How To Profitably Adjust Your Strategy To The Number Of Grinders Or Fish In A Sit And Go
A ‘Eureka’ moment for many players is the realization that the game is more about adjusting to your opponents (and their mistakes!) than it is about your cards… Yet most poker strategy advice barely touches on some of the big changes needed when your table is full of winning regulars, or (preferably) complete novices.
I’ll address this here, focusing on SNG tournaments.
Assuming you are a competent player who is learning the game, I’ll go from a table full of fish to one full of regulars and outline some of the changes at various stages of the Sit and Go. I will not cover every stage at every ‘ratio’ as this would be far too long, instead including enough info to illustrate the idea. A 9-handed game is the starting point.
Some poker sites are full of ‘regulars’ who grind away at multiple tables. Other sites are attached to big sports betting brands or casinos and have a ton of recreational players. As a player you need to know the difference, and where to find those soft games… After all, it is far easier to beat the ‘fun’ crowd than a hardened grinder! Check out my Fish-o-Meter Widget for an interactive look at where to find the best games for you.
Regulars And Fish – Adjusting Your Strategy
- 8 Fish And You: An excellent situation. Assuming your opponents have no clue about SNG strategy, the tight early / push late system outlined in my Blueprint course will work great. Value bet more early, and assume that your opponents will be pushing too tight and calling way to loose at the bubble. The big advantage here is that opponents who do not have ICM will make big mistakes against each other at the bubble, donating their equity to you.
- 7 Fish, 1 Regular And You: Still looking great, I would only somewhat avoid the 1 regular player – by assuming that their opening range is on the tighter side. There is still plenty of profit in the game from the fish, so no real need to get creative against a competent player yet.
- 6 Fish, 2 Regulars And You: A very profitable game still. One thing I should note is that with this many fish there are often one or 2 ‘complete novices’ making plays which look plain silly to the more experienced eye. Limping every hand, calling to the end with easily dominated (ace-rag) hands and generally making massive bet-sizing errors. Sure, you can make moves against these types, though I would not bluff with air too often. I would personally wait for a really nice spot though, with 6+ fish in a game the ‘average’ profits will be big enough that you can easily capitalize without taking too many risks!
- 5 Fish, 3 Regulars And You: At this point I would start to wonder how aware of the number of fish the other regulars are and think some more about how they are adjusting. You might find one decent player who is re-raising to ‘isolate’ a particular fish or two. You might also find that the regulars are avoiding each other. In the first instance you might find some good mid-game resteal opportunities (if someone is isolating often, they will not have hand strong enough to stand the heat a decent proportion of the time). If the regs are avoiding each other then steal some pots from them, though not so often as you get caught.
- 4 Fish, 4 Regulars And You: This is still a profitable game, since not all regulars will be big winners. You can count on 1 or 2 fish making it to the end-stages, and that is still enough to see some of those profitable bubble mistakes. If you really want to master SNGs it is worth getting an ICM calculator and inputting some of the range adjustments you think that the other regs would make against a fish’s bubble hands. Once you get this information, you can tweak your own bubble strategy to best exploit the changes made by both the fish and the regs… Once you start thinking on this level, the amazing profitability of SNG tournaments quickly becomes clear!
- 3 Fish, 5 Regulars And You: This is a standard game at the lower levels of sites like PokerStars, where a lot of people grind for a living. The fish provide the equity in the game, and the regulars fight over it! If you do not know who is who then you are at a real disadvantage here. You can take notes on the regulars (or color code them), or use a tracking service like Sharkscope or Poker Pro Labs.
- 2 Fish, 6 Regulars And You: Since it is harder to take the chips from the regulars, you need to focus on the fish and play more hands against them. Beware of being squeezed by other regulars if you isolate too often though. Remember, your objective is still to get to the bubble with enough chips to get your opponents to fold. The balance here is between staying aware enough to take advantage of bad players, and keeping fancy moves which could be exploited by others to a minimum.
- 1 Fish, 7 Regulars And You: Although this sounds like bad situation, at the higher buy-in SNG tournaments this is often enough to keep people interested. The regulars are fighting each other for the equity given up by the single fish, at the same time as looking for each other’s weaknesses.
- 8 Regulars And You: Just avoid these games altogether! There are plenty of poker sites out there with 4 or more fish per table, the iPoker Network or 888 come up with the goods almost every time here. If you find yourself facing the same set of regulars over and over again then you are missing one of the key skills in poker – selecting profitable games. Swallow your pride immediately, and go find yourself some fishy games!!