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Sit-n-Go Strategy Guide Part 4

This is a continuation of DavSimon’s Single Table Tournament (SnG) strategies. Click here to
read DavSimon’s Part 1: Sit-n-Go/Turbo Strategy Guide
here to read Part 2: SNG Strategy Guide – 6 Max SNG & Other SNG’s, or here to read Part 3: Sit-n-Go Strategy Guide – Sit n Go Bubble Play, etc.

Well there have been so many questions lately on multi-tabling that I figured this is a good a time as any to discuss the subject. I replied to a question in the “discussion thread” and I will use some of my reply to get started. Ender555, also asked some specific multi-table questions in his own thread, so I will try to make this section a catch all for multi-tabling SnGs.

Yes, I do multi-table SnGs. I have been two tabling for quite some time now…either 1 MTT and 1 SnG or 2 SnGs. Recently, in the last 4-5 weeks… I have been experimenting with 3 tabling. I’ve found that 2-tabling is no trouble whatsoever, I can easily watch the action on two tables, take notes and get reads….and when I comes down to it I can play two hands simultaneously. I do try to stagger the starts a little bit or I will play a single table and a two table. The point is to avoid being HU on two tables at the same time, as you can imagine that can be very hectic. Staggering the starts does not guarantee that you will not be HU on two tables at once, since each SnG will proceed at it’s own pace. I played a $50+5 SnG two days ago that literally took 35 minutes for me to win….at the same time I was playing a $30+3 SnG that started 5 minutes earlier than the $50 which took about 75 minutes to complete. Once the $30 got down to 3 people about even stacked we just fought it out forever…no one want to go out in third, I eventually did get trapped and got crippled and took third, but the level of play was exceptional for a $30 SnG. If you have never 2-tabled before I would recommend staggering the starts by 15 minutes and playing both at the same buy in to give yourself plenty of breathing room until you adjust to watching action on two tables. As previously stated you could also start a single table and a two table at the same time, since two table SnGs generally take in the 90 minute neighborhood you should be fine starting both simultaneously. If you have a single 19” monitor running at 1280×1024, I would keep it at two tables max, if you try to cram a third table in that space….there simply is not enough room to watch the action on all the tables – there is just too much overlap to pay close attention. I currently run dual 19” LCD monitors at 1280×1024 which give me the ability to actually run 4 tables and enough dead space to run IRC or Skype. If you are serious about playing poker….I highly recommend purchasing a second monitor. I am a bit of a neat freak so I feel more comfortable playing when my workspace is clean and my computer desktop is neat and uncluttered….two monitors not only allows me to see more of the action when I multi-table, it allows me to “feel” comfortable because I can organize my playing space (if that makes sense).

Three tables at once is a bit different, I have not experienced a decline in my ITM% doing it….but it requires complete and utter concentration for me. When I am on Ventrillo/Skype or IRC and I am being exceptionally quiet or don’t respond to a question it is likely because I am 3-tabling. Overall it is becoming easier with practice….you mind learns how to adjust and you develop “habits” for managing them….but it is far from easy (for me anyway) What I have begun to develop is a “pattern” for watching the tables, starting with the far right table just constantly scan clockwise making mental notes of the action and pausing only if there is something interesting going on….raises/re-raises and such. As I said before it is like working out…you have to start slowly, but in time your brain develops the ability to comprehend what is going on very quickly…..I call it stretching my mind (it feels like that to me). I would be lying if I said my notes were nearly as good when I’m 3-tabling…however my reads do not seem to have suffered noticeably. You get into a zone and the skills you have developed over time essentially just take over. In the future it may bite you in the butt, because you may not have time to make a note on a particular player and the next time you sit down with him….you will not have that information unless you have a eidetic memory. Now that I have a few more weeks 3-tabling I can say I do like it….however if I don’t feel like I am having a good day or my focus is lacking I avoid it and stick to two tables. I even have 4-tabled a couple times….last night I was playing 3 MTTs and a 1-table SnG. I could manage it, but my decisions suffered, my plays were not nearly aggressive enough, or far too aggressive for the situation. Basically I was calling bets I should have raised….over betting to compensate and driving people out of pots I wanted callers on, or ending up All-In as the underdog, because of poor reads. In the end I performed on an average level, and that is simply not good enough to win. I am definitely going to stick to 3-tabling and save the 4-tabling for special occasions or necessity. I’m sure there are people who regularly 4 and even 6 table SnGs and think it is easy….I’m simply not that talented.

