JackT's Single Table Sit-N-Go Tutorial - Comments Welcome

Discussion in 'Games of Chance' started by JackT, Jun 1, 2006.

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  1. Slinky Bender

    Slinky Bender The All Powerful Moderator

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    This is where we disagree. Let's assume, arguendo, that my thesis is right about it being 50/50 and mostly luck at heads-up, rather than the "you can win greater than 50% of the time" heads up. If that's the case, let's look at a few scenarios:

    1) You "play for first" and you end up first 40% of the time, 3rd 40% of the time, and 2nd 20% of the time. Your EV is 34.

    2) You "play for second" and only come in third 25% of the time. The remaining times are divided equally between 2nd and 1st place (37.5% each) your EV is 35.

    3) You "play for second" and only come in third 20% of the time*. The remaining times are divided equally between 2nd and 1st place (40% each) your EV is 36.

    From what I've seen, scenario 3 is the most likely, because playing for second you can get the third place finishes down from "random" 33% to 20%, and as I stated before that a lot of the time the blinds are so high by the time it's heads up, that luck is the overriding factor. The time this changes is when the table has cleared out quickly, and the money round comes when the blinds are still relatively low.

    * the reason this happens is that so many guys play like you and are going for first that you can let them bump eachother off and then fight it out with the winner.


    These numbers change when your thesis that you can win greater than 50% of the time on heads up play, however. I think the difference is that such an assumption is contrary to your original thesis in this thread where "you don't have to be good, just follow a few simple rules" and you can win at SNG's. I think my thesis is more realistic if you take into account the thesis of the entire thread.
  2. JackT

    JackT

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    Let me add something to this....
    I also try to pay attention to how much it takes to get a particular player to lay down a hand... i.e., if your aim is to win the pot right there, you only want to put the minimum amount in the pot that is going to accomplish that goal (and not give him proper odds to draw). If we're heads up and there is 1400 in the pot and based on his previous play I suspect that he will lay down his hand with a 900 chip bet, then I'll probably bet closer to 900 than 1400. With no reads on him, I'll bet closer to 1400.
  3. JackT

    JackT

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    Yes, I agree. Very important point.
    In No Limit games, top pair top kicker is a good hand to play aggressively, players will call you down with weaker pairs, weaker kickers and draws. But if I'm re-raised all in, I'm usually throwing the hand away if it means I'm putting a huge amount of chips at risk. Even if the flop is multi-suited and unpaired, your opponent could have easily flopped two pair or a set. Top pair top kicker is not the hand to defend to the death against most of these SNG opponents.
  4. JackT

    JackT

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    No, this small betting tactic is usually not part of my repertoire, although I can see how it may become valuable in a Pot Limit situation to build up a pot with a strong draw.

    Personally, I don't really vary the sizes of my bets depending upon what types of hands (or draws) I have. My main factor is how many players are either in the pot already or have yet to act. I may bet my strong draws as a semi bluff, but then my close-to-pot-sized bet is designed to make the other player lay down his mediocre hand. While I have no doubt that most players at the 10+1 level won't be paying enough attention to your betting patterns for it to make a difference, I've got to think that at the higher levels making small bets with draws increases your readability, which can get you trapped.
  5. JackT

    JackT

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    ... which means..... (in my opinion) you may be leaving too much money on the table. While I agree that there is a large luck factor involved when you get down to 3-handed and 2-handed play (higher blinds = more luck involved), there IS a lot of weak heads up play that you can take advantage of and get more than your equal share of the first prize money.

    Let me try to explain my view on optimal Bubble and In The Money strategy...
    The way I see it, the LARGEST prize difference is between 4th place and 3rd place (obviously) -- it is the difference between winning nothing (net loss) and winning a GUARANTEED 20% of the prize money. Perhaps it helps to think of SNGs as TWO games rather than one (which you already sort of seem to do with your (1) "playing for second" then (2) "flipping a coin for first" viewpoint). But let's think of it this way for a minute-- once someone goes out in fourth place and you've got three players remaining, 60% of the total prize pool is already distributed among the three remaining players (20%, 20%, 20% to each). Now, with three remaining players, a "new game" begins, and you're playing for the remaining 40% of the prize pool. Third place will get none of it. Second place gets a mere 10% extra (one quarter of the remainder), and First place gets 30% extra (three quarters of the remainder). The first place wins are going to be the ones that really pump up your Return on Investment and go beyond merely balancing out the times when you get eliminated 4th-10th, IMO.
    In such a circumstance I believe it is very right (mathematically and conceptually) to try to WIN FIRST PLACE once you've locked up the guaranteed 20% by getting In The Money.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2006
  6. Slinky Bender

