45 Player SNG Tournament Strategy

Stage By Stage Primer For Beating 45-Man Sit N Go Tournaments

By Planet Mark

45 Man, or 5-Table Sit N Goes are a popular choice for several reasons. These games are fast, fun and attract a lot of recreational players – making them profitable too. You get the chance of a nice return for your buy-in, without having to sit through hours of play in the larger multi-table tournaments.

In this article I go through some of the strategy considerations for 45-player SNGs. I’ll start with an overview – mapping out an ‘ideal course’ through these games. Then add some extras about opponent specific plays and exploiting weakness in the end-game which should help your profits rise.

45 Player SNG Strategy – Key Differences From 1-Table Games + Overall Objectives

In a 1-table Sit N Go your key objective is to get to the bubble with enough chips to get opponents to fold some hands. This is because of the large mistakes inexperienced opponents make at the bubble – mistakes which you can profit from. When we look at 45-player games the bubble (7 get paid) is a long way ahead, simply playing super-tight and taking the occasional steal opportunity will not get the job done.

You need to accumulate chips, and you need to start doing this early.

Of course your overall objective is to hit the final table with enough chips to do damage, hopefully exploiting the weak-tight ‘move-up the payouts’ mentality of a lot of opponents. To do this you will need to work through several stages, and accumulating enough chips to steal and re-steal your way through the mid-game is important – unlike 1-table tournaments this is important enough to be willing to take some risks to achieve this!

Now, a little caution here. The need to accumulate chips should not be seen as a license to play wild poker. You will need to be smart, identifying the weaker opponents, playing position and avoiding those easily dominated hands like Ace-Seven (especially calling with them). At the lower levels multi-way pots will be the norm early on – so make sure you enter them with hands which have the potential to hit a hidden monster rather than those unpaired high card hands which can get you in trouble (small pairs are ideal, as are suited connectors).


Planet Mark’s Rec: The Easiest Sit and Goes Online are Over at America’s Cardroom!

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Instead of tables full of ‘regulars’ who know the math, bubble strategy and hand ranges, ACR Poker is recreational. Compare the fields to the bigger sites, and you will quickly see how soft they are for yourself.

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ACR Poker Mark's Rec

45 Player SNG Strategy – The Early To Mid Game

When the blinds hit the 150 range you are going to have to make adjustments for stack sizes and the tendencies of your opponents. This is the early part of the mid-game, with 3 or 4 tables left and some opponents who have doubled or tripled up and others who are nursing 5 to 8 big blinds looking for a chance to get their chips in.

Get into the habit of scanning the stacks before you act. When there is a short stack yet to act you might have to call their all-in with any hand you raise with, simply because you are getting such great pot-odds once they raise. With 2-to-1 on your call you only need to win 34% of the time against their ‘desperate’ range of hands – making this mandatory.

Those ‘implied odds’ hands like suited connectors and small pairs become hard to play at this point in the game. If you limp with them (giving yourself the odds to play) then an opponent raising will usually force you to fold. Raising to steal might work, however you really don’t want to be guessing on the flop with a weak hand out of position!

You can start to chip up with steals at this point in the game. Though you will have to tailor this to specific opponents. Some players will call a raise any time they entered the pot, and might call on the flop with any piece or draw. It is no good blaming these players for their ‘bad play’ – you had better adjust your own style against them by betting for value instead of bluffing.

45-Man SNG Strategy Primer – Later Middle Stages, Perfecting Those Re-Steals

As the blinds approach 300, the antes kick in and you get down to 2 tables – you had better know your all-in or fold poker game.

At this stage the average stacks are in the 12 to 15 big blinds range and there really is not too much room for post-flop poker. Sure, an occasional clash of 2 bigger stacks might make this possible, though on the whole your chips will come from pre-flop poker.

Your options are to steal blinds and antes, or to re-steal by coming over the top of a raiser at this point in the games. Having an idea about your opponents tendencies and adjusting to their stack sizes are important. If possible the ‘comfortable’ stacks are the ones to steal from – they will not be waiting to risk their chips with sub-standard holdings.

