5 Great Ways In Which You Can Better Define Your Opponents Calling Ranges
At The Bubble Of SNG Tournaments To Improve Your Profits!
SNG Bubble play usually involves short stacks in relation to the blinds and antes. Since raising with short stacks often commits you to calling a re-raise (due to hugely attractive pot odds) the default play is usually to go all in or fold.
What you can profitably push all-in with depends on several factors. The equity you risk, the potential equity gain and (importantly) what hands your opponents will call you with. The first two can be worked out with an ICM calculator – however your opponents calling range is down to your own reading skills. This article looks at some ways in which you can start to narrow the bubble calling ranges of opponents, and then use that information to make profitable all-in moves.
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SNG Bubble Play - Calling Ranges #1 – The Buy-In Level
As a general rule the lower your buy-in level the looser you will be called on the bubble. While this is opponent specific the idea is that lower level opponents will tend to over-value hands. Think in terms of Aces with small kickers (side cards), suited kings and most 2 high card combinations in addition to all pairs, at the lowest ($3ish) levels this can be 30%+ of all hands.
At the lowest levels you can not make assumptions that your opponents will be aware of 'situational factors'. For example the presence of a player with less than one big blind will usually lead the ‘medium’ stacks to tighten their ranges considerably. At a mid-level SNG this can mean an any-2 card push can be profitable… at the lowest levels make sure that you have a positive expectation shove against a loose calling range... since your opponents will often not know that they are making a huge mathematical mistake by calling.
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As you approach the mid-levels ($15 to $30) more opponents will understand SNG bubble strategy better. While you will often be called fairly loose, situational factors now come into play. While learning SNG play it can pay to make a note of all of the hands that people call pushes with. This will give you an idea of the average calling ranges at your site / level.
The higher limit SNGs will feature more opponents who understand push and call ranges. Here the ranges can actually become looser compared to the mid-levels, especially when your opponents put you on an accurate pushing range.
SNG Bubble Play - Calling Ranges #2 – Reads During The Game
Observing what hands people play, especially during the early stages, can assist with defining bubble calling ranges. What you are looking for here is which hands each opponent thinks are ‘good’. Again this is usually Ace-Rag and Suited high card combinations. At the low to mid-limit SNGs you will see a pattern of these same hands being used to call bubble pushes. It is especially important to make a note of which hands your opponents are raising from early position – they think these hands are good! Check our recommended SNG Starting Hands Chart for more!
SNG Bubble Play - Calling Ranges #3 – Your 'Table Image'
Table image should not be the most significant factor in your low to mid-limit SNG games. Most of your opponents will not be aware of how you play and will be focusing on their own cards! However at the bubble it is possible to quickly gain a ‘maniac’ tag by pushing all in a few times. Here is the issue – your pushes may each have a positive expectation, but by the 3rd push in a row your opponents will be itching to call you. A good rule of thumb is to add 5% to the calling range for the 2nd push and 10% for the 3rd. For example iif you feel you will be called 10% of the time by each opponent then make this 20% for push 3.
Even if you do not push each time then it can pay to be aware of the times when you push several times from the same position. For example if you push each time you are on the button then your opponents calling ranges will tend to go down.
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SNG Bubble Play - Calling Ranges #4 – Stack Sizes
This is an important element in defining your opponents SNG bubble calling ranges. The extremes happen when there is a micro-stack at the table. Thinking opponents will not call a push that will bust them when there is someone about to blind away. If your opponent is competent it can pay to push with any-2 cards in many cases. Conversely a big-stack at the table can affect your opponents ranges. Expect the big stack to call reasonably light – but not with any-2 unless their stack is disproportionately large. When the big stack is not in the hand then your opponents may assume you are pushing light to take advantage of this, add a couple of percentage points to their calling range to compensate.
Position in relation to the other stacks can also be factored in at the mid-limit SNGs and higher. If your opponent has a big stack to their left they will not be able to ‘steal’ blinds very easily – their calling range may become looser to compensate. Conversely a medium stack is less likely to call a push from a big stack when there are smaller stacks to their left. The opportunity to steal from the others will make them less likely to call.
SNG Bubble Play - Calling Ranges #5 – Adjusting Your Site + Time Of Day
Some poker sites feature more 'low limit SNG pros' than others, (for example Pokerstars) these players often multi-table and will be aware of bubble strategy - making them push 'lighter' and call 'tighter' than an inexperienced opponent. Looser sites which attract more recreational players such as Carbon Poker or Titan Poker require adjustments in a different direction... since those liesure players will not realize that calling with Ace-Six can be an expensive bubble mistake you need to adjust to compensate - it is no good complaining when you get called light!
Time of day can also be factored into assessing your opponents ranges - remember that evenings are more likely to attract liesure players... anyone who has not studied bubble strategy is likely to call you lighter.
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