Pokerstars Fifty 50 SNG Tournament Strategy

Overview And Strategy Primer for The Fifty50 SNGs At Pokerstars

With Pokerstars taking the controversial decision to close their popular Double or Nothing SNGs, their replacements – known as Fifty 50 SNGs – have sweetened the pill for many players. This article gives you an overview of what is available and how the structure works for the new format, and then looks at some high level factors which affect your strategy for these games. I’ll finish up with a summary and share my opinion on whether these games are a good choice for different types of player.

Fifty 50 SNGs At Pokerstars – How They Work And What Is Available

Fifty 50 SNGs end when there are 5 of the original 10 entrants left. At this point half of the prize pool (basically your entry fee minus the rake) is paid out to the winners. The remaining half of the prize pool is paid according to the number of chips you hold when the game ends. This gives players an incentive to accumulate chips – the inclusion of Antes at the 40 / 80 blind level onwards also makes it less desirable to try and fold into the money.

Only 10 player NL Holdem games are featured at the moment. With a wide range of buy-in levels from the micros up available, turbo (3 minute blinds) and standard (6 minute blinds) are running. I expect to see the variations increase once these games are established.

Rake (fees) are smaller than for standard SNGs with the Turbo games having a smaller fee than the standard speed games. Fees are higher than for the equivalent DoN SNGs.

Fifty 50 SNG Strategy – Some Thoughts On Approaching These Games

Rather than go into hand-level specifics, I’ll focus on my usual two key factors for strategy – opponents and the prize pool structure.

Opponents at the lower levels will make big enough mistakes to make the games profitable for you just by playing solid poker. At the mid-stakes and above you will need to identify and exploit the weaker players, and adjust to the the tendencies of the grinders too. In my view the key to exploiting opponents in these games is to identify those who understand how the prize pool affects their end-game on a conceptual level, at the detailed level (have checked the math!) and not at all. Each of these players have different push-fold ranges… and if you know an opponents ranges you can find out the most profitable adjustment.

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The prize pool makes your approach more complex than in the old Double Of Nothing SNGs. Getting your buy-in back for finishing in the money is not going to cut it long-term, though could be a good result in an individual game if you end up short and an opponent busts before you do.

Having a big stack at the bubble is a different proposition in these games, you can use this stack in 2 ways. Firstly you should be stealing blinds often, the mid-stacks will not play back often for fear of busting – especially when there is a small stack at the table. You might even want to keep the bubble alive by giving the shortest stacks a walk to let you pound on the mid-stacks even more!

With a big stack you can often call a little lighter too, here is an example of the thinking:

A small stack on the button pushes for 1200 and you have 7500 chips in the BB after posting a 300 blind, this means you are calling 900 to win 1740 (antes in play). Here the small stack is desperate and should be pushing very wide, your chances of bubbling would not be seriously affected by losing the hand, and best of all – you are getting 1.9 to 1 on your call with the opportunity to pick up extra cash those times you win… the small stack is risking his ‘survival’ equity, the big stack is simply making a chip ev calculation.

When we compare bubble calling ranges in the Fifty 50 SNGs with Double or Nothing the biggest contrast is that those ‘never call’ situations are fewer. In a DoN it was routine (and profitable) to fold QQ to a shove, even when you ‘knew’ your opponent could be pushing any-2. In Fifty 50 games those chips (and the blinds / antes) have a value, and this value will translate into a wider calling range. How wide will depend on several factors including the size of the blinds, stack sizes and presence of one or more ‘micro-stacks’. If you are planning on specializing in these games then you’ll need to run the scenarios through SNG Wiz.

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Early Game – Play Looser?

A key question for approaching these games is whether the need to accumulate chips should see us loosen up early? My view is that the most important factor is maintaining fold equity (ability to get opponent to fold to your all-ins) close to the bubble. Taking the chips from the weaker players and developing a chip stack with which to bully the bubble with are nice, but secondary. The ‘super-nit early / crazy shove (but not call) late’ strategy that was successful in the Double or Nothings is a little too extreme – however I will not be loosening up too much in these games.

Pokerstars Fifty 50 SNG Strategy – Final Thoughts / Next Steps

The more skillful bubble play in these games suggest that the regulars will be playing less tables than in the DoN SNGs they are replacing. It is early to say whether these games will prove as popular as their predecessors once the buzz / newness wears off.

My view is that these will be profitable for those players who are able to adjust, and very profitable for those prepared to put in the work to understand the ICM dynamic and spot the leaks in their opponents ranges.

If you are looking for a steady income from SNG tournaments, then the ‘normal’ structure is still very beatable. My 4-part course, ‘The $16 per hour SNG Blueprint’ is freely available to all readers and takes you through the steps required to become a regular SNG winner over 4 weeks. You can read the preview and register here.


Further Reading On  / SNGs

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