Archive Oct 2008: Brann6

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Things I stole from Bond18 and Andy Bloch; A Micro ST SNG Strategy

Note: My experience and track record with this is at the micro levels, $5 and below on Stars.

Single table SNGs are how I make my money when I play poker. I don't have the patience to excel at tournaments and cash games really bore me. I like SNGs because they're usually over in under 90 minutes but have the tournament feel as blinds are ever-increasing (putting pressure on everyone.)

That said, a month ago I was in my usual mode...small cashes in tournaments and MT SNGs, dabbling in ring games, generally playing "gerbil" poker. (You know, gerbil in a cage, running to nowhere in his little wheel.) My bankroll wasn't going down, but it was barely creeping upward.

Someone on another forum linked some of Bond18's blogs and I read through them, was confused, read again, then the fog started to clear. His blogs were all about tournament poker and the insights he gained over the years. But what struck me was how similar they were to the style I'd employed playing LIMIT (lol) SNGs very profitably a few years ago on Party.

Hmm, I thought, this holds some potential. I began experimenting and, suddenly, my BR was moving up nicely. (Nicely, but not enough, as Bond's only focus in these blogs was late position play.) Soooo, I decided to thieve from Andy Bloch, of Full Tilt Poker fame. In the Full Tilt Poker tournament book Andy has a huge section devoted to starting hand play, position by position.

I decided to mix and match ingredients and, thus, here's my guide to ST SNGs:

Raise first in 4xBB:

UTG: Pairs: 55+
Suited: AK-A9, KQ-KT, QJ,QT,JT
offsuit: AK-AJ, KQ

UTG1: Pairs: 33+
Suited: AK-A8, KQ-K9, QJ-Q9, JT,J9,T9
Offsuit: AK-AJ, KQ

MP1: Pairs: 33+
Suited: AK-A8, KQ-K9, QJ-Q9, JT,J9,T9
offsuit: AK-AT, KQ,KJ

MP2: Pairs: All
Suited: AK-A3, KQ-K8, QJ-Q8, JT, J9, T9, T8, 98
Offsuit: AK-AT, KQ, KJ

You'll findyourself adjusting these hands as you play...some will feel comfortable, some won't. Adjust them to suit your style and comfort level or, even more important, the table you're at.

As a rule, if I'm in say, MP1 with JTs, and the UTG player limped before me, I'll raise it up 4xBB +1BB. He very well may have limped with a better hand, but is it a hand he feels comfortable calling a raise with? If he calls, I have position on him. If he re-raises, well, JTs is a hand I can fold to a slowplayed monster.

This play has a lot of beneficial effects: It tells limpers they can never safely do so when they're on my right, thus, hopefully, keeping out crap like A4o soooo many people like to limp with. It scares off potential callers behind me (not always, but nothing's ever certain in poker) because most people just flat out won't raise limpers without a premium hand. It helps me determine what the limpers have. A call generally means at least a decent hand like AJ or KJs...a re-raise means that tricky bastard wants me allin NOW lol.
I'll limp behind other limpers with some of the weaker hands, but if I have a raising hand (as defined above) I'm going to raise. Simple as that.

I make a lot of my chips off these early 4 positions as most people still respect plays from those seats. You can argue we're actually stealing with some of these hands as they're definitely on the low end of most rating scales, but these are very, very profitable steals with hands that all have more than average potential. (Thank you, Andy Bloch!)

The late position hands are where Andy and I part company. I've never been a big fan of A-rag offsuit, so this is where Bond18 comes in. After taking my brain-clearing meds I finally started to intelligently dissect his posts. Man, what a wealth of information! Broken down into component parts, though, it's really, really simple.

Late position plays based upon your BB ratio (not M).

Raise 4xBB first in from hijack, cutoff, button:

30+ BB: Pairs: All
Suited: AK-A2, KQ-K9, QJ-Q8, JT-J7, T9-T7, 98-96, 87-85,76-74,
65-63,54
Offsuit: Ak-A7, KQ-KT, QJ,QT,JT

22-29BB: Pairs: All
Suited: AK-A2, KQ-KT, QJ,QT, JT, T9, 98,87,76
Offsuit: Ak-A9, KQ-KT, QJ, QT, JT

14-21BB: Pairs: 66+
Suited: AK-A9, KQ
Offsuit: AK-AT

13BB or less: Same as 30+ except allin.