So you have decided to try out 2-tabling SnGs….people have asked me what they should do differently to make their play work on two tables, should they play extremely tight and play only premium hands in position? My answer is yes, if that is the way you typically play….the real answer is do not change the way you play in any fashion….why put added stress on yourself? You already have to watch twice as many hands…..there is just no reason to play any other way that the solid time-proven way you have been playing to get to this point to begin with. Drastically changing your strategy just because you are 2-tabling is asking for failure. As long as you are not dividing your attention…reading email, watching TV or whatnot you should not see any decrease in your ITM%….on the contrary, many people see a subtle increase in their ITM% and ROI. I feel the main reason for this is that 2-tabling actually increases your focus. You simply have to concentrate a bit harder and that is never a bad thing. Another benefit…for me initially was that it helped me remain patient. Lets face it the early stages of a SnG can be really boring, and if you are not careful you can get sucked in and start playing too many hands…and even start over thinking the moves you are making (out guess yourself). When you have twice as many hands to watch and twice as many people to get reads on it certainly helps you remain patient…you are not sitting there idle nearly as often. For people that have a limited time to play poker each day (most of us) multi-tabling is an excellent way to increase you hourly earning potential as well as increasing the number of hands you see and situations you get to work through. Multi-tabling is an efficient way to become a very strong player.

Sit-n-Go Strategy Guide – Section 9 Summary

• New to multi-tabling? You should stagger the start times of games.

• Do not try to run too many tables on too few monitors

• If you step up to 3 or more tables develop a strategy for managing your focus

• Definitely start multi-tabling if you seem to be bored, playing too many hands

• Definitely start multi-tabling if you want to dramatically increase your earning rate.

Well now that we know about bankroll management, the how and whys of picking a SnG and the philosophies behind playing, lets talk about making moves or plays. I did not invent these moves, but in a few cases I have created names for them…mostly for descriptive purposes and just to keep track of them. First I would like to list the general moves or actions in poker….of course we all know what these are, but at least it will fill up some space since I am running short on things to talk about.

  • BetVoluntarily putting money in the pot

  • CallTo commit an equal number of chips to another player’s bet

  • FoldForfeiting you cards and chance at winning pot

  • CheckPass on making an action, provided no one has bet/raised/called before you

  • RaiseTo increase your opponents bet

  • Re-RaiseIncreasing your opponents raise

  • All-inBetting or raising all the chips in front of you

Now that we have all the basic moves down, lets discuss the more advanced moves. The first move every poker player learns….and typically over uses is the bluff.

Bluffing:

So, when should you bluff? Well the easy answer is when you think you can get away with it. However the problem arises when the time you think you can get away with it coincides with the most likely circumstance to bluff. Essentially most people bluff in the wrong situation, meaning they bluff often from the button or cutoff, they bluff into large pots, they bluff when there are numerous people contending for the pot. The first rule of pulling off a successful bluff should be; don’t get caught doing it. The most likely way to get caught bluffing is to pull a bluff when it is obvious and people expect you to be bluffing….setting you up for a re-bluff or re-steal. The easies solution to this is NOT to bluff when most people bluff. Essentially do the opposite of what is expected…and what would feel natural. Bluff from early position. Bluff small pots. Bluff in hands where you have shown weakness rather than strength. These are the bluffs that will a higher percentage of working. Do not confuse a bluff with a steal. I think of them as separate techniques and will describe steals a little later. As I said many people will bluff from late position….I prefer to change up the position I bluff from, and occasionally I will bluff from UTG. If there is not rhyme or reason to your bluffs (like always bluffing from late position) then it will be impossible for your opponent to distinguish your bluff from a legitimately strong hand that is being raised. The general reasoning is the earlier the position the stronger the hand must be. Why not take advantage of this common “wisdom” by throwing out a 3 or 4x BB raise from UTG+1…then wait several orbits and throw out a similar bluff from MP. The idea is to make it appear like you have the random legit hand and to bet enough that you can get all the mediocre hands to fold…but no so much that you over commit yourself which leads into opportunity 2 to bluff.