    Slinky Bender The All Powerful Moderator

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    Often you have to loosen up, because if you play very tight with 4 players, how many hands do you expect to go by before you get a very good starting hand? If BB is 20% of your chipstack, and you're wating for a 1 in 16 starting hand (top 6.25% of hands; basically JTs or better), you could easily end up folding your entire stack before hitting that starting hand (every 4 hands costs you 30% of your stack). If you're watiing for a 1 in 8 starting hand (top 12.5%; basically A7s, KJ, QJ or better) there's still a great chance you'll blow 30% of your stack, and a decent chance you'll blow 60% of your stack before entering a hand.
  7. Slinky Bender

    Slinky Bender The All Powerful Moderator

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    I was talking about if no one has bet before you. Do you make a small bet in that case? There are 2 reasons to do it:

    1) It get's a lot of bad players to think they are pot committed and make bad calls when you hit, whereas they may fold to your hit if there's not a lot of money in the pot.

    2) Remember, I play a lot of pot limit, and there's a whole "pot management" aspect of that game. Remember, if there's not a lot of money in the pot, you can't go all in (or even bet huge) even if you hit the nut flush, because you're limitted to what's in the pot already.


    Also, it depends a lot on position and how many callers there are and pot odds vs actual odds. If you've got 300 in the pot and one caller before you who bets the pot, you'd fold. But what if you've got 3 callers before you?

    Just the bettor, your pot odds are 1 in 3 (betting 300, pot is 900 after your bet). With three callers, your pot odds are 1 in 5 (betting 300, pot is 1500). There's more payoff to take the chance, because if you hit, you hit big.

    Also, it depends on the chipstacks. Let's say there are 6 people left, 1 very big stack and 5 small stacks. You're one of the small stacks. If you are in early position, you may fold if you think that rather than a bunch of callers, someone behind you is going to raise big and fuck with your pot odds and you'll get squeezed. If you're in late postion: sometimes if one of the two big guys makes a sizeable bet, and most or all of the small stacks call (thus making themselves substantially short stacked), I'll fold even if the pot odds merit calling, simply because I know that no matter what, I'll end up in a chipstack position now dominatiing a bunch of guys who I was even with before that hand. This puts you as much more of a sure thing for third if one of the small stacks wins, or a much more of a sure thing for second if the big stack wins.
  8. Slinky Bender

    Slinky Bender The All Powerful Moderator

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    My add-on advice in general for these games is to try to avoid the urge to push all in whenever possible - like when you've got top pair with an ace and someone raises or re-raises you.
  9. Slinky Bender

    Slinky Bender The All Powerful Moderator

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    Some disagreements with this:

    1) Third place get's you $20 on $11: an 82% return
    Second place gets you $30 on $11: a 273% return
    First place gets you $50: a 455% return.

    Although it's a "sunk cost" once you're in, before starting the game you have to look at potential returns: the percentage difference in the rate of return is larger for getting to second place rather than third (330%), as opposed to the percentage difference in rate of return from second to first (166%). In these gaves, the vig is pretty steep (10%) and ,akes coming in third plce not nearly as much of a "win". Second place is sort of the best "value" return wise (it's too hard to explain what I mean, if you don't see it, I don't think I can explain it).

    2) First vs second is almost always a matter of luck of the cards: the blinds are usually pretty large and time is creeping quickly. With 20,000 chips total, I've found that even a 12,000 to 8,000 lead (50%), doesn't lead to anywhere near the same type of ratio in terms of who wins; it's closer to 50/50. As such, I say play for second, and then play like a wildman for the coinflip of first vs second. I think you'll find you get a lot more second places that way, and the same amount of first places - thus only decreasing the number of third places, which means................
  10. JackT

    JackT

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    on the Bubble...

