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Playing Blinds in SNGs

After reviewing a couple of tournies on here, and after seeing some of the worst blind play ever last night, I wanted to just post some thoughts on blind play in SNGs.

You see there seems to be a switch in a poker players head when it comes to playing in the blinds. Ego dominates sense, and testosterone sprays all over the keyboard, mouse and over that photo of your wife next to your PC.

Example from last night. I’m in push/fold mode, I have K4s in BB and SB limps. I insta shove and he tanks and calls with……………..

Four of Diamonds Two of Diamonds (I boated up lol)

Ok so no-one on here is that bad in the blinds, but it’s still a place that lots of us lose money.

There are 3 areas I wanted to talk about.

1. Completing the SB

2. Raising the SB

3. Calling raises from the blinds

What I’m talking about here is play early on. When you’re down to push fold play, or when you’re opponents are down there, we play via ICM mainly, and there are tonnes of strat posts about that. I wanted to talk about the three things above, as I believe many players are making costly mistakes all the time from the blinds.

Underpinning this whole discussion is one idea: You can’t win a SNG early, and your edge is when the blinds get higher.

I make money through sit and goes because I have a good push/fold game. It’s nowhere near perfect, but I work on it and the majority of my opponents do not. They make bad shoves and bust, bad calls and bust, and they lose money.

Early on then, I’m looking to play premiums, and not get involved in marginal situations. In short I want as many chips for later as the cards and the table will allow me, thus maximising the edge I feel I have.

So on to my thoughts

1. Completing the SB.

So let’s say we’re at 25/50, the button called, you have 65 offsuit and you think "I’m getting 5 to 1 on my money, this is a call." (Good old harrington!) Odds of flopping 2pair? 48.5 to 1. Odds of flopping trips? 73.2 to 1. Odds of flopping a straight? 76.5 to 1

In short you don’t have odds to flop a hand about which you will be almost certain you are best. Suddenly 5 to 1 looks poor.

Now let me ask some questions. How often does BB raise and are you calling? What do you do if you flop 1 pair? Do you felt an open ended straight draw? If you’ve flopped something, you bet, and one of the players flats, and an overcard hits, do you bet again?

Can you see how often you have to fold, and how often you may have bet more and still had to fold? You’re burning chips, and the times you do win don’t make up for it. If you felt the OESD, and you find someone to go broke with, you lose 2/3 times! You’re out, and you can’t even get to the stage where you’re exploiting your edge!

So when should you complete. Firstly I’ll complete any 2 if there are 5 limpers before me and I have >15 BBs. That’s my rule of thumb and it’s based on hitting 2 pair or better. If there is only 2 limpers I’ll rarely ever complete. Maybe T9s or something, but they have to be suited and I’m only betting a pair if it’s top pair.

What if it’s folded to me? I NEVER complete. EVER. I raise or fold, and I raise a LOT tighter than I would in an MTT or in a cash game.

2. Raising the SB.

If it’s been limped and I have TT+, AJ+ I raise. I don’t want to raise wider because I don’t want to play OOP post flop with much less.

If it’s folded to me I raise Ax, 22+, K9+,QT+, and suited connectors. (remember I’m talking before we’re in push/fold mode.) That may seem tight, but I want to make sure that if I am called, I have something to play with. At low blind levels, opponents very often call their BB with trash, and they often reraise wide. I’ll be OOP post flop and I do not want to cripple myself in a blind war.

As soon as you find yourself with the BB playing back, take your hand off the mouse, and consider whether you want this spot to define your sit and go. Then make your own decision. Too often you have A7o, you raise and the BB pushes over and that ego clicks the call button for you. "He’s just bluffing me, and I have an A." Personally, i don’t care if he has it or not. I want to be in the end game, and this looks too tight a spot, so let it go. It’s amazing how you forget about a hand when the next one is dealt.

I feel like I’ve waffled in this section. I wanted to get 2 points across.

Firstly, just because it’s folded to you in the SB it doesn’t mean you have to steal. Sure in the late game things are different but up to 25/50 and even at 50/100, you don’t need to bother, so only raise good hands.

Secondly, do not get into a blind war. Take your hand off the mouse and check that ego. The war should come on or near the bubble. Don’t get yourself killed in minor skirmishes.

3. Calling raises from the blinds.

Ok this is quite different from the other 2. I sat at a $6.50 sng (actually 4) last night, and saw a player called jeanette_33. I noticed her because she was supanova, and because she was at all 4 of my tables. I sharkscoped her and she was a winning player and had played 2000 games at $100-$400, and 500 games at $500-$1000. I took notes and EVERY time she raised, she min raised, which got me thinking.

You see in HOH and in a lot of pro tutorials they say you should call a min raise with ATC in your BB because you always have the correct odds. Well IMO that’s bollocks in SNGs and because jeanette always minraised- it seemed obvious that the high stakes players she’s used to playing with agree.

Firstly, you’ll be OOP post flop and it’s really hard to play OOP with a marginal hand. Secondly you double your contribution to the pot this hand. In fact calling a minraise from the BB is like completing the SB (odds wise) except you know that someone has something decent already. Surely then you should not do it as often as you would complete.

Secondly, your BB costs you twice as much this time round. You need all the chips you can get for the business end of a sit and go, and calling a min-raise at 50/100 and having to let it go post flop (as happens more often than not), means you will be the first short. It also means that if you do get the double up, it’s for 200 valuable chips less.

Lastly the whole concept of "better than 2-1 means good odds," only really applies if the cards are face up. Say if you’re calling an all in (and in an SNG it’s not even that straight forward because of ICM). WHen you’re calling a raise, what is more important is the threat of future bets, and the chance of you flopping a hand you like OOP.

I tend to treat a min-raise like any other, and call or reraise as I would any other. So my advice is if you would not call a 3x bet, don’t call a minraise.

Now what about calling a 3x raise from the BB when there is already a caller. Well you have good odds just like the min-raise, so why not. All the previous arguments apply. Just because you have money in the pot already does not mean you should play a big pot OOP. Things may be different in cash games or mtts when pot odds are everything, but in SNGs pot odds mean much less.

Everything is decided at the higher blind levels and through the quality of your push/fold game relative to your opponents. Getting involved calling raises from the blinds without premium cards before that stage will cost you money in the long run.

I used to lose too much money through blind play. I then realised the following:

Every time I’m in the blinds early I have a greater chance of getting into trouble as I already have chips in the pot.

Now I actively try harder to stay out of trouble in the blinds, and I believe the money I now save by ignoring those chips is considerable.

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts, and I know that if you take some of what I’ve said on board you’ll find it profitable, particularly at lower stakes.

Disclaimer: There may be an edge to be gained via more aggressive blind play in HIGHER STAKES sngs. In low stakes sngs, probably $16, and definitely $6.50 and below, the edge you have playing correct ICM poker later vastly outweighs any edge you think you have in the first 4 blind levels.

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