Bluff into small pots, there are several reasons for this…the first of which is that it is much less obvious. Why would someone risk a significant amount of chips to win a somewhat small pot? That is what makes this move very successful; there will be far less resistance because there is very little value for someone to resist you. Will “picking up” these small pots win you the SnG? Of course not, but they do help you keep building your stack (even if by a small amount) when you are having a cold run of cards, and it also helps maintain an image of someone who is not always trying to steal from late position and someone who generally just “bets his hand.” Finally you should try a bluff when you have shown weakness earlier in the hand. Essentially you are trying to send the message that you either hit your draw or you were/are slow playing a monster hand.

Pre-flop Bluffs

The first and often easiest time to bluff is pre-flop. The pre-flop bluff is probably the most common and clearly the most often used bluff in the game. I define pre-flop bluffs into two distinct categories the standard bluff and the steal. The standard bluff is where you raise a poor to mediocre hand 3-4x BB trying to represent a much stronger hand than you hold. As I previously mentioned this type of bluff is often more effective if done from the early to middle position and is used to combat a cold run of cards. The objective is to claim the blinds and possible a single limper’s bet. The danger is that you will run into a very strong hand, but this is where having a read on your opponent comes in handy….will your opponent try to defend his BB with that Q-T or will he let it go and look for a better spot. I recommend waiting to use this type of bluff until at least the 3-4 blind level so that you have a decent idea of what your opponent will do. The second type of pre-flop bluff is the steal. Usually a steal is a positional power play, which is most often performed in late position and late in the tourney when the blinds are very large and antes have taken effect. I recommend using the steal when all your opponents have folded to you and you are sitting on the CO or the button. Occasionally you can pull a steal from the small blind, but you really have to put out a very strong bet to pull the SB steal off simply because it is so much more obvious and the BB may be more likely to call you down with any two cards “to make a point.” The whole objective of the steal is to take the blinds and antes….which by this time have become significant. Stealing late in SnGs is not an optional move, it is a necessity. When you are up against a couple tough opponents and the stacks are relatively even there is no other way to survive…or even win without stealing. The steal is a very obvious move, but its success relies on your opponents’ inability to call the very large bet. You opponent knows you have nothing…but he has nothing either and does not want to risk his tournament life calling with a junk hand against an unknown hand. If you are in a relatively healthy chip position you must be careful about your steals. Do not steal against an extremely short stacked opponent or an overwhelming large stack (in a two table SnG) as they are more than likely going to call you because what they have to lose does not outweigh the potential gain. If you are in a poor chip position try to time the steal as best you can and make it an all in steal…use every bit of folding leverage you can muster and hope the SB and BB do not have a hand they can call with…..or if they do it was a frustration call where you are actually a favorite to win the hand and double up. I will not get into all the situational specifics of stealing….much has been written about it, but more than anything practice will make perfect. I am simply trying to bring this technique to the forefront of your minds as something that should not be ignored in late SnG play. It is a skill that must be developed for you to be a successful SnG player.

Flop Bluffs

Flop bluffs a generally most successful if used against one or two opponents…..and the method is fairly simple. You are sitting in middle position with K-Qo and throw out a standard 3x BB PFR….and are called by the SB and BB, the flop comes A-7-3 rainbow. You have nothing, not even a flush draw, but they may have nothing as well. Go ahead and fire out a follow up bet, you might steal the pot right there. Essentially you are “repping” the ace….with the PFR, there is no way your opponent can know the ace did not hit you and they will not your flop bluff. If one of them happens to call you, you have a decision to make. They may have Ace and a decent kicker or they may have flopped to pair. Most of the time in this situation you want to check/fold and simply move on. However, you don’t want them to be able to figure out your bluffing strategy by just smooth calling you on the flop and then seeing what you do on the turn. To combat you opponents picking up on this bluffing strategy, I recommend slow-playing strong hands from time to time in the exact same fashion….essentially play a set or two-pair as if it were a bluff. Instead of K-Q, lets suppose you have A-3 and hit this flop, I’d bet at flop, then check-raise at turn….essentially punishing you opponents for drawing. You should not allow your opponent to get in the habit of calling you down with the second-best hand in the hopes that you are bluffing or trying to draw to two-pair.

