The Foundations of Poker

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Chapter 5: Playing in Sit and Go’s

The tournaments that were discussed in the last chapter are relatively large tournaments, called multi-table tournaments, or MTT’s. These are tournaments with many players as well as rebuys. A sit and go, or SNG, is a tournament-style game where there is one table and there are no rebuys. There are levels in SNG’s the way there are levels in MTT’s, though the levels typically have much shorter time frames. An entire SNG should finish in under 1 hour whereas a typical tournament with 100 or so people would take 6 hours or more to finish. The stages in an SNG very much mimic the stages in an MTT, though the stages are extremely accelerated compared with the stages of an MTT. Typically, in a 9 person SNG, 50% of the prize pool goes to 1st place, 30% goes to 2nd, and the remaining 20% goes to 3rd. In a 6 person SNG 2/3 of the prize pool will go 1st and the remaining 1/3 will go to 2nd. In the beginning, the blinds are a relatively small percentage of a player’s starting stack. It is not a generally wise play to bluff too much in the beginning for either MTT’s or SNG’s. Of course c-betting is normal and betting semi-bluffing, is optimal play, but there is no need to put all of one’s chips at risk to get marginal gains when chips do not even mean that much. A few levels into an SNG, the blinds start being worth a much more substantial amount of one’s stack. As the bubble gets closer and closer, the players all play tighter than they did during the earlier stages of the tournament in the hopes that someone else will lose all their chips or 2 other people will lose all their chips and then the bubble will burst while everyone remaining gets to be in the money. This is the perfect time to capitalize on the opportunity to stack up chips when everyone is folding most hands, similar to the time just before the bubble bursts in an MTT. Because a player knows that if they get all their chips in and therefore they will risk not making the money, they are not likely to call too lightly before the bubble bursts. At under 10 big blinds, typically one would have to jam, or raise all-in, in order to get away with bullying approach. Players will fold relatively strong hands when the bubble gets closer if put at risk of losing without being in the money. Many players are very risk-sensitive and one must take advantage of this to play optimally. If a player has a tendency to call a lot of big raises and jams, one should not jam light. A situation like the one just described would be rare, though players will encounter it from time to time. Before one enters an SNG they should consider that while there is less incentive to win 1st compared to a tournament, it is much easier to do so and once in the money all one has to do is beat 2 people in the case of a 9-max or, in the case of a 6-max SNG, beat just 1 person to win the SNG. When most people foolishly are concerned with placing over winning, one must be wise and get themselves into great shape in the middle stages of the tournament in order to win in the later stages. By being the big stack after the bubble bursts in a 9-max, a player can let the smaller stacks go at it with each other and then play heads up. In the heads up situation, one should try to make sure that their stack is at least as big as the other player’s stack. It goes without saying that regardless of the stack differentials, the winner can be either player, however, the probability of a player winning increases as their stack as a percentage of the total chips in play increases.

One should only try to survive rather than be aggressive near the bubble when one is in very good shape and players are calling a lot or if one is an average stack and there are enough players making moves so that one will make the money without getting too involved in the action. In the case of either example, one is able to get by alright by folding most hands. However, when one has good hands, one will still have to jam them or at least raise and call if someone comes over the top with a jam. If one’s stack is small, unfortunately, they are going to have to be extremely aggressive as well as call with a wider range than they would otherwise be comfortable doing. The reason the smaller stacks have to be more aggressive is they will be blinded out very quickly if they do not make moves and as the shorter stacks continue to dwindle the incentive for other players to let them blind out as well as steal from the shorter stacks increases. By making aggressive plays, the shorter stacks can increase their stacks when nobody calls, and increase them significantly if they are able to win an all-in if one or more players calls. If there are 4 players left, and the short stack has 5 big blinds and is currently in the early position seat, which is the same as the cutoff when 4 players are left, if they have any connected hand or any middle queen or better (67 or Q8+) they have no choice but to raise all-in and hope that their raise gets through. Oftentimes, they may get looked up by a big stack who will have a hand like A5, which while still ahead of the short stack’s range, only has 60% equity meaning the short stack will be able to get themselves into really good shape and have something like 12 big blinds if they are to win the hand, which happens just under half the time. When the short stack is able to build their stack like this, they will have a legitimate chance at 1st should they make the money. Because less time has elapsed in an SNG by the time the bubble is about to burst than the same phase in an MTT, stack sizes are generally much closer. Therefore, it is anyone’s game and doubling up one’s stack in an SNG can give one a significant chance of winning the SNG, whereas the same cannot be said of an MTT. When one does not have to risk elimination prior to the bubble bursting, they should not but in the case of a non-action table, they need to in order to optimize their chances of winning the SNG.

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