Strategy Overview For Double Or Nothing SNG Tournaments
Part #1 of this series gave a detailed overview of Double or Nothing SNGs, this article follows on by looking at some of the specific poker strategy adjustments required to make a profit from these games.
I will break this into two sections, the first re-capping where the profits come from and looking high-level errors in your opponent’s play in these games. The second then follows the ‘early, middle, late’ staged approach to strategy for beating Double or Nothing Sit N Go tournaments.
Double or Nothing SNG Strategy – High Level Overview
My perspective is that these are true ‘grinders’ games in which your profit comes from those few ‘crazy’ players who will simply give their buy-in away during the early stages. Solid bubble play is a must – as this will allow you to take your share (or more!) of the cash left by the players who misunderstand the correct strategy for these games.
You will find many multi-tabling grinders in Double or Nothing SNGs, at the mid-levels this might include several opponents on each table. It is vitally important that you identify who these players are, and adjust your strategy when they enter the pot with a raise.
Observing the names at the tables and looking up stats on a service such as Sharkscope will help you avoid tables with 4, 5 or more winning regulars.
Looking in terms of prize pool equity (poker ICM) will quickly show that the later stages of these games play more like satellites than normal SNGs. Since you can only win double your buy-in the risk of busting is much greater than the reward for doubling up, making survival paramount. More on this in the ‘late stages’ section below. You also need to be aware that all of the early / mid stage strategy is geared towards having a playable stack at the bubble, where playable is defined simply as ‘not one of the smallest + with some fold equity.
Double or Nothing SNG Strategy – Stage by Stage
DoN Strategy - Early Stages – Blinds 10 / 20 to 25 / 50:
- Watch your opponents, grinders will be folding 95% of hands here while those new to the game will raise or call with a wider range. Find out who is only playing top hands and avoid them later in the game.
- Fold all but premium hands in early position and avoid flat calling raises from any position, reraising with monsters. Big-pot hands such as small pairs can be limped behind from later positions, however if a player yet to act has shown themselves to be aggressive this should also be avoided.
- Preserving your stack is key in the first few blind levels. This gives opponents the opportunity to bust each other, while maintaining the threat of a large raise during the middle stages.
DoN Strategy - Middle Stages – Blinds 25 / 50 to 75 / 150:
- With a small ante kicking-in at the 25 / 50 blind levels the incentive to steal blinds is increased, by the 50 / 100 level this becomes an important stack-maintenance strategy. Combine good position with your prior observations and focus on the medium-stacks and the tight opponents at your table to ensure that you steal your share.
- Rarely call any raises. Any time you are faced with a raise you should ask yourself how often you expect your opponent to fold to a re-raise, based on previous behavior, their position and expected raising / calling ranges. If your hand is not good enough to re-raise all-in then it is rarely good enough to see a flop with when the risk of losing chips is vital to the later stages of the game.
- Stack size considerations start to become important during the middle stages, especially in those games where 3 players have already busted. Avoid playing pots with the very large stacks where possible. You should also bear in mind that a short-stack might make a stand with a less than premium hand and avoid being pot-committed against them without a strong holding – flipping a coin for half of your stack in a disaster with such a flat payout structure.
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DoN Strategy - Late Stages – Blinds 100 / 200 +
- At the 6-player bubble and interesting phenomenon occurs, with (hypothetical) ‘even stacks’ each player would have an equity equal to 16.66% of the prize pool – so $16.66c in the $10 buy-in games. However, winning an all-in can only increase this to 20% (or $20 in our example). In any confrontation you are risking almost $17 to win an additional $3 – this ratio affects bubble strategy in a fundamental way.
- Never calling all-in during the late stages should be your default strategy, with only very rare exceptions where you either hold aces or have a very large or very small stack. This also relates to situations where calling a smaller raise would commit either you or your opponent to the pot.
- Pushing all-in to steal the blinds is a great strategy against players who understand the dynamics of the Double or Nothing Sit N Go bubble. Since you should be called only a tiny amount of the time this is a low-risk way of ensuring you maintain enough chips. Your observations from early in the game are important. If an opponent calls with a weak hand then ask yourself how you could have predicted this from previous hands before you blame someone for ‘bad play’.
- Folding is profitable at an aggressive table, with 6 people at the bubble there is a higher chance of 2 other players busting than in a normal SNG. This also means that the ‘pressure’ from the blinds is lower than usual. Folding should be the default play from the first two positions assuming you have maintained a playable stack.
Double or Nothing SNG Strategy – Final Thoughts And Next Steps
Poker is all about adjusting to the situation and your opponents, the profits from Double or Nothing SNGs comes from thinking through the structure + bubble-dynamics and then ‘out-adjusting’ your opponents. Remember, in terms of the risk / reward at the bubble it can be correct to fold a hand such as Ace-King even if you know your experienced opponent is pushing any 2 cards – if you are capable of understanding why this is (and acting on it!) then you will find the Double or Nothing SNGs very profitable indeed.