Another flop bluff I will occasionally use is the “Rainbow Move.” If the flop comes with no two cards that are suited or connected AND all the cards are under ten, I will bet out. This sort of flop is often the best type of flop to bluff at……instead of repping the ace or top pair you are repping an over pair to the board. Generally I will bet the size of the pot in the hopes that a real over-pair is not out there….therefore position is extremely important with this type of move. If the flop comes rainbow and all low cards you know the opponent with pocket tens is going to bet very strong trying to protect his hand so if there are only limpers…or better yet they all check around to you, I can feel fairly safe in betting strong or raising big, and the only hands you have to truly worry about is the slow-played flopped set.

Turn & River Bluffs

Turn & River Bluffs are not something I generally recommend…there are simply too many ways after four or five cards are out on the board for you to lose against even a single random hand. An exception may be if you have the feeling your opponent has caught onto your Flop bluffing strategy…you may want to carry the charade on to the turn where you check raise or try a post oak bluff. A post oak bluff is a minimal bet made into a large pot by the holder of a marginal hand in the hopes that the bet won’t be called or raised. Essentially you are showing weakness in an attempt to deceive your opponent and make him think you are trapping him….trying to induce him into making a call or even better, a raise over the top of your small bet. Occasionally later in a tournament I will call a smallish raise 2-3x BB with the intention of trying to steal it on the turn or river. This typically is a risky move that I reserve for HU play…or at least until I have made it into the money. How it plays out is I will limp with a hand and If my opponent raises from a later position I will smooth call him. The flop comes and I fire out a ½ to ¾ pot sized bet…and generally my opponent will come over the top of me for 2-3x my bet. I will then pause, count to ten and then simply call. Whatever falls on the turn I will check to my opponent…..now he is sitting there wondering what I could possibly have to smooth call him and generally he will be thinking a set. He then bets out…a reasonable bet but not too strong usually ¼ of the pot (if he pushes then you simply have to fold) I then pause again…count to ten and push all in. This works surprisingly often and you can really knock your opponent off his game with this play and steal the momentum. However again….I usually reserve this play for very late in the SnG when we’re are down to three people and preferably HU. The reason is simple….it is risky and if it does not work you are out of the tournament. I generally avoid bluffing on the turn or river, unless it is a semi-bluff or a very strong draw.

There are so many types of bluffs, and variations on the bluffs I have laid out that it would be impossible to lay them all out for you. Again, my intention is to illustrate a few bluffs to get you thinking about it….and make you aware of the situations you should and should not try a bluff. Even more importantly you will be able to more easily notice when you opponent is bluffing since most opponents will bluff at the most obvious and often the wrong time. There is one thing that rivals the charged feeling you get after pulling off a good bluff…and that is reading you opponent extremely well and catching him in a big bluff and taking all those “free” chips from him. Do not get in the habit of calling down your opponents continually trying to catch them in a bluff, you are not the table policeman….however most people over-use the bluff so pay attention and be aware of what the table is doing and you will be able to pick up on your opponents habits and strategies. Catching him in a single bluff can be very profitable. Use bluffs judiciously and try to bluff when it is NOT expected….in the end, what matters is what your opponent thinks or believes, not what makes logical sense.

Sit-n-Go Strategy Guide – Section 10 Summary

• Basic “actions” of poker

• When should you bluff, when should you not bluff

• Pre-flop bluffs and steals

• Flop Bluffs

• Turn & River Bluffs

I had considered going into other moves such as; Inducing a bluff, check raising, slow playing, small steal-small steal-big steal, obtaining a free card….etc. These techniques and moves are talked about in books…the nuances of such plays are endlessly discussed and argued in online poker forums so I really do not see the value of rehashing all the small details. The overall purpose of this project was not to create a recipe for playing SnGs….or a step by step method to follow, but to present an overall strategy for developing you own style of play. My goal was to sort these things out in my head and try to answer the often asked questions regarding SnGs play…to that end I believe I have succeeded. I truly appreciate all of the feedback, encouragement and inspiration that I received along the way….this has been an enlightening process for me and it has actually strengthened my game. I am actually a little sad that this month long project is over…that is not to say I will not add a section or two in the future, but for now I have covered pretty much everything I have set out to, and I am going to leave the writing behind for now and concentrate on my passion of playing poker……here’s to good luck, positive attitudes and good decision making.


