Sit and Go Strategy Tips – ‘Spite Calls’ and How to Avoid Them

Ever Been Called By A ‘Horrible’ Hand In A SNG?
This Article Looks At How To Spot Potential ‘Spite Callers’ And Adjustments To Make.

We have all seem them right? That seemingly tight / passive player in a Sit n Go tournament who suddenly and unexpectedly calls an all in with a junk hand! The effect is as bad for him as for you – basically ignoring equity considerations and distributing the prize pool straight to players not involved in the hand.

This kind of calls are not based on any strategic considerations. To understand the ‘Spite Call’ we need to look at what is happening from the perspective of someone who does not understand the dynamic of SNG bubble play.

The type of player we are talking about lacks some vital understanding. Critically that hands go up in value with less players at the table and that equity (ICM) considerations mean that the range of hands it is possible to call an all-in bet with at the bubble is very tight. Thus this player is not pushing all in and may even be trying to play ‘post flop poker’ when the blinds are a prohibitively large proportion of the average stack.

What this player experiences is a constant stream of all-in bets from the other players at the table. Instead of seeing this as a standard bubble situation they will label you a maniac – or fish – and become increasingly frustrated by the fact that their stack is slowly blinding away.

spite calls on the bubble in SNG Play

Here is a real-life example from a lower limit SNG; I had an Ace-rag - more than good enough for the job with a bigger stack than the BB and blinds at 400/200 A25. I push my SB all in and the BB calls - with J8 off!!!

The result is irrelevant to our discussion, the point to make is that this was a simply horrible play... why on earth would the BB choose to make a stand with such a junk hand??? The net result is to take my equity and his own equity in the prize pool and hand it straight to the players not in the hand!!

But looking under the surface we can see what happened, I was taking this guy’s blind each orbit for the last 4 or so. He was getting more and more frustrated and wanted to show me that he 'can not be pushed around' any longer.

One of the facts of life in poker is that you can not directly control the actions of your opponents, only manipulate them through your own choices. The key question thus becomes - Could I have predicted the spite call and could I have taken earlier action that might have avoided it???

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ACR Poker Mark's Rec

In hindsight the answer is yes to both parts. By observing his tight / passive play it might have been prudent to have given the guy a walk earlier in the game – a good situation would have been where my bubble push was +$ev but only marginally so. By declining a slightly +$ev move It may have been possible to tighten his range enough to give myself greater potential for positive expectation pushes in the future.  

He started the bubble as a big stack and was both folding his SB and folding to any action ahead from other positi ons, he did not understand how to use his big stack to pick up blinds in this situation and was equal smallest by the time he made his stand. His frustration caused him to make a horrible call - but in hindsight I could have observed these traits and given him a timely walk.

Spite calls can happen at any time, the thing to watch out for is whether by choice or due to the cards / situation you have been shoving on one player in particular several times over. I would suggest giving these guys a walk, say once in 3 to make sure your keep their egos happy – choose marginally +$ev situations and pass on them in order to set up bigger +$ev situations later.

Winning poker strategy in low level sit and go games is all about assigning correct calling ranges for your opponents at the bubble. This is just one more aspect of this, make sure you make notes when you see this happen and adjust your SNG pushing range accordingly.

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