Disclaimer: This guide is based on my experiences of $10 Double or Nothing SNGs (DONs).
This is a brief introduction to the ‘Double Or Nothing’ tournaments (DONs) that run on PokerStars. These are 10 man SNGs but with a flat payout structure whereby, as the name suggests, the top 5 finishers double their stake.
The flat payout structure means that optimal play differs greatly from normal SNGs. For example, building a stack to play for the money and a chance of taking first place loses significance and chip preservation becomes far more important. For this and other related reasons many people hate DONs. I understand this but it doesn’t mean that you can’t show a nice profit through the exploitation of others mistakes.
DONs have other redeeming features. For example, they are easier to multi-table than probably any other form of NLHE. This is because there are fewer probable outcomes in a hand (e.g. many hands don’t go beyond pre-flop) and play becomes regimented requiring must less thought.
Currently, there are two kinds of DONs, the normal speed tournaments and the turbo’s. In my experience the normal speed tournaments are far more profitable.
Basic Strategy & Pre-Flop
The fold button is your friend. Use it. It’s not possible to just fold your way into the money so you still need to accumulate chips but there are very specific spots for this – your default play at all other times is to fold.
You need patience and discipline for this because you should be folding almost all of the time, especially in the early stages. If you’re looking to practice patience/discipline then DONs might be for you. People with the ability to sit tight will naturally gain an edge over most of the table because the number one mistake I see from other players is that they call too much. (BTW, #2 is their inability to fold seemingly big hands, e.g. AA)
I don’t work to a hand chart but I have no problem open folding small-medium pairs and stuff like AQ and KQ in the early stages. You should be playing tighter than you ever would in any other kind of tourney structure but you still need to accumulate chips and so big pairs are still a raise - I’m not mucking something like JJ/QQ, AK if there’s no action in front of me (especially in late position).
When facing an opened pot pre-flop, I’m mucking practically everything except AA/KK which I’m re-raising and am obviously prepared to go all the way with. N.B. Being prepared to go all the way with a hand in DONs is a good way of deciding what to do pre-flop. Typically, I’m looking for a solid read or dependable stats on an opponent before I widen this range (although I often play AK like AA/KK). Be aware that most of your opponents are tightening their ranges so you need a stronger hand than normal to play back at them.
Obviously, you will be forced to widen this range as the tournament progresses (particularly when your stack gets desperate) but it’s a decent rule of thumb for the early stages.
I look at DONs as magnifying the aspects of normal SNGs. Because of the flat payout structure, you either do things a hell of a lot more (e.g. fold, bet aggressively when you have it) or a hell of a lot less (e.g. bluff, slowplay). Disciplined folds, waiting for a strong hand and betting hard when you have it will give you enough of an edge over enough of your opponents to carry you to the bubble of a DON more often than not. Do this repeatedly and you’ll cash enough times to show a nice profit.