As requested….here is a list of the places I generally play SnGs and my assessment of the site. The assessments are generally a combination of fact (# of people and blind increases) and opinion (whether I enjoy playing there) Please do not be offended if I don’t enjoy playing at your favorite site as much as you do. I did try to be objective as possible…and some of my subjective comments are there for illustrative purposes.

Poker Stars

  • 9 Person tables
  • For the most part a good mix of fish and solid players…overall predictable play.

  • SnGs fill up very quickly any time of the day
  • Large variety of buy-ins and types of SnGs (1-table,2-table,Turbo,short handed)
  • SnG Satellites

  • 1500 starting chips and blinds go up at a very manageable rate

  • I play at Stars more than anywhere else

Absolute Poker

  • 9 Person tables
  • Many…many poor SnG players and a couple very good ones – overall predictable play, but can be a little erratic.

  • SnGs fill up very quickly in the evening, but slowly in the morning and afternoon
  • Much smaller variety of buy-ins and types of SnGs than Stars

  • 1500 starting chips and blinds go up at a very manageable rate
  • Not my favorite place to play, but a somewhat easy game to beat

Pacific Poker

  • 10 Person tables
  • Horribly fishy SnG play and the play is very erratic, you really have to be on your toes – don’t give them too much credit they will play ace high like a set. They can and will suck out on you and deliver crushing bad beats, but they will give you their money more times than not

  • SnGs fill up very quickly in the evening any time of day
  • Much smaller variety of buy-ins and types of SnGs than Stars
  • SnG Satellites
  • Unusual payout structure…$16 two tables pay 3 spots, $8 two tables pay 5 spots, $30 6-max SnGs pay 3 spots….etc

  • 1000 starting chips and blinds go up at an average to quick rate
  • Very questionable MTT management at Pacific, but I have taken far more than my fair share of 1st places in the SnGs

Bodog Poker

  • 10 Person tables
  • Very poor SnG players and a couple average ones – overall predictable, weak often maniacal play
  • This place is chock full of gamblers, they go out of their way to get their chips in the middle on coin flips….action…action….action.
  • SnGs fill up pretty slowly at all times of the day
  • Much smaller variety of buy-ins and types of SnGs than just about anywhere else

  • 1000 starting chips and blinds go up at a quick rate…no camping here
  • $50 SnGs are a bit more solid….but if you play the $20 SnGs, be prepared to gamble

Ultimate Bet

  • 10 Person tables
  • Better than average to very good SnG players
  • This place is seems to be the hunting ground of quite a few sharks they are very solid, change up their plays, they will trap you in a heartbeat!
  • SnGs fill up pretty quickly at all times of the day
  • Very good variety of buy-ins and types of SnGs
  • SnG Satellites

  • 1500 starting chips and blinds go up at a very slow rate favoring the patient poker player
  • Not the easiest games to beat, but when you do win….you’ve done something

Paradise Poker

  • 10 Person tables
  • Better than average SnG players mixed with some real wackos
  • The players are either very tricky or get lucky at the right times, I have had less success at Paradise than anywhere else
  • SnGs fill up pretty quickly at all times of the day
  • Very good variety of buy-ins and types of SnGs
  • SnG Satellites
  • 1000 starting chips and blinds go up at a manageable rate
  • Quite a few people have reported great success here, I have not really spent enough time in these SnGs to have a complete assessment

Inter Poker

  • 10 Person tables
  • Wild aggressive European players
  • The players are very much like the Bodog players but have more skill which makes them hard to read and dangerous
  • SnGs fill up pretty slowly
  • Very good variety of buy-ins and types of SnGs and even different currency SNGs….if you can’t find a $20-50 SnG you can find a £10-20 SnG (they do all the conversion for you)
  • 1000 starting chips and blinds go up at a manageable rate
  • I’ve only played a dozen or so games here, the wild play combined with how long it takes to fill up a table means my time is better spent elsewhere