Prize Pool Equity or ICM-based play starts to have an effect as the final 2-tables lose some players. I do not advise making calculations as yet, instead use it as a guideline. For example with a total of 120 in the prize pool and 12 players left you will have $10 in ‘equity’ with an average stack (very simplified, math – just using it to make a point). Doubling up will not double your average wins, since the prize pool is split between 7 players and you could still bust before the money. I’d be inclined to estimate $16 or so for this situation. Now, since you are risking $10 to win $6 you need to adjust your calling ranges to be proportionally better than the hands your opponent is playing. Again, this is not scientific (you need an ICM Calculator such as the amazing ICMIZER 2 for that), just something to bear in mind.

45 Player Sit N Go Tournaments – The Long Bubble

From 13 or so players out the bubble begins in 45-man SNGs. This seems like too many players, until you split them over 2-tables. As you hit 6 or 7 on each table then many of your opponents will start to ‘play for the final table’. Once you get to the final table then nobody wants to bust in 9th or 8th place – such a waste.

I have written many times about how many profitable opportunities player reactions to the bubble give you here at SNG Planet.

This is not only in terms of stealing blinds and antes. Re-stealing works great too – especially when there is a big stack at the table who is enjoying the opportunity to steal from everyone else. This involves coming over the top with a re-raise, since they will have a ‘real hand’ so rarely you can chip-up effectively here. If they have so many chips that you think they might call you anyway then simply make sure you have some kind of showdown value for those times you are called.

Final table bubbles are not the place to be timid, and so many of your opponents will be playing for the money that it is waste not to take their chips!

45 Player SNG Strategy – The Final Table And Paying Places

Unless there are a couple of micro-stacks at the final table I recommend staying positive and aiming for those top places. What you can profitably watch for at this stage of the game is which opponents are trying to ‘creep up the payments ladder’ and which are going for the win. There are a lot of chips to be stolen before the bubble bursts, however many players will stay tight after the money starts – wanting to move up. Of course, any short stacks hanging on for the money places will often go crazy trying to chip up into contention once the bubble bursts, you can profitably call them with a wide range!

If you are going to take this form of the game seriously then you will need to invest in an ICM calculator, there is no getting around it... if your opponents know the math better than you do, they will have a profitable edge over you. There are two things you can do to improve your game using this type of software:

  1. Go through your final table hand histories and let ICMIZER highlight any all-in pushes or calls which have a long-run negative expectation (lose money) or profitable spots that you missed.
  2. Take individual situations which you were unsure about (or just curious) and use ICMIZER to adjust the hand ranges or stack sizes of the different players. This helps you learn what the key factors involved in the decisions are.

ICMIZER will give you a profitable edge, whatever type of SNG tournament you play. You can check this out with a small monthly subscription - see www.icmpoker.com for the details.

Side Note: If you are new to ICM and Prize Pool Equity play, then check my Intro To ICM article here (again a new tab)

Good all-in or fold poker is vital once in the money, your stack will be too shallow for post-flop play. If you do not have the time (or inclination) to learn about ICM then you should work out a nice ‘gap’ between the hands your opponents might push all-in with and those you call. Remember you need a better hand to call a raise than you need to raise with yourself!

Finally for this article, heads-up play. You have a choice here, you can either play an ‘unexploitable’ strategy or you can deviate from this in order to exploit the tendencies of your opponent. An unexploitable strategy is great if you think your opponent is better than you, or you just want to win proportionally to your chips. An example of this is the ‘SAGE’ Poker System.

If you are better than your opponent, or they have obvious weaknesses such as giving away monster hands with different raises, or generally playing too tight – then you can adapt to exploit this. Restealing the ‘weaker hand’ raises more often, or simply chipping away by playing position more effectively are two examples of this.

Whew, a longer guide than usual – though to be fair these games do have many distinct aspects to them.

Further Reading On Multi-Table SNGs

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