    Change how? Do you mean tighten up your raising (or pushing) hands, as you're more likely to get called by a stack that is afraid of being blinded out?
    Or perhaps gamble MORE, as once you've got something decent, you ought to go with it before the blindmonster gets you?
  11. JackT

    JackT

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    Middle Stage....

    If you are asking whether I DRAW to such a hand if my opponent has bet the pot against me, the answer is NO. (but I have no problem drawing to such hands (especially if they make the nuts) if my opponents put in the weak-ass raises I mentioned before.
    If you are asking whether I bet or check with a 4 flush or open ended straight draw.... I'll usually take the free card if I can get it, but I may take a stab at the pot with a strong draw as well, depending on whether my stack can withstand the pot-ish sized bet. As mentioned in my Middle Stage post: "Same betting and folding rules as in Lesson One, but when you are HEADS UP in a hand with an opponent and you don't think the flop caught his hand at all, don't be afraid to fire away at with a pot-sized bet as a bluff, especially if you have overcards or middle pair or a decent draw."

    What do you think? What do you do?
  12. Slinky Bender

    Slinky Bender The All Powerful Moderator

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    You have to change this strategy if you're at a slow table and the blinds are huge and still have more than 3 players (rare, but happens often enough).
  13. Slinky Bender

    Slinky Bender The All Powerful Moderator

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    What do you do with a 4 flush or an open ended straight draw?
  14. Slinky Bender

    Slinky Bender The All Powerful Moderator

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    See "Speed Tables" at PP
  15. JackT

    JackT

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    LESSON FOUR: In the Money

    LESSON FOUR: In the Money


    You made it In the Money. But don't congratulate yourself just yet. Now your aim should be to win FIRST place, as that's where the real money in these things are. The partypoker 10+1 SNG structure makes only a $10 difference between 3rd and 2nd prize, but a $30 difference between 3rd and 1st prize. First prize is what you should be playing for.

    Therefore, you have to open up your play again and become aggressive here. When you are down to three players left, it is either fold or raise. (oftentimes fold or all-in). The blinds are so high at this stage that you have to push your edges and use the Gap Concept as an offensive weapon against your opponents. Raise with an Ace, raise with two big cards (T and higher). See cheap flops with your junk starting cards in the BB and SB. When you are the SB, RARELY fold to the BB unless you (1) have low unsuited cards AND (2) you've observed that he's the type of player to not let you see a cheap flop in the SB/BB situation.

    At this stage, hitting any piece of the flop becomes valuable. Bet your low-pair-no-kicker if you think the flop didn't hit your opponent. (most often it will not in a heads up situation).

    Again, pay close attention to stack sizes. If your two opponents are content to battle each other and you have enough chips to wait, by all means let one knock the other out of the tourney.

    It is at this stage when you might try to TRAP one of your opponents by slowplaying two pair or a straight (provided a flush draw or full-house draw (pair on the board) is not possible). Sets (three of a kind, using both of your hole cards) are always great hands to trap an aggressive opponent with.

    Once you are down to Heads Up play, it's more of the same, but the luck factor is all the more important. As far as strategy is concerned, I've been successful by trying to see cheap flops with crap starting cards, raising and building pots with my better starting cards. It's important to be able to adjust to your opponent's style of play -- pay attention to the hands he is raising with, how often, what he does when there is a flush draw on the board, or all low cards on the board. On the flop and beyond, fold or raise, do not call unless you are slowplaying with a monster hand. Heads Up, you can't wait for a great hand -- play pairs aggressively, bet your draws (including draws to overcards at times), be unpredictable, trap your opponent, don't be afraid to come over the top of him with a re-raise, especially if he is playing aggressively against you. Keep chipping away at his stack, adjust to his style, lure him in. I'll say it again... Selective Aggression is rewarded... this is especially true when playing Heads Up.
  16. JackT

    JackT

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    LESSON THREE: The Bubble

    LESSON THREE: The Bubble

    On the Bubble, with four players remaining and only 3 players winning any money, you are in that zone between loss and profit. Here I pull back on the reins just a bit, especially against opponents with larger or roughly equal stacks to mine.

