Go From 6-Handed Beginner To Winner With Our 6-Max SNG Strategy Introductory Guide
While standard 9 or 10 handed SNG Strategy often revolves around ‘tight early, all-in late’, it is rarely correct to play this way in 6-handed SNG tournaments. The key factor which affects every aspect of a successful 6-max SNGs strategy is ‘Blind Pressure’. The fact that the blinds come around faster with less players affects starting hand selections, which in turn lead to far more post flop play. 6-handed sit n go tournaments give you the opportunity to use real poker skills to your advantage, done correctly this can make the 6 player games very profitable.
This article goes through the stages of a typical lower stakes 6-max SNG tournament and notes the strategy adjustments to make in each case. Where appropriate links are provided to further articles where specific strategies are discussed in more depth. Finally the fact that not all poker sites are equal in terms of the quality of opposition found in Sit N Go tournaments is concerned – we provide a further link to some detailed information on the best 6-handed poker sites.
6-Handed SNG Strategy – The Early Stages
The twin concepts of lowering your starting hand requirements and playing those hands positively and aggressively come into play during the early stages of 6-max SNG tournaments.
Many of the danger hands in full-ring 1-table tournaments such as suited broadway (picture) cards and ace-8+ become raising hands in 6-max. The danger of being dominated by a higher kicker is significantly lower with just a few opponents. Raising takes control of the hand and allows you to pick up small pots when both you and your opponent miss – which will be a large percentage of the time. By raising you also define your opponent’s hands, if they re-raise a large amount you can get away from some hands which you might have lost money with on the flop with less information.
Position is key in 6-handed matches for the same reason. Most of the time when 2 players see a flop with unpaired cards, neither will flop anything they can be too confident in continuing with. Acting last after the flop by playing more hands from the button and cut-off positions gives you the opportunity to see your opponent act before you choose your action. This will allow you to take many small pots when your opponent appears weak.
Re-raising, slow-playing and bluffing are all affected by the blind pressure / starting hands dynamic. Your re-raising range (for value) can be somwhat lower than in a full-ring SNG tournament, since your opponents will be raising lighter. Slow-playing can be attempted with lesser values such as top 2 pairs, since the danger of drawing hands is reduced by the smaller number of opponents (it is less likely that a player has a specific draw made possible by the flop). Bluffing in 6-max poker games again relates to the smaller likelihood of specific flush or straight draws. If you bluff and are called then your opponent usually has a made hand of some sort – it is then up to your judgment on the specific opponent to decide how you continue.
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6-Handed SNG Strategy – The Middle Stages
As you loose one or two opponents and the blinds increase you are under significantly more pressure in terms of maintaining your stack. Now is the time to increase the aggression and to take advantage of any weaknesses you have spotted in your opponents during the earlier blind levels.
Being aware that the blind pressure is greater than you think can help focus you on picking up pots. For example, you are 4 handed with blinds at 75 / 150, your stack of 1500 chips is going to last you less than 7 rounds at the table. Picking up at least one pot per orbit of the table is a must at this stage. Players who do not adjust will see their stacks quickly diminish to the point where they loose the ability to get their opponents to fold – this is a disaster in SNG tournaments, avoid this at all costs.
In addition to stealing blinds you will have to defend your own blinds during the middle stages so that your opponents do not see them as an easy target. Re-stealing ranges from the blinds depend on your opponents. If you have a read that an opponent will raise from the button almost all the time when folded to, then you have an excellent re-steal opportunity as this player will not be able to call your large re-raise with the vast majority of his holdings.
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6-Handed SNG Strategy – The Bubble
3 Handed bubbles see huge pressure from the blinds. In a 6-max SNG this part of the tournament is not for the timid. Aggression is again the key factor, it will very rarely be correct to call a large bet without a monster hand. However it will often be (mathematically speaking) correct to make a large raise while holding a mediocre holding.
The key to any SNG Bubble situation is to understand your opponent’s ranges. There are 4 to consider while the blinds are <10% of your stacks and 2 when more. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What range of hands will this opponent open raise with?
- What range of hands will this opponent call an all-in re-raise after open raising?
- What range of hands will this opponent push all-in with?
- What range of hands will this opponent call my all-in push with?
Answering these questions will give you a huge edge at the bubble of a 6-man SNG. Once you have a feel for the ranges that opponents will do certain things with you can compare your holding to this and decide what to do.
The next step is to begin to understand these same questions in terms of your ‘equity’ in the prize pool instead of chips in your stack. This is known as The Independent Chip Model and allows you to make mathematically unexploitable decisions at the bubble. For more information read our Introduction to Poker ICM Article. Once you know the basics you can apply this specifically to 6-handed SNGs with our dedicated article on adapting ICM for 6-Handed SNG Tournaments article.
Remember that the jump between 3rd and 2nd place in a 6-max SNG is 35% of the prize pool at most sites – this is actually the same as the jump from 2nd to 1st. Try not to think of ‘playing to cash’ or ‘playing to win’ in these situations, the optimal play is usually the one which wins you the most chips (or rather equity) over time – consistently make the right decisions for your $ev and the money will naturally follow.
For information on the very best 6-handed SNGs on the internet check out our dedicated Best 6-Max SNGs article.