Early Game SNG Strategy - Loosening Up Your Early Game By Collin Moshman

With So Many Tight 'Regs' At The Tables, There Are Often Opportunities To Gain Chips Early By Loosening Up Against The Right Opponents: Collin Moshman Describes When And How

Collin MoshmanMany sit ‘n go regulars play a very tight game early.  The biggest reason for this tight-early style is that when tables are populated by loose players, these players will tend to knock each other out, increasing your equity in the tournament even if your stack remains about the same. Therefore the benefit of playing tight early is that it allows you to play many tables in a fairly mechanical style, while slowly increasing your equity during the low blind phase. 

The problem with the above reasoning, however, is that the SNG climate has changed, and tables are now filled with many more tight players than you’d previously find in these games.  The days of registering for an $11 turbo 9-man sit ‘n go and expecting to find 5 or 6 maniacs are gone.  And if you sit around playing only premium hands in a game with 6 other tight players, your equity will no longer increase due to other players spewing chips at each other. 

Therefore a major component of the tight-early rationale disappears when you’re at a tight table. Furthermore there is an additional incentive to get involved early in the game, which is that your opponents will also have tight standards for playing back at you, making your steals more profitable. 

Don’t get me wrong, you certainly shouldn’t play a hyper-aggressive early game. But you should identify and seize profitable opportunities to open non-premium hands.

To identify good opportunities to open more marginal hands, you need to be playing few enough tables where you can pay attention to your opponents, or at the very least least take a second to glance at stats from a heads-up display.  Just knowing basic stats like your opponents’ VPIP and PFR after a limited number of hands will give you a decent indication of how tight they’re playing. 

Here is an example of a decision to open wider than normal pre-flop, and the post-flop decision-making that results.

Blinds: 15-30, 9-handed

Action: Everyone folds to you on the button. You hold Js 8s. You and the blinds all have close to 1500 chip starting stacks. What’s your move?

Answer: You shouldn’t pre-fold this hand. Jack-eight suited is an above-average hand that plays well post-flop. If both blinds are tight regs who play a 9/7 early game (VPIP/PFR), you can raise. Even if one of the blinds is loose-passive, you might still raise, playing a decent hand in position against a weak opponent when called.  If one or both blinds is loose-aggressive however, or both blinds have loose-passive stats, then folding pre-flop is your best option.

early game SNG strategy

In this hand, the small blind is loose-passive (33/6), and the big blind is a very tight reg. You raise to 90 and only the small blind calls.

Flop: 2d 8d Ah (Pot: 210)

The small blind checks.You bet 140, and he calls.

Turn: 5d (Pot: 490)

The small blind checks. Check or bet?

Answer: You should check. The argument for betting is that if the small blind has a lone diamond, you want to charge him now.  The problem though  is that you don’t want to play a large pot with second pair.   The pot is big enough that your goal is to show the hand down as cheaply as possible, unless you improve to two-pair or trips.

River: 5c (Pot: 490)

The small blind checks, and you check behind. He shows 8h 7h and you split the pot.

In summary, particularly at tables with many tight players, you should look for opportunities to loosen up early. The tight-early strategy may be easier to play, but if you’re looking for a bigger edge in tight games, it may be time to add a looser dimension to your early game.

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