Review: Secrets of Sit’n’Gos, Phil Shaw

Author: Phil Shaw
Cover price: £14.99
Pages: approx 222
Rating: 8/10

Many a household name in poker cut their teeth on SitnGo tournaments.  It is an easy way to simulate final table experiences every 10 minutes and is also a reliable way of rebuilding bankrolls that have fallen on hard times.  For one reason or another, I have played plenty of these myself and so opened this book with eager anticipation. 

Almost immediately it becomes obvious that this book is very well laid out, well ordered with a logical introduction, but above all, it is written well.  That is not always too common amongst poker authors, you could argue that it doesn’t really matter as long as the content is good, but anything that makes that content easier to find, read and absorb has to be a good thing.

The concepts and terminology to be addressed in the book are well introduced at the start.  There is sufficient to help a newcomer understand the concepts as a standalone source without there being so much filler that it would put anyone off who had ever read a SNG forum reading any further, quite a hard balance to achieve.

The early game advice is generally standard fare, arguably on the loose side including a few iffy calls from the blinds and a little bit too much encouragement to open up after a successful double-up.  Again there is a balance to achieve and maybe some of that advice is aimed at low buy-in SNGs.  There quite often are free chips on offer in the early stages in some games which are worth going after, but not worth risking getting crippled or eliminated.  Just following this advice alone will often see you in the final 5 battling it out as the ritual suicides are performed.

Into the middle stages and I can’t really fault anything in this section; it is a sensible discussion on strategy and gives reasonable exposure to the options available created solely from position and stack size.  In other words, it starts to identify situations where the cards don’t matter, and in some instances, your opponent’s (in)action won’t matter either.  This is where the good players start to pull away from the weaker players and leave themselves in typically better shape as the end game approaches.

The end game is the business end of a SNG where one or two get nothing and the remainder feast on the prize pool.  Making better decisions than the average player is therefore critical at this stage.  I was a bit surprised with a table of hands that Phil presents as ‘move in’ hands; it looks spewy to me to say the least.  For example, QT for 8BB in MP is not a hand I would shove. Phil relies heavily on ICM calculations in arriving/proving his strategy throughout the book which is more than reasonable, but I’m still not sure about QT there!  There is also a section on attempting to play smallball, which is all well and good if you can find the right conditions for it, but most of the time in a turbo SNG you are going to have to shove or call all in against many opponents.

Overall, a very well written book, albeit with half the pages devoted to a quiz section at the end.  I like the fact that Phil has tried to amplify thought processes on playing situations rather than pure starting hand strength, on the downside there isn’t really anything else in here that isn’t already available on the market.  That said, if you don’t currently own any material at all on SNG’s, this book will teach you plenty.