The online Sit & Go ( SNG ) games are a popular choice for many
cyber poker players. Let's take a look at a strategy for the typical No
Limit game with the common three places paid payout structure. In
our game we'll assume that 1st place pays 50% of the buy in, 2nd
place pays out 30%, and 3rd pays 20%. This payout structure leads us
to our first strategy decision. That is, are we going to be playing to
finish in the money or are we playing to win?
Some will argue that we must play for first place. They would argue
that only the larger payoffs will enable us to be a net winning player.
The buy in includes a steep rake for the house they argue and only
by playing to win can we overcome this charge. For example in a $10
SNG the poker room may charge you $10+1 with the house keeping
the dollar. This is over 9% that goes to the house. Larger SNGs
usually have slightly smaller charges but they are still significant. In
our example a first place finish pays two and a half times more than a
third place finish. That justifys taking some risks.
Playing for first early means playing more aggressively. It means
taking chances early in an attempt to build up a large chip stack.
With the large stack you can control the action. You can push
people around and put them all-in. Sometimes things will go your
way and you'll find yourself sitting on top of a pile of chips. Other
times this more risky strategy will leave you crippled or out of the
tournament early. Proponents of the play to win strategy don't mind
busting out of a SNG early. They figure that it's better to go out early
and just get into another game than to lose out on the bubble wasting
all that time and effort.
Other players play to get in the money. If they make it to the cash,
they reason; then they can try to move up. These player will tend to
lay low and avoid the action early in the tourney. They want to
avoid the aggressive action that can break out at the beginning of
the SNG. The finish-in-the-money player is seeking to shorten her
odds by letting the other players take each other out. She reasons
that if one or two players make a quick exit that significantly helps
her chances. Furthermore, one of the players eliminated early might
be a powerful player who just suffered a bad beat. A player using this
strategy tries to cultivate a tight table image that they can later
exploit. So the mantra of a finish in the money strategy could be,
"Don't gamble early."
So which strategy should you adopt? Like most decisions in poker the
answer is, "It depends". Online SNGs are unique in that we don't
have much of an opportunity to engage in table selection. Typically
when a table opens up for registration there is a 'land rush' for any
available seat. We don't get the luxury of observing a table for a
round or so like we do at a normal ring game. We have to figure out
our opponents on the fly. If you play regularly, your notes can be a
great help. But usually the first few hands will be a learning
experience. Who are the aggressors and who are the maniacs? Who
is sitting out the early action? Is this an aggressive table or is everyone
playing tight? What's my position relative to the aggressors?
If you find yourself in a crazy game where several players are going
all-in in a suicde pact, that's great. Sit back for awhile and let them
chew each other up. You are hoping that several of these guys make
a quick exit. The blinds should still be relatively low and you'll have
plenty of time to pick your spots. Your chances of finishing in the
money are good. If you find yourself at the other extreme and no one
is stepping out of line, seek to take charge of this type of game. Look
for opportunities to play your opponent more so than the cards.
You're going for the gold in this type of game.
Most games will require tactics that mix the two basic strategies. As
an example, last night I was in a SNG that was very aggressive at
first. Four players were strongly contesting each pot. I chose to sit
back and really picked my spots. I managed to stay pretty much even
lurking around third or fourth place. After about 25 minutes, the
character of the game changed. Two of the aggressive players were
eliminated. The other two had accumulated large chip stacks. At this
point it seemed none of the remaining 8 players wanted to play
aggressively. The two high stacks seemed content. The other six of
us were slow to recognize the new situation. Finally, I picked up on
the new situation and started picking up some easy pots. As with most
games, the character of that game changed several times. Each time
it was important to recognize the change and adapt.
The default strategy that I feel most comfortable with is to play
conservatively early. Don't gamble and play very tightly. Wait for the
field to thin. As you near the bubble use your tight table image to play
aggressively and steal a few pots. Your opponents may be reluctant to
contest a pot and risk busting out on the bubble. But recognize that this strategy is a strategy now widely espoused by the better SNG players. You may need to take your tactical thinking to another level if someone else is aware of what you are up to.
So, while I'll enter the game with a basic thumbnail strategy; I think
the important point is to not get wedded to either SNG objective. A
good businessman will ask himself everyday, "What business am I in
today?" He knows that conditions and opportunity are ever changing.
He must adapt in order to survive and to thrive. Perhaps
sit & go players should ask themselves a similar question, "What type
of game am I in right now?" Asking this question on an ongoing
basis will point us in the right direction. Play for the win when
conditions are right to do so. Play to place in the money when that's
the best choice. By being flexible and adjusting our objective when
needed we can enhance our SNG play and boost our win rate.
Also see - Low Stakes Sit N Go Tournament Strategy
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