Mid-Game SNG Strategy

Stealing More Than Your Fair Share In The Middle Game Portion Of SNG Tournaments

By Planet Mark

One stage of SNG tournaments which people appear to have more problems with than the others is the ‘middle stages’. With 12 to 20 big blind stacks, 6 or so opponents and blinds between 100 and 200 the best moves are not always clear.

Chip stacks are too big to start shoving all-in, yet too small for much in the way of post-flop play - you can get mathematically ‘committed’ to a pot very easily, so be careful! This makes play with marginal hands unclear, do you raise that small pair? How do we react with 2 unsuited high cards against a mid-position raise, and so on.

The way I like to look at the objective for this stage of the game is that we should be trying to steal. Not every time, just as much as our opponents and the situation will allow us – we are aiming to get slightly more than our ‘fair share’ of chips, and anything on top of that is a nice bonus.

Mid-Game SNG Strategy – Weapons For Stealing More Than Our Fair Share

There are 3 categories of steal I will outline here:

  1. Blind Stealing
  2. Stealing From Limpers
  3. Re-Stealing From The Blinds Or Late Position

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#1 – Blind Stealing In The SNG Mid-Game

Blind Stealing is the bread-and –butter of middle game SNG strategy, you have to steal blinds – the alternative of seeing your stack dwindle as you approach the bubble is just to nasty to let happen.

Raising often when folded to in later position, the button and cut-off is key. Depending on the blinds, a raise of 2.5x should be more than enough to take the blinds most of the time. What you need to watch out for to ensure you take more than your fair share are stack sizes and the presence of certain opponent types.

Stack sizes make a difference, if you raise your own 14 blind stack from the button, and the big blind shoves all-in with his short-stack, you will usually be committed to call. In this situation you are usually better off shoving or folding – unless you have a hand which would welcome the short-stack shove of course! Big stacks may re-shove more, and bad ones will even flat call too much, again making your decision making unclear and adding mid-game risk that you would rather avoid. Just like in MTTs, mid-stacks are the ideal candidates for standard blind steals, they are comfortable enough not to need to go crazy, and those chips will add valuable ammunition to your stack ahead of the bubble.

Opponents should also be accounted for, and you should be making notes on the stealing tendencies of regular opponents every time you play. Some extreme examples might be a habitual re-stealer in the blinds, or a new player who flats his button half the time forcing you to tighten up from the cut-off.

Note: If you find passive opponents who rarely call or re-raise then make notes fast – these types can be a mid-game goldmine!

#2 – Stealing From Limpers In The SNG Mid-Game

Collin Moshman identified a special breed of player he calls ‘high blind limpers’ and shows how profitable they are to play against. I’m going to single out mid-game limpers too. These are usually inexperienced players who are simply not sure what to do with their mid-strength hands… and so limp with them.

One limp can often lead to a couple more, and before you know it the action is on you, with 600+ chips in the pot, and nobody having shown any strength. The ‘Push Over Limpers’ is an ideal way to chip up here, you will get folds most of the time and win some showdowns when you are called. Just be careful this is a regular limper, and not some fool who thinks that this is actually a good play with aces!

#3 – Restealing In The SNG Mid-Game

Restealing with 12 to 20 BB stacks usually involves pushing all-in after someone has raised you. You will often see this from the blinds, or button to a cut-off raiser. This is a fantastic way to chip up, with the initial raise + blinds together adding more chips to your stack than the straight forward steal.

What is even better about this move is that you will often find players get wary about stealing your blinds for a couple of orbits afterwards.

Here is how it might work, effective stacks are 2000 (after posting) the button makes it 375 to go, making the total pot 600 chips. You are in the big blind and shove all-in over this raise.

Since the button is likely to steal with 60%+ of hands (based on your observations), and you feel he will only call with the top 15% you will win those 600 chips without a showdown 75% of the time. When you are called you will also win some huge pots, this will depend on your hand. Some examples against 15% ranges are:

Q-J suited wins 39% of the time
A-6 off suit wins 39.5% of the time
7-7 wins 46% of the time

These percentages are worth memorizing – check out our best poker tools section for info on some of the best calculators around.

Restealing is hugely profitable, and should definitely be a weapon in your SNG armory. I should note that you should not over-do it… your opponents will quickly tighten their initial stealing ranges and trap you if you re-steal every time.

Mid Stages SNG Strategy - Your Key Objective

Remember, the key to the mid-game is to steal more than your fair share and get to the bubble with a stack big enough to get your opponents to fold. The real profit from these games comes from the bubble itself.

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