At first glance the above seems absolutely retarded. Isn't the mantra "tight early, loose late?" or "tight with a big stack, loose with a small stack?" Bond's taken the herd mentality into consideration and makes a very good point...as a smart player sees your stack dwindling he figures you're going to loosen way up in your raising requirements. Hence, if you're at 16 BB and raise from any of the 3 late seats, he figures his KT might very well be best. Normally, he'd be right. Not here, though, as Bond has you raising with hands that are not easily dominated by just anything. (Granted, ATo ain't that wonderful but the list is already damned short.)

The advantage here is twofold...it's rare that I enter a SNG with no notes on anyone...in fact, sometimes I play against 5-6 players I have notes on. That probably means they're regulars, too, and have notes on me. So, if I raise from LP with 15BB, will they put me on Ax or even worse? Not likely. That means I can probably take those blinds with fairly little risk since they'll have me pegged as a rock. I can even loosen up a little since the last time they called me with K9o they found me holding KQs or better. This tightening up helps in this SNG and future ones.

As an alternate way of playing, I'll often take the 30+ BB hands and use them regardless of chip stack size when I'm in late position (barring pushbot mode.) Both work, depending on the table.

Ever since Daniel Negreanu and Gus Hansen published their latest books the number of rabid blind defenders seems to have increased exponentially. Unless your online name is Kidpoker or Gus Hansen...ummm...maybe you should reconsider considering that style.

While it can be enormously frustrating to play against opponents who are using that style effectively, I actually welcome it. That's because most of them aren't Gus Hansen Out of all of my recent SNGs, I can remember exactly 2 where the GH wannabes busted me (once in the money, once on the second hand! lol) The rest of them eventually managed to donate all of their chips to me or another patient player, usually busting out of the money after enjoying chip leads as high as 75% of the chips in play.

Defend your blinds! (But do it with some intelligence on a par with your skills. Only Gus knows how to play like Gus.) That means be realistic about your chances of successfully defending.

Now, I'm not talking about allins. Just keep this in mind (and all I have is my personal observations so give them whatever weight you care to) MOST players don't raise with utter crap even from late position. In fact, at micro levels, I'd venture to say that 90% of your opponents are aware only of their cards and some vague notion that they need to raise from late position.

In practical terms this means you're not going to see many raises with A6o but quite a few raises with AJ, KQs, maybe K9s, JTs, etc. (Many of these are even more likely to be limps from most opponents but let's throw them into the mix.) For you, this means defending needs to be done with something a bit stronger than 75o...actually, a lot stronger.

Here's a quick guide to blind defense if you have 30+BB:

BB vs a LP raise of 3-4xBB
Pairs: All
Suited and offsuit: AK-AT, KQ-KT, QJ,QT,JT,T9

BB vs an EP raise of 3-4BB
Pairs: All
Suited: AK-AJ, KQ,KJ,QJ
Offsuit: AK,AQ,KQ

SB vs a LP raise of 3-4xBB
Pairs: All
Suited: AK-AT, KQ,KJ,QJ

SB vs an EP raise of 3-4xBB
Pairs: All
Suited and offsuit: AK,AQ

PLEASE adjust these hand ranges based on your notes. If it's too early to have notes on your opponents, then assume the worst and fold the weaker hands. Blindly defending blinds is a major chip spew for most players...save your chips for when you actually have a hand or at least have position.

If you couple this with part I you should definitely make the bubble pretty much every time you play a single table SNG. With today's tight play in SNGs that means 4-5 players are dealing with blinds of 150/75+ and unless there's a runaway chip leader no one is really comfortable with their stack.

This is great news for you! Two things happen here. The really short stacks realize, omg!, they only have 4BB left! The bigstack or two are licking their chops in anticipation of a lot of "blinds" snacks. The medium stacks, generally, are ignorantly complacent with their 10-12BBs.

