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Heads Up SNG Survival Guide

One of the more exciting forms of poker today has to be Heads-Up Sit-N-Go’s. These mini tournaments pit two players against one another in a winner-take-all format. Every site has these one on one events with most ranging from $2 all the way up to thousands of dollars. Major sites will have a wide variety of formats, blind structures, games, and even number of entrants. Sites like PokerStars and FullTilt run Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, Draw, HORSE, and other games. Most of these can be played in a normal blind structure, turbo, and even no blind increase format. There are so many different games to play and strategies to employ it can be difficult to figure out which game/stakes are best for you. In this guide we will look into picking the correct game and some basic tips which should help you win immediately!

Games

As mentioned previously there are more than a handful of games available to players on most major poker sites. To keep things simple, start out with the game you are most comfortable with playing. If you have played a lot of Texas Hold’em before, then do not begin playing HORSE HU SNGs. Some of the most profitable games are the No Limit Texas Hold’em Turbo SNGs which have a lot of poor players joining them each and every minute. There can be a lot of games in the Lobby which can make choosing one quite difficult. Your best bet is to employ the filter offered by most poker sites. By using the filter you will be able to significantly reduce your options to just a handful of games. For example, on PokerStars, you can pick the game, stakes ,blind structure, betting format, and number of players in each event of a SNG. This will take you from thousands of options to no more than 5-6. From there, just register into the game you wish to play and wait for an opponent to join you.

Stakes, Bankroll Management, and Moving Up

Bankroll Management is an extremely important factor in becoming a winning long-term HU SNG grinder. While there are a lot of theories on the proper number of buy-ins one should have for each level, a solid general rule would be a minimum of 30. Even that number, which might seem high to some, is actually a bit aggressive. It is not uncommon to go on large downswings when multi-tabling turbo HU SNGs. This is where patience comes in; those who are able to practice solid bankroll management will never bust their roll and should be able to improve their game while moving up in stakes.

The great thing about HU SNGs is you can play a few different stakes without getting confused like in cash games. Instead of different chip amounts and raise sizes, each and every SNG will start with the same number of chips and each format will progress through the blinds in the same manner. This is great for those players on smaller sites which may not have as much action as places like Party Poker, PokerStars, or FullTilt. Let’s look at someone with a $500 starting bankroll for example.

This player falls just outside the $10+$.50 level as they have 47 buy-ins for that level. However, they have more than 95 buy-ins for the $5.25 level. As long as they have at least $262.50 (50 buy-ins at $5.25) they could play the $10.50 SNGs. This is the key, if their roll dips to below 50 buy-ins from the lower level they have to move down. If $5.50s are the lowest a site offers, then you have to adjust accordingly.

Sites like PokerStars and FullTilt offer SNGs as low as $2. These are great for learning and building a roll. As long as you commit to practicing this particular brand on bankroll management you should never bust as the players at the microstakes levels are bad enough you should be able to maintain a positive winrate even through the most difficult times.

Regular, Turbo, and Deepstack Formats

There are arguments for and against each the three different typical blind structures found in heads-up SNGs. Depending on which level you choose the blinds will escalate each 5, 10, or 15+ minutes. The most popular format is certainly turbos as it allows players to play a lot more tournaments per hour which should help your winrate. On the other hand, the higher variance of turbos can lead to smaller winrates which obviously affects your hourly earnings. Most of the fish will be found in the turbo SNGs and the ability to play more per hour helps players clear bonuses or earn rakeback faster.

Regular and deep stack events are ok for those coming over from deepstack cash games who do not yet fully understand high blinds push/fold type poker. If you are completely new to SNGs these are a great place to start. You get to spend more time where you have the advantage (deep stacks, low blinds) and will still get to practice some shallow stack play once the blinds inevitably get higher. The no blind increase SNGs should typically be avoided. If you want to play 100bb deep heads-up poker you would be better off game selecting properly at cash games instead of SNGs. The majority of the players in these events will be tight, patience, and nowhere near as bad as those in the regular and turbo structures.

With turbo SNGs you will certainly need to work on and perfect your push/fold game. Once the blinds get to a point where the lower stack has less than 10BBs there is really no substitute for shoving or folding before the flop. The only exception being your opponent having a tendency to raise/shove over limps, then we could shove our weak hands and limp our big hands hoping to entice an all-in. Other concepts such as min-raising the button will need to be considered when the average stack is around 20bbs. Tthis will allow you to continue to play raised pots in position but will also serve to steal the blinds and build your own stack. You will need to loosen both your all-in range as well as your shove-calling range once the stack sizes get much more shallow. Aggression is the key late in games, a lot of players are way too tight and blind themselves down trying to get all the money in with the “best hand”. By the time they accomplish this feat and double up they are in no better shape than in the past. This cycle will repeat itself until they bust.

General Strategy

As touched on previously, aggression is the name of the game in HU SNGs. The player who is able to take the chiplead has quite the advantage early in the SNG. It is not only a practical advantage in that they can win the tournament at any given moment but also a psychological one as it can force their opponent to make poor plays. Players should be raising the vast majority of their buttons and following through with continuation bets on good board textures. 3bet bluffing can work against the correct opponents, those who appear to be reasonably tight and aggressive. Against your typical small stakes player who is a bit too passive we should be playing aggressively, but only continuing with strong hands when facing resistance.

Bluffing after the flop should be kept to a minimum. Most players are not folding hands on the turn/river, instead we should be value betting and winning the maximum when we make strong hands. Do not be afraid to overbet shove with medium to strong hands in order to end the tournament quickly. The value of finishing off the SNG cannot be understated.

Much like in all of poker making the proper adjustments to our opponent’s tendencies will be the difference between winning and losing. If our opponent is loose and calls with too weak of hands, we should widen our value range and forgo bluffing. If we are up against a player who is wildly aggressive we will need to slowplay our hands to gain maximum value. Remember, even though the format is slightly different, it is still poker. The same basic rules which might have helped you run through the microstakes cash game levels still apply here.

Good luck and have fun playing Heads Up SNGs!

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