    I certainly do not enter a RAISED pot with anything other than AA, KK, QQ, or AK (except if my opponent is way shorter stacked than me).

    Again, selective aggression is my style... If I sense weakness (opponent tightening up) and I have enough chips, I might risk 3xBB to try and pick up the blinds.

    Your play should be entirely "Gap" Concept oriented.

    The Bubble on these partypoker SNGs is often a game of 'chicken'... lots of preflop raising and folding, trading chips back and forth. With fewer players, your open-raising requirements can loosen up a bit, but a re-raise will usually get me to fold anything but the above-listed hands to a larger stack. (unless of course I notice that he is playing recklessly, pushing with any ace or a low pair, things like that -- in such an instance, pushing all in with AJ or 88 might actually be warranted).

    If you are the short stack and in danger of being eaten up by the blinds, you have to pick a hand preflop and push all-in. Here, HIGH cards become important (in case neither you nor your opponent makes a pair, at least you have a high card hand). But keep in mind that 76s is basically equivalent (47%?) heads up against a hand like A5o. You want to be pushing all in, NOT calling all in and NOT being blinded all in. Push your 76s if the BB+SB is more than 50% of your stack.

    If you are the large stack, don't be afraid to bully the shorter stacks. They realize that it's the bubble and don't want to get eliminated, so they'll be folding their mediocre hands. You can amass some chips if you take advantage of this. As large stack, you want to avoid expensive confrontations with other large stacks, and always keep your eye on the prize.... first place.

    Once that first player is eliminated (hopefully not YOU), you are no longer on The Bubble, you can breathe a quick sigh of relief, you're not posting a loss for this tourney at least... And now it becomes important to do all you can do to make first place.
  17. JackT

    JackT

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    LESSON TWO: Middle Stage

    LESSON TWO: Middle Stage

    Middle Stage is basically the rest of the tournament up until The "Bubble" (i.e., 4 players left) before the money.

    At the end of the Early Stage your chipstack will probably be somewhere in the middle of the pack... sometimes you'll catch a hand and double up once and you'll be close to the top... other times you'll be playing from behind a bit because you've been posting blinds and folding throughout the Early Stage. Not to worry.
    Here you should be focused on using your tight play during the Early Stage to your advantage in stealing some small pots and building your chip stack gradually as the blinds increase. But even here, you must be PATIENT. Let others eliminate themselves and push all in with their 50% shots. Postflop, ideally, you only want to be raising (or pushing all in) when you're ahead in the hand.

    Particularly in this stage, and throughout tournament play actually, it is important to keep in mind what is called the "Gap" concept. That is, there is a big difference in the quality of hand you can RAISE with and the quality of hand you can CALL the same bet/raise with. Simply stated, you are MUCH better off BETTING than calling in a tournament, because when you bet, there are two ways you can win: (1) your opponent can fold to you or (2) you can have the best hand (or make your draw) by showdown. When you simply CALL another's bet there is only one way to win: showing down the best hand.
    Therefore, and this is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to remember: When calling a raise, you need a better hand than you needed to raise in the first place. When an opponent's RAISE has already been called by another opponent, you need an even better hand to call.

    Also at this stage you need to be specifically attuned to the sizes of your opponents' chipstacks and playing styles. Avoid close-call confrontations with chipstacks that are bigger than yours. Loosen up your raising requirements and be more aggressive against those with fewer chips. The one caveat here is that you must be aware of EXTREMELY small chipstacks who are likely looking for any decent hand to push all in on... play those guys a bit less aggressively preflop unless you don't mind putting your own chips (equivalent to their stack size) at risk. Don't go out of your way to attack the extremely small stacks -- their loose play with the ever-increasing blinds will either eliminate them or double them up.
    You should also have a sense by now who are the more solid players at your table -- similarly avoid close-call all-in confrontations with the better players, but don't be afraid to be aggressive against bad and good players alike. With the increasing blinds, you've got to pick your spots and can't wait for the nuts.

