SNG Bubble Play — 3 Small Stacks and One Big Stack

SNG Bubble Play As A Small Stack When One Opponent Has A Large Stack.
This Article Uses Poker ICM to Discuss Optimal Play.

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Many common situations occur when playing SNGs - this article covers how to use ICM to improve your online Sit and Go profits in the situation where you have a small stack and there are 2 other small stacks - and one large one. We will assume some knowledge of Poker ICM in the discussion below.

Here is the setup along with current prize pool equity based on a $100 pool and not accounting for the blinds to keep the numbers simple:

Biggy:            5200 - Current Equity = $37.71

Smally 1:       1600 - Current Equity = $20.76

Smally 2:       1600 - Current Equity = $20.76

Smally 3:       1600 - Current Equity = $20.76

The first point to make is that ‘smally 3’ is actually in a bad spot here. When he is in the Small Blind the big stack will be in the Big Blind, the big stacks probable looser calling range means pushing profitably from the SB is more difficult... one 'rule of thumb' I use is to try and spot these situations in advance, if the stack to my right gets big early on in the SNG this should act as a trigger to loosen your play - especially against the other medium to small stacks. The reason for this is that having the big stack to act after you is a major disadvantage at the bubble - so you should be more willing to move early to try and offset this.

ICM Bubble Play Example - Playing Against A Big Stack - Assign Calling Ranges

Now, calling ranges of course are player dependant (see previous articles for an introduction to this) so what can a small stack profitably shove into another short stack here? The twist on the dynamic is that all of the short stacks are both desperate to double-up and desperate not to bubble... for me the questions to ask before you decide to shove are:

  1. What is the big stack doing, is he (correctly) pushing / raising a lot of hands?
  2. How about the other smallies - are they aware of stack sizes? Are they likely to confront the big stack or get all in against each other?
  3. Are one or both other smallies attempting to fold into the money or waiting for premium hands?
  4. Do the other players at the table understand SNG bubble math in general??

An example; Biggy has folded UTG, you are next to act with the blinds at either 200/100 or 400/200 from the button. What can you profitably push here in the following scenarios?

push fold ranges Poker Blueprint

Scenario #1 -Both small stacks looking to fold into the money (playing tight).

Blinds 100/200 - We will give them both tighter ranges (they are too small for super-tight so 66+ A10o+ would be reasonable here), you can push a wide variety of hands in this situation something near 60% - any pair, ace, king, Queen-6o +, high jacks and most suited connectors.

Blinds 200/400 - Now we need to loosen their ranges a little - not too much, although the blinds are huge in proportion to their stacks they will be through them soon. I think 44+ A6o+ and KJs+ would be fair here). Your pushing range is 100% - yep, the pot of 600 is so valuable $ev-wise to you that any 2 cards are good enough here.

Scenario #2 -One looking to fold into the money and the other one not understanding bubble play.

Blinds 100/200 - So we keep the ranges the same for one opponent and loosen up the other, the guy who does not understand the bubble will be calling you much lighter here, especially if you have shoved into him a lot lately! We will give him any pair, any ace, any 2 broadway cards and high suited connectors such as 910s. This guy changes the dynamic considerably - you now need a decent hand to shove the button - 66+ A10o+ here is a guideline. This seems tight but to make up for it you have an increased chance that this opponent will fight with one of the other players without solid values (hopefully the big stack!!).

Blinds 200/400 - Same opponent calling ranges as above - but now the pot is big enough to be worth taking some risks over... here you can push 46%, any pair, any ace, K3s+ and most high card / suited connector combinations.

Scenario #3 -One smally is a maniac, the other is next to the big stack and so looking for a fight with any decent holding.

Blinds 100/200 - Be careful here, the looser ranges are important but so is the fact that these guys might well end up fighting each other or the big stack and getting you into the money by default. We will give the maniac top 50% of hands (he thinks you are bluffing!) and the other guy the same range as the guy in scenario 2 who did not understand the bubble - Pairs, Aces and broadway / connector combinations. Now you really need to tighten that pushing range - 88+ a10s+ only - far too likely that you end up gambling your $20 equity here.

Blinds 200/400 - Loosen the pushing range a little, but not too much - we need to balance the size of the current pot with the high risk of being called. Push 55+ A5s+ and KJs+ from here.

Still another factor of the same setup is where the big stack and button fold and you are next to act in the SB with another smally in the BB. Here your read on the player is important, but not as important as awareness that the other guy has to have a hand of some sort to call you. Your pushing range should be very wide here... any 2 cards against tight opponents with 200/100 blinds and against average opponents when the blinds are up to 400/200 - against loose opponents you need some sort of a hand, but top 40% should be just fine. The point to make is that you are unlikely to have a better opportunity to add chips to your stack than this - so make the most of it!!

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Further Reading On SNGs And Bubble Play:

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