17/11/2008

Tight is Still Right in Low-stakes SNG's

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

There have been numerous debates over the past year or so regarding just what is the proper strategy in an SNG. Well there is no single strategy that a player can incorporate that will make that particular strategy the ultimate strategy. There are many strategies that are generic in nature that will serve a player well and especially at the low-stakes tournaments.

But you must deviate your play to the calibre of your opponents if you really want to succeed. As you move up through the levels then the players make better decisions on average and this reflects the situation in cash games to a certain extent.

I have long since made the case that playing tight at the beginning of a SNG is not necessarily the best way to play but this statement does create a lot of confusion because some people think that I am advocating splashing chips around during the early levels when this is far from the case.

If we can make a small delineation point here for a minute then I will try to explain what I mean. In low-stakes SNG’s, the average player is making poorer decisions, getting knocked out stupidly, shoving all in at the wrong times and for the wrong amounts, failing to call a shove correctly and all the rest of it. What this means is that folding has far more strategic value against poorer players.

So playing a tight to start type of strategy that is common now in SNG’s is still profitable even in tournaments up to and including the $33 level. I used to do this a few years ago in the $200+$15’s but those days are long gone. But what do you think happens when you reach a stage where many of the players on your table are playing a similar type of strategy?

Then you reach a situation where you are literally leaving chips on the table by refusing to open up your game during the early levels. I have often heard people say that it isn’t a great strategy to be attacking the blinds during the early stages because they are too small and not worth winning.

I have never been able to understand this statement and I find it ridiculous to be quite frank. When the blinds are at 10-20 and you have a T2000 starting stack then you are raising for reasons other than pinching the blind money. If you open raise from the cut-off for the sole reason of stealing T30 in blinds which represents an increase to your stack of 1.5% then you are doing it for the wrong reason.

But if you value your post flop skill and the blinds are apt to possibly make big mistakes then there is absolutely nothing wrong with being aggressive when the blinds are low and in many cases it is essential that you do so. Let us say that you raise to 70 in this example and a weak tight big blind calls your raise and simply releases when you miss.

Suddenly you have increased your stack by T80 which is not 1.5% but 4%....still not mega but getting better. But with T2000 starting stacks and blinds at 10-20 then you have 100BB here which puts you on the verge of playing deep stacked poker.

If your opponents are capable of making a deep stacked mistake then you need to give them the opportunity to make that mistake and risking a few chips at the outset which will hardly effect your tournament equity all that much just could get you a very valuable double through.

If this actually sounds contradictory to what I said earlier then it really isn’t when you think about it. Whenever you sit down in any poker game then you need to ask yourself a question and that question is “where do I expect my opponents to be making mistakes?”

But with SNG’s or any other form of poker, it isn’t sufficient to know that your opponents are losing players, you need to know how they are losing and what mistakes they are making to make them losing players and then you need to focus on those mistakes.

This is why software that tells you that a player is a net loser and no more is really only half the battle. The bottom line is that losing poker players are losers because they are making mistakes. But yet your style of play might not isolate those mistakes and so you may never get to profit from them.

But playing tight at the outset in low-stakes SNG’s is still a good strategy but you also need to be aware of when you can loosen up as well and the best way to do this is to not play too many SNG’s and try to feel out each table. As long as this isn’t detrimental to your earn rate if you are a good strong successful SNG multi-tabler then you should do quite well over time.

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