost yourself 1 free orbit.
By writing down a range of hands your opponent may be holding, you begin to get a “feel” for how they play in what position….and with what types of hands. Once you are involved in a hand with that opponent and are forced with a decision you can replay the hand in your mind and draw on your past experience/notes of how this individual plays….and hopefully make the correct decision. People learn in many different ways…A proven method and one which I use is repetition. I can pick up a lot from reading, but it does not truly become real for me until I do it….over and over again. I have not spent a lot of time analyzing the intricacies of how and why I know what my opponents have….I have just done it so many time that I have learned to trust it. Over time you just learn what a TPTK bet looks like….you learn what a draw bet looks like, you even start to pick up on when people are likely bluffing or stealing (whether you can call the bluff or re-raise them is a different story) You will make bad reads….it just comes with the territory, some opponents are adept at switching gears and changing how they play hands, but people are creatures of habit and will fall into a comfortable pattern you will be able to pick up on if you pay attention. As you develop your opponent reading skill you should develop the habit of taking notes on them.
I strongly suggest, at least initially, keeping detailed notes about your opponents. Not notes that say; “this guy is a complete asshat, what kind of player gets this lucky” I have a few of those notes, but they are not productive and are generally a waste of time and energy. Productive notes are lists of hands they play in and out of position. What type of raises they make (do they vary the amount they raise with the strength of their hand). Do they call a lot, or fold easily under pressure and any detailed descriptions of how long they take to bet…long thinking pauses or decisive action? There is plenty of down time when you are playing a tournament, some people like to watch TV or browse the web, but until you become a very experienced player and even when you become an experienced player you should make notes on you opponents. Taking notes will help keep you focused on the action, it helps develop your ability to read players, and it helps you become more disciplined and focused in general. I find it amazing how many people you will run in to that you have played before, and having notes on them gives you an advantage. Yesterday I was playing a $50+5 single table SnG and there were 2 opponents I had apparently played before because I had notes on them. One note said something along the lines of: “be careful this guy will play ANY two cards if they are suited, he is a flush chasing fool” The note on the other player became very valuable for me. It said; “this guy will bluff a lot in position and will bet very strong/semi-bluff with second or bottom pair” Sure enough within the first level he was playing his usually hype-aggressive game. The first hand I got involved with him he tried over betting 2nd pair but I smooth called him to the river where he simply gave up and checked it off to me. The other two times we tangled heads up I check raised him……once with the goods and once on a re-steal…both times he gave up. If I did not know his style of playing I would have easily folded two of the three hands to his aggressive betting….costing me a bunch of chips and ultimately may have cost me second place in the SnG. I will often sit and take notes on an opponent after I have been knocked out of a tournament early (Stars allows you to do this) If someone made a bad play or even put a good move on me and busts me out….I surly do not want to forget that valuable information I just paid for. I will hang around and make the note so the next time we meet I will have more information to go on. Part of playing good poker is being disciplined and developing good habit….taking notes on as many players as you can is certainly a good habit – it may lead you to make a good lay-down or give you the confidence to call a bluff.
Sit-n-Go Strategy Guide - Section 5 Summary
• Satellite SnGs
• Learn how to read opponents
• Refrain from using the “pre-action” buttons
• Practice, practice…practice making good reads
• Take as many useful notes on you opponent’s play as possible
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