Carl “The Dean” Sampson Looks At The Balance Between Taking Edges And Risking Your Chips In The Early SNG Levels
During the course of my poker career, I have played numerous forms of poker but it was only with the arrival of online poker that I became acquainted with SNG’s. The popularity of them indicated to me that here was a form of poker that was not only going to be hugely popular with millions of people but also that it would provide a very good revenue stream as well.
Of course this all depended on me being able to play them well and I did in fact earn my living playing SNG’s for about six months or so. Now there are many various strategies that have been put forward with regards the proper way to play them. I for one have long argued that getting busy early in SNG’s is slowly becoming a more effective style of play at the higher levels.
As more and more players are aware of the effectiveness of tight early strategies then this way of playing certainly has merit. However this is certainly countered by the fact that strategically, it is still effective to play tight early on in an SNG. This is to do with the fact that folding can actually increase your equity in the prize pool and this unique facet of SNG’s still makes playing tight during the early stages correct.
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Early Blind SNG Strategy - Taking Concepts Too Far?
But many players take this concept too far and simply never play a hand during this low blind phase of play. I am going to use the structure that is on my sponsor’s website for a minute with regards SNG’s. With a starting stack of T1500 and blinds at 10-20 then a player begins with 75BB. Whist not being a deep stack, it is still a fair sized stack and what this essentially means is that an effective strategy for such a stack would be more or less a cash game strategy.
What this effectively means is that most of your plays should be geared around finding value. Sitting back and playing nothing but AA,KK,QQ,JJ and AK is not a bad way to play and will guarantee you that you will reach the mid to high blind phase with a shot at the last three places a high percentage of the time.
But by playing this tightly then you would in fact miss many early opportunities to acquire chips. There is no way that you would ever play this tightly in a full ring cash game and even if you did then it certainly wouldn’t be the correct way to play. But during low blind play in an SNG and this essentially means playing blinds at 10-20 ad 15-30 with a starting stack of between T1500 and T2000 then normal cash game play should be the order of the day.
So if three players have limped and you are in the cut-off with a hand like pocket fours then limp along for T20 or T30 or even T50 if the blinds are 25-50. If your stack is still in the T1300-T1500 range then this represents a very small percentage of your stack and not hitting your set and having to fold the hand is not going to make hardly any difference to your overall equity.
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Low Blind Play In SNGs - Allowing Your Opponents To Make Mistakes
But yet getting a double through at this early stage is going to significantly increase your level of equity in the prize pool and this is the reason behind making such plays.
For example, let’s say that it has been folded to you in the hijack seat (one to the right of the cut-off) and you are holding the Ac-10d, I know many players who would fold this hand simply because they are sticking to their tight plan at the beginning. But what you have to remember at the lower levels is that your opponents will be making mistakes in all sorts of different ways.
One of the most common errors that low-stakes and unsophisticated players make is that they get involved with weak hands and they make many other mistakes post flop as well. When you open raise with the A-10 then you are also trying to create another common error and that is to get your opponent to call you and then simply release on the flop when they miss.
This type of weak play is common at the low stakes SNG’s and also low-stakes cash games but yet if you fail to raise then you are simply not giving your opponents a chance to make these errors. You may also get called by some player with a suited ace and then when you flop the ace, you get them to pay you off.
The bottom line is that tight play during the low-blind phase of an SNG is a good solid way to play but you must also be on the look out for value as well and to find ways to double through at minimal cost to your stack.
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Carl “The Dean” Sampson is sponsored by Cake Poker and can be seen at www.cakepoker.com/thedean (cake no longer running) and at www.pokersharkpool.com
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