If you're the shortstack (and you didn't get there trying to fold your way into the money, I hope) you need to use the 13BB or less hands to double up or die. That's pretty much the end of that story. You MIGHT be able to steal from the medium stacks with allins, but the bigstacks will definitely be calling you and you need a chip infusion now. While I don't mind getting the medium stack blinds, I actually prefer to challenge the bigstacks. If I can go from 600 chips to 1200 I am back in the game with some breathing room, can threaten the medium stacks even more and am now not such an easy call for the bigstacks. That's all the positives I need to push 64s (or better.)

And, as the shortstack, my whole attitude towards blind defense changes. Remember all those folds? Look like a rock, don't I? Well, if you've been stealing rather often, now you'll need to call. Because if I'm on the button or in the blinds and I've noted steals from my opponent, I'm definitely pushing back. Note, a THIEVING opponent, not the usual rock or guy who only PHC (plays his cards.) At 13BB or less, I'm pushing against thieves with pairs 66+, A8s+, any suited facecards, no-gap suited connectors to 87, offsuit any 2 ten or up.

As a medium stack (14+BB) I'm a bit more conservative against thieves. I want to give the shorties a chance to make a mistake. Frustration usually hits them as the one or 2 bigstacks are constantly hammering their blinds and, while they wouldn't fight back when they actually had some leverage, they'll finally kick it in with A6o against A9o. It happens all the time, so let the big guys do your dirtywork. Play your stack in relation to the other medium and shortstacks. As my wife says, "don't push a desparate player." For medium stacks that means target the bigstacks. You can't bust them but you can definitely hurt them. Reserve your steals for them and only hit the shorts when you actually have a good hand. (Good being a relative term when it's down to 4-5 players.) Here's a major point to playing medium stack: At some point you'll need to suck it up and fight thieves. You can do it by....just calling (gasp!) Let's say you're in the BB again and XYZ once again (4 chances, 4 raises) raises you from the SB. Unless calling will cripple you, you need to call with ANY TWO! You have position and he probably has crap. Now, being a good thief, he will almost always bet out on the flop. By now, you should know his betting patterns and unless it screams "TOP PAIR" you need to raise his bet at least 3 times. Purists will argue you've just pot-comitted yourself but since I don't mind playing the shortstack I beg to differ. If he re-raises allin I can fold. If he calls, and there's any draw on the board, I'm pushing if it doesn't come in. Look at it from his point of view. I've folded to all of his steals, until now. This time I call. The flop comes K84 rainbow. He bets 1/3 pot (at this stage that's usually enough to take it down from weak players) and I make a strong raise. In his eyes I probably didn't call with an 8 or 4 in my hand, so unless he has a king I'm golden. Besides, NOT pushing allin here looks like I'm trying to milk him...a true donk play. Not only will this often gain you more chips than you lost in all of those earlier folds, it generally causes the bigstacks to look for softer targets.

As the bigstack the game is actually more complicated. Good medium stack players are looking to double up through you, resteal from you, and generally chip up through you. If you haven't taken note of who the weak players are you deserve to lose those chips. Your task as the bigstack is to steal without seeming to do so. Just because you won 2 races (I don't care if you were the favorite going in) and sucked out bigtime because dumbo let you hit your gutshot by underbetting his overpair, doesn't mean the pokergods are smiling upon you. You, especially, have to play poker. As the bigstack on the bubble my definition of playing poker means to raise just often enough against the right players to steal without seeming to. It means understanding that when the short or medium guy who called you checks, he really, really, really doesn't have anything, so bet. (Yeah, some smartass check raises at least once in a match. So what? You got caught. Let it go.) The best bigstackers are the guys who were seemingly rocks and all of a sudden a shortie calls their raise and they show A6o. Here's a guy who changed his game and you never noticed. Make a note! As the bigstack you need to keep chipping up if you want to dominate the last 3 seats, but you have to balance it with a sense of when to shutdown, back off.

As usual, this is just a general guide and the players you face will force you to make adjustments to it.

(Sharkscope shows me as a winning player but it doesn't break out the stats since I started using this strategy: 56% ITM, 48% ROI)

Brann

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