Rock, Gambler, Solid, Maniac, Fish….What kind of player are you? More importantly what kind of player is your opponent? For a long time now I have generally agreed with the statement that there is not a significant skill difference between the different levels of SnG up to the $100 buy-in point. The statement may still be true, but I have spent a considerable amount of time pondering it recently and I no longer agree…at least not completely. While the skill level of the individual player may not increase discernibly when moving from the $5 to the $10 level, the overall table texture is radically different. I believe that is where the distinction lies….the individual player’s skill levels may not increase significantly, but the way they interact with their opponents seems to have a cumulative effect on the play at the table, generally making the game harder to beat.

Consider this; what makes a successful $50 SnG player so different from a successful $10 SnG player? Generally speaking, nothing at all…..they both have the same basic set of poker skills; they have the same win rate or ITM%. So why does one play at the $50 level and the other play at the $10 level? Funding or bankroll is probably a significant factor. Confidence may be another. If both players have the same amount of experience, what makes the $50 player tougher to beat…..my guess is confidence. Call it a higher tolerance for loss, but the players at the higher levels seem to have shed the fear of losing more than their lower level counterparts. Of course this is assuming that they are equal in skill. In the real world, people start playing at a lower level and slowly step up as their skill and bankroll increases. So why do so many people think there is little difference between the levels? I suppose poker forums like this one are populated by people who take the game more seriously than the average player….perhaps the countless hours of reading and debating poker topics has granted them the ability to learn the game more quickly than their more recreational counterparts. The perception is that if an individual is beating the game consistently, then it must not be any more difficult than the previous level that they were beating at the same rate. This kind of thinking does not take into consideration the dramatic improvement of the solid player’s game….therefore he perceives the competition is no more difficult, they simply have more disposable income. I firmly believe this is not true…and this misconception can be dangerous to a generally good player who is considering moving up in SnG buy-in level. We have all seen it time and time again….a player is running good at the $5 SnG level. He has been at 48% ITM over 100 games and moves to the $10 level. At the $10 level he is at 45% ITM over 100 games….slight decrease, but still pretty solid. Then he moves to the $20 or $30 level and tragedy strikes….all of a sudden he is ITM 32% of the time and when he does get heads up, he takes second place far more than first. Of course you could say it is an anomaly…or that he is just on a losing streak – it happens to everyone. All of this is true, but I have seen this so often and so consistently that I believe the players are just that much better, and our poor misguided neophyte has not increased his skill enough to be competitive.

To me, it seems to have a nearly mathematical progression to it. At the $5 SnG level, you may have one, possibly two somewhat experienced players, with the rest complete beginners. At the $10 SnG level you may have two or three players with experience. At the $20 level you may have three or four decent to solid players….at the $30 level you are looking at maybe five solid players and the rest inexperienced, or just plain bad. At the $50 level you will find five or six good player per table and at the $100 level you may find as many as seven good players at a single table. The point is that although the individual skill level may not increase dramatically the cumulative effect of more good players at the table makes the game tougher to beat. We have all been there….I have seen it in the Gauntlet countless times. When you are playing good players you tend to play better….you rise to the challenge. When there are more good players at the table they are constantly challenging each other essentially elevating everyone’s game. Just because it is a $20 SnG does not mean there will not be very good and experience players there. Just ask one of the poor unfortunate souls that have wandered into one of our “grudge” matches. Several days a week you will find a $20 SnG with Soupie, Radashack, Mike4066, ihategnomes, Corey, Phlegm, Obertray and myself (or some combination thereof) on Poker Stars…along with 2-4 unsuspecting individuals rounding out the field. We play these games for fun and as training/practice exercises, and I’m sure the anonymous players have no idea what hit them when it is all said and done. No cheating, no collusion….just several experienced players pushing each other to play better….and to a lesser degree this is what happens as you step up in SnG levels. You have tables with a higher percentage of solid players pushing each other to play better.

Sit-n-Go Strategy Guide – Section 11 Summary

• What kind of player are you in relation to your opponent

• Individual skill level vs. cumulative skill level

• Consistent increase in skilled players at higher levels

• Beware of the $20 SnGs on Stars

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