    Preflop, at this Middle Stage, in all positions, I'll open raise (again, 3 times the big blind, or more if opponents limp in ahead of you) with any pair 77 or above, AKs through ATs, KQs, KJs, QJs, JTs, AKo or AQo.
    In late position, in addition to the hands above, if I'm first in the pot, I will raise with AJ, KQ, KTs and maybe even QTs or A8s and above. With these lesser hands, again, my aim is to either win right there or see a flop heads up... it is NOT to get all in with these hands preflop. You definitely need to be stealing blinds as this Middle Stage progresses.
    In late position, if my stack size is large enough to afford it and others have already limped in ahead of me, I will call, wanting to see a cheap flop with hands like T9s or other decent suited connector. This way my play is varied a bit and if the flop hits me hard (flush, straight, trips, two pair or better) I can play aggressively and usually double up or knock someone out.

    Again, on the flop and postflop, your bets should be upwards of the size of the pot (3/4 of the total in the pot is fine when the blinds get large enough). A lot of players you will see at this level of SNG will make a weak bet of the minimum. DO NOT EVER DO THIS. You are basically begging your opponents with draws to draw very cheaply and beat you. If you always bet the size of the pot, you will virtually always be giving your opponent incorrect odds to draw to a flush (or worse), and if your opponent calls, then you're learning something about the strength of his hand (i.e., he may be slowplaying you). A weak-ass 20-chip bet isn't going to do anything except get you broke.

    Same betting and folding rules as in Lesson One, but when you are HEADS UP in a hand with an opponent and you don't think the flop caught his hand at all, don't be afraid to fire away at with a pot-sized bet as a bluff, especially if you have overcards or middle pair or a decent draw. Poker rewards aggression -- selective aggression. And remember the 50% rule -- If short stacked, you're basically going all in or folding. I repeat, poker rewards selective aggression -- you would be surprised by how many huge stack players will fold to a short-stack's all-in no matter what odds the huge stack player is getting. During this Middle Stage you will be building up your chips by gradually taking advantage of tight players' propensity to fold marginal hands.

    When you enter the next stage -- The Bubble (Lesson Three) -- you want to have as many chips to do battle as possible.
  18. Waterclone

    Waterclone Go ahead. Try me.

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    Just to toss in a different opinion...

    The tight at the beginning strategy works best when you have a lot of time to play. Either in a big Multi Table tournament, or in a relatively slow SNG.

    I recently started playing on Bodog.com and discovered that their blinds right much faster than I am used to from Pokerroom.com. Every 8 hands or so.

    In a case where the blinds go up so quickly, like here or in a turbo, patience is not a virtue. In any tournament, when the blinds get sufficiently high, it becomes an all in or nothing crap-shoot that is 99% luck. If that is going to happen quickly, then your best chance is to take chances early on to double up, or tripple up.

    Winning at poker takes both luck and skill, but the ratio changes as the game goes on. Early on, it's mostly skill, later on, it's mostly luck.

    Personally, I'd rather be aggressive and bust out early, then be passive and end up hoping for luck. The great thing about a SNG is there is always another one waiting.

    P.S. That said, I would rather play in a slow tournament where I can be tight and have time to play well. The longer that skill is more of a factor then luck, the better a good player will do against the average player.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2006
  19. JackT

    JackT

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    LESSON ONE: Early Stage

    LESSON ONE: Early Stage

    I define early stage as when 8 or more players are remaining in the game. (sometimes 7 or more, if people get eliminated super quickly). Here, basically the play during the first few rounds of these SNGs is so awful that you should really just play EXTREMELY TIGHT. You want to survive and avoid coinflip confrontations with maniac players. To those few players that are paying attention, you want your image to be tight so you can get away with some aggression LATER when the blinds are larger and there are more chips in each pot.

    You specifically want to avoid putting ANY money in the pot with hands that have the potential to lose a lot of chips by making second best hand. During the Early Stage of these SNGs, you'll notice a few players calling a lot, seeing a lot of flops, even raising preflop. Your main focus during the Early Stage is to FOCUS and LEARN which players seem to be tight vs. loose vs. aggressive vs. weak, which ones bet the minimum and which ones always bet whatever is in the pot, or very close to it.

