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Are live SNGs worth it?

foxypham Its 6 in the morning, I can't sleep so I'm posting this entry to answer a question I've been asking myself for the past few weeks. Are live SNGs worth it? I've been playing many of these recently at Borgata, but have not been doing all too well in them, though this could be due to short term variance. The structure of these things are decent in my opinion:

Starting chips 3K for $270 and 4K for $530
20 min. rounds
100-200 25 ante
200-400 50 ante
300-600 75 ante
400-800 100 ante
600-1200 200 ante
800-1600 300 ante

Payouts for $270 1500-600-400 and for $530 3500-1000-500


The most obvious benefit of live SNGs is the incredibly weak competition. A large part of of these SNGs are made up of people just busted out of MTT who are steaming and people who see a big first prize they can claim for only a couple hrs. of play. You always get 2-3 people knocked out in the first two rounds and many players are playing too tight and passive in the end game keeping the same starting hand requirements as a full ring game. By the time they realize they need to open up their starting range, they have been blinded off and their puny stack is now worthless. These people also call off their chips way too much (something I hate to do in SNGs) and don't realize the importance of fold equity. Another benefit in these SNGs is the low rake the house takes. Borgata charges $20 on a $250 SNG and only $30 on a $500 SNG. Anytime the rake is less then 10% for a tournament, that is huge plus in my book. I also expect a greater ROI in these SNGs than online ones. In online SNGs, I feel the best SNG players expect a 8% to 12% ROI. I feel that I can make a 20% to 25% ROI in live SNGs, but I'm making this number up as I do not have a large enough sample size to validate this. For example, If I played only $500 SNGs which I would average 2hrs. of play in apiece, I should expect my hourly rate to be in the $50 to $60 range.


Even though the field in these live SNGs are weak, these inexperienced players are sometimes painful to play with. They sometimes take way too much times for routine decisions (for ex. whether are not to call PF in the 50-100 level can be a 2 min. chore). These guys are taking too long to count out bet sizes and sometimes an unexperienced dealer does not help the situation. Online, these decisions are all automatic so you don't have to worry about these mistakes happening. Another con is that with a low rake this is canceled out with the fact you have to tip the dealer. I am all for toking the dealers, but in the long run it will hurt your ROI. These live SNGs can also be very time consuming. If your lucky enough to make it to the end, it can be a 3 hour ordeal. On top of that fact, there is no guarantee you can jump into another SNG right away, the wait times between SNGs can be 20-60 mins. easy. This will obviously hurt your hourly rate as you can't maximize your play in one session. The payout structures of these things are also a joke. Whoever made up the payout structure for the $500 SNG at the Borgata, I would personally like to know what they were smoking. 3rd place actually loses money and 70% of the prize pool is for first. They might as well make these SNGs winner takes all affairs! Due to the top heavy payout structure, deals are usually made. Dealing with live poker players can be a pain in the ass sometimes and just adds more stress to your poker playing experience (like there aren't enough concerns for a regular poker player already). Though I mentioned a possible $50 to $60 hourly rate, I feel that a live 5-10NL cash player can make a potentially higher hourly rate at anywhere between $50-$100 depending on the caliber of player.

Overall, I am still on the fence if these live SNGs are worth it. I think for now that I will still play them occasionally when the action at 5-10 NL stinks or as a change of pace from grinding these cash games. I would love input from other people on their opinions of live SNGs and if they have any pros and cons that I missed. Really looking for some feedback on this one!

One benefit I forgot about the live SNGs at Borgata is the chance to play with Montel Williams. He has been a regular in the $250 and $500 SNGs at Borgata for the past couple months and he was extremely pleasant to play with as I got him to buy me some peanut MM's one time. Huge score for me :)


EdmondDantes says

Hmm...let's see. Is playing single table tournaments with a low vig and top heavy payout against weak, inexperienced and possibly tilting players who have no idea how to play optimally "worth it?" You're kidding, right? If the Borgata $500s are comparable to the $500s at the WSOP and you're competent at SNGs, you should expect ROIs of 25+% easily. And forget about the "The low vig is canceled out because you have to tip the dealer" argument. What, you don't pay rake and tip the dealer in a ring game? Personally, if I have the option, I like the STTs because 2-3 hours of focus is about right for me and I need work on my tournament play.

That said, I think the best thing you could do is keep accurate records of your ring and STT play and then make an honest reassessment when you've got several months of data. What am I earning? Which game am I comfortable in? Am I improving? Where do I have the most potential, etc. We play poker to make money, but we should also have fun and be challenged to improve. Once you have some good data, balance the two and pick what's right for you.



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