Key Differences Between 6-Handed (6-max) and Full Ring (9 or 10 handed) Sit N Go Tournaments
After discovering the bankroll building potential of SIt N Go tournaments, it is only natural to look at all the different games to work out which is the most profitable (or enjoyable!) for you. These days we have more game types, speeds and sizes than ever to choose from - I have listed the main options in my Best Sit And Go Games To Build A Bankroll article. For most of us the initial question is whether to play short handed (6-max) or full-ring Sit n Goes... This article covers the key differences between the formats in terms of strategy, playability and profitability. By the time you get to the end of this piece you will have a better understanding of whether the short-handed SNGs are right for you.
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There are three key dynamics in play for 6-max Sit N Goes that affect how you approach these games:
- The blinds come around faster, creating more pressure on you to play hands (if you keep folding, your stack will disappear quicker than in a full-ring game).
- Since many of you opponents will be aware of this pressure, they will be raising 'lighter' than in a full-ring game, which means you could re-raise or call 'lighter' too. This dynamic creates more post-flop play, and a bigger requirement to understand what your opponents playing tendencies are and need for hand-reading skills compared to 9 or 10-max games, which can be played more 'mechanically'.
- The bubble is with 3 players in 6-max, rather than 4 for full-ring. ICM calculations can take into account the different prize structures (65% / 35% and 50% / 30% / 20%), what these do not show is just how fast your stack goes down in the short-handed game when you are paying one of the blinds 2 of every 3 bubble hands.
So, compared to full ring games there is a bigger skill element in 6-max - or at least a bigger requirement to pay attention to how different opponents approach the game. This means that players who are willing to play post-flop, good at hand reading and able to 'change gears' as the table becomes even shorter-handed have an advantage which can turn into bigger profits.
While 6-max Games Are Potentially More Profitable - They Are Harder To 'Grind'
Here is the flip-side. 9 handed Sit and Goes are very easy to multi-table - and the extra profit that comes from playing more games per hour can easily make up for the smaller skill differential.
The super-tight early, super-aggressive late style of full-ring play gives a huge advantage to players willing to understand the unique math of the Sit n Go bubble. Once you realize that playing 'defence' early maximizes your chance of reaching that bubble and taking advantage of the mistakes less knowledgeable opponents will make - you suddenly unlock the key to making a big bankroll. For more on this see my acclaimed free Sit and Go course - Planet Mark's SNG Blueprint.
With 6-max you need to pay more attention, since the 'defence' style will see you blinded away too fast to do much damage at the bubble. For me, these games are harder to grind.
So, if you are a recreational player who enjoys just a couple of tables - 6-max can work for you.
If you are looking to use Sit N Goes to grind yourself a bankroll, then you should consider working your way up to 6+ full-ring games at the same time - you'll make less per game, but the volume of games will make up for it.
If You Do Not Want To Multi-Table - Smaller Sites Have Much Softer Games
If you want to multi-table Sit n Goes then you need to go where the big volume of games are, if you prefer to play just a few games at a time, then you are far better off at a smaller site which has more of a 'recreational feel'. It baffles me why so many people who claim to play for fun and a little profit challenge small armies of pro-grinders at PokerStars, when there are sites like 888 Poker or Titan where bubble strategy is considered something to do with washing up! Check my best site for Sit n Goes article for more, which also includes my pick for US players.
Below I have gone into a little more detail on some of the factors covered so far:
6-Max vs Full-Ring SNGs, Starting Hand Selection
With no ‘Early Position’, faster rotation of the blinds and opponents who will be playing looser your starting hands requirements can be significantly relaxed when first to enter a pot in 6-handed SNG play. Likewise re-raise hand ranges can be adjusted – depending on the specific opponents. To pick an example I might re-raise an Ace-8 from the button in 6-max, while this would be a fold in a full-ring game. Since 6-max opponents are opening far wider, you are far less likely to be dominated here, in fact you will likely be ahead of the raiser's range.
6-Max vs Full-Ring SNGs, Position Plays
Position in a full ring game will allow you to win more when ahead and lose less when behind in a hand. In 6-max there is a significantly lower chance of your opponent having a ‘monster hand’. Position thus becomes more important than ever, in fact since most flops are taken by unpaired hole-cards you will often take the pot with a position bet. Note: Position re-raises are great when you get to the mid-stages of a 9-max game, especially against multi-tabling opponents who are risk-adverse before the bubble.
6-Max vs Full-Ring SNGs, Multi-Tabling
In order to make a profit from Sit N Goes you need to learn how to multi-table. Since there are less post-flop decisions in the full-ring game and conversely more in 6-max, the ‘pro grinders’ tend to favor 9 or 10 handed sit n go tournaments. 6-handed players thus have the advantage of less pro opponents – which needs to be balanced with the fact that it becomes more difficult to multi-table these games...
6-Max vs Full-Ring SNGs, Collusion / Chip Dumping
It is a sad fact of life that, even at the lowest buy-in levels, there will always be attempts to cheat in online poker. This is usually very badly executed by amateurs by dumping stacks of chips onto each other. This is more likely to happen in a 6-handed game, where the proportionally fewer opponents mean that this conveys a larger advantage. Look out for unusual betting patterns, particularly a large raise and then fold to a small re-raise. If you spot something suspicious then e-mail support at your poker site – while this is a rare phenomenon it can happen at any time, so be vigilant!
6-Max vs Full-Ring SNGs, Prize Pool Adjustments
The 65% / 35% prize pool distribution compared to the full ring norm of 50% / 30% / 20% lead to some significant adjustments. The 3 handed bubble not only has a far larger gap between 3rd (0%) and 2nd (35%), but the ‘blind pressure’ that all players face is increased compared to a 4-handed bubble. If you follow chip-equity models such as ICM you need to make sure that you know how this affects your push / call ranges. If you do not follow ICM then make sure you understand these ranges anyway – a significant number of your opponents (above the lowest buy-in levels) will be using this against you. Find out more in our Introduction To ICM article.
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