Basic Strategy Approaches For Steps Sit N Go Tournaments
Choosing the best site for Steps SNGs as outlined in our Complete Steps SNGs guide is just the starting point. Once you sit down to play you need to be aware of how to adjust your play to maximize your profits from these games. As so often in poker a solid understanding of the basics of position, domination and odds should be combined with adapting to mistakes made by your opponents. In a Step SNG there are plenty players who will be incorrectly adjusting to certain common situations – with a little planning it is possible to exploit these errors – increasing our long-term expectation.
I will start with the lower buy-in steps games and cover some adjustments we need to make for the inexperienced players you will find in these games. Next I will look at the middle stages – where huge pot odds and stack sized based errors are the norm! Finally for this article the critical factor of figuring out who does and who does not understand the bubble dynamic and how to adjust to each type of player is discussed. Prize pool equity and more advanced strategy considerations are covered in Part #2 – Advanced Steps SNG Strategy.
General Steps SNG Strategy – The Early Stages
I’m going to be honest here, the average participant in a low buy-in Steps SNG is unlikely to have much clue about Poker Strategy – let alone the ability to adjust this to different structures. You will see odd bet sizes, any 2 suited cards for a raise and many other horrors including the desire to play every hand and the inability to fold any part of the board – ever.
Adjusting to these players is easy enough, though discipline and patience is required. You need to play position, avoid easily dominated hands and to isolate the worst players often. Your implied odds (amount you will be paid off if you hit a good hand compared to the cost of seeing the flop) are huge in these games – so small pairs, suited connectors and suited aces all go up in value. Premium pairs QQ+ are also valuable in an environment where your opponents are unlikely to fold bottom pair or any draw. I recommend building pots incrementally rather than blasting your opponents out with big bets, you need to give them rope with which to hang themselves!
General Steps SNG Strategy – Middle Stages
Especially in the turbo versions of Steps SNGs, the middle stages come along very quickly. When players have 10 to 17 big blinds in their stack the dynamic changes considerably – though may of your inexperienced opponents will not realize this.
One example is that with a 12 blind stack you should not generally be raising a hand you are not prepared to call a re-raise with. The reason is that with antes you will be facing pot-odds of close to 2-to-1 with this stack size, and thus should only fold hands with less than a 33% chance of winning at showdown. There are very few hands which are less than 33% to win against a reasonable range an opponent could re-raise with.
Being the aggressor is important in the middle stages, you will not have the implied odds to ‘set-mine’ any more and should generally 3-bet or fold pre-flop. Since many of your opponents will be trying to sneak into the ‘try again’ places before risking too much you can often steal blinds without too much resistance. Remember not to go this every time, someone will often get frustrated and play back light.
Moves such as the squeeze play and the push over limpers work great in the mid stages of steps. I would advise making these moves with the best hand you do not want to raise for value – since this way you have some showdown value if someone somehow decides that their two suited cards or ace-rag are strong enough to call with
You can read summaries of the Steps SNGs available at 5 major sites in my Complete Guide To Steps article!
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Steps SNG Strategy Intro – How Opponents Treat The Bubble
At the lower level steps you will find players who are terrified of losing their chips until they at least have a try again ticket – and you will find players who are loose and crazy, seeming not to care about the prize pool equity they might be giving away in the long run.
There are two keys to successful Steps bubble play. One involves identifying how each of your opponents are reacting, the other involves understanding how much prize pool equity you are risking and for what reward in any given situation. The math is covered in the 2nd article in this series – Advanced Steps SNG Strategy.
Remember, since your opponents will generally not have a solid understanding of bubble play there is a higher than normal chance that they will bust each other – especially when you are talking about a 4 or 5 player bubble at some of the sites. A good rule of thumb when it comes to assessing the hands your opponents will call all-in bets with is to see what they raised in the early stages. Unless you have someone who tightens up dramatically – that guy who raised A-6 off in middle position at BB40 is likely to think this hand is good enough to defend with later – making sure you adjust your own range to balance this is key.