    During the Early Stage, you should be FOLDING hands like AQ, AJ, AT, KQ and KJ -- these are JUNK HANDS during the Early Stage from any position. Occassionally I will raise with such hands if I'm in late position and everyone has folded to me, but if I get played back at, no more of my money is going in the pot with hands like these.

    Preflop, from early or middle position (any position except the CO (cutoff) and Button), ONLY PLAY POCKET PAIRS OR AK.
    ---Open raise with AA, KK, QQ or AK, and be prepared to play the flop aggressively. Your open raise amount should be 3 times the BB, or more if there have been some callers before you. If re-raised preflop, I'll usually go all in with these hands.
    ---With JJ or lower preflop you want to limp in this position, and play the flop aggressively only if the flop warrants it. If any of your opponents raise, you do not want to put any more money in the pot unless you are quite sure your hand is the best. If you hold a pocket pair and the raise to you is small (say less than 10% of your stack), then go ahead and call hoping to flop a set.

    From the CO or the Button, I'll also limp in preflop with Axs, KQs, and JTs if there are calls ahead of me. If not, I may raise with these hands to try to pick up a small pot, but unless the flop smacks me upside the head, I'm not wedded to these hands.

    ON THE FLOP:
    RAISE the AMOUNT OF THE POT with the following hands, otherwise fold:
    - top pair w/ top kicker or second kicker
    - 2 pair (using both your hole cards)
    - set (3 of a kind using both your hole cards)
    - full house
    - 4 to a flush with overcards or other outs
    - open-ended straight draws with backdoor flush draws or two overcards

    In the Early Stages I VERY RARELY SLOWPLAY any hands... even monster hands (flopping quads might be an exception). You'll probably get action anyway and you don't want to let your opponents draw cheaply to a better hand.

    POSTFLOP, make sure all your bets are the size of the pot, or close to it. (otherwise fold).

    Just push all-in if any recommended bet = 50% or more of your stack

    Remember, the key in the Early Stage of these SNGs is SURVIVAL... i.e., avoiding coinflip confrontations.

    After the Early Stage, the gloves are on, and *DING* the bell rings --- TIME TO WIN this motherfucker. (stay tuned).
  20. JackT

    JackT

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    2,351
    PREFACE

    I've just gotten back into playing the Partypoker $10+1 single table sit-n-go tournaments (SNGs) on a more regular basis, and while I won't claim to be an expert at them, I have been doing pretty well in building up my bankroll with them. After a few adjustments to my game, I seem to have the hang of winning these things at a pretty good clip. SO....
    I have been wanting to organize and put my strategy thoughts together (a formula, if possible) for winning these things, which I'll attempt to do (on the fly) in a series of chapters, below.
    If you've played SNGs at partypoker.com, any other poker site, or live -- or if even if you've never played a SNG before but have a criticism/question/comment as it relates to multi-table final table strategy, feel free to chime in.

    Format: First of all, the specific SNGs I am addressing are the $10+1 buy-in, 10-handed single table games on partypoker, where each player starts with 2000 chips, blinds increase (every 5 or 10 minutes, depending upon whether it's a "speed" table or not), winner gets $50 ($39 net), second place gets $30 ($19 net) and third place gets $20 ($9 net). Obviously, other venues have different rules -- not only am I curious to see what type of reactions I get to MY strategy, but I would also be interested in discussing how one would modify my strategy when different rules apply, or typical table conditions change.

    Claim: Ok, now I'm not selling anything, but I'm going to make the following claim... ANY PERSON OF REASONABLE INTELLIGENCE WHO FOLLOWS THIS STRATEGY CAN, OVER THE LONG RUN, MAKE A 20% RETURN ON INVESTMENT, AND OFTEN MUCH MORE THAN THAT, IN THESE SNGs.

    Due to variance, I'd say a $250 bankroll in reserve (i.e., enough for over 20 buy-ins) is probably a good idea. (Hot streaks and droughts notwithstanding, I believe that +20% is a very reasonable figure... I wouldn't be surprised if the really good players were making upwards of 35% return on investment. (but if you're telling me you're making 45%, I would say either your recordkeeping SUCKS or you are LYING).

    What I'm basically saying is, that your opponents in these SNGs are so weak that playing them (correctly) is basically like printing free money!

    Ok, onto lesson one....
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2006