Be prepared to get into the secrets of how to beat poker online. Take this series of articles as a journey into the mind of the winning player – it might and wil be tough reading especially if you are a complete newbie to poker – but do yourself a favor – stick with me – and read the articles – and understand a bit of it and then read them again until the information and the presented way of thinking is very fundamental to you and your pokergame. If you succeed in this I will not promise you – that you can become a big time winning player – but I will promise you that you have the possibility to get there – and that is way more potential than 90% of all players will ever have!
This is the first article in a serie of four articles on how to beat 9 and 10-handed Sit and Go tournaments in No Limit Holdem. It should be suitebel for micro stakes to midstakes SNG’s (up to buyin of 30-50$). These articles have huge value for tournament players as well but lesser value for poker players who want to go directly to the cash-tables!
The Sit and Go tournaments with 9 to 10 players are the very fundament, where basicly all online professional poker players started their career and that is not a coincidence. In this format you get challenged with a lot of basic but very central problems in poker. These problems evolve when you play cashgames or big tournaments, but the core essence of how to deal with these problems starts in the Sit and Go’s. This is why this first serie of articles is about Sit’N'Go’s!
When I play Sit’N'Go’s – I make a lot of money – but in truth I don’t think I win because I am brilliant or extremely lucky – I win because there are enough of my opponents who play bad! This is very important – you don’t have to be one of the best players in the world or at your stake to be a winning player – to be a favorite to win you need players at the table who are worse than you – this should be very fundamental – but it is not. I see poker players all the time who makes very few mistakes but keeps at tables where only other good players are sitting – and that is a huge mistake. What do I focus on when I look for bad players, basicly two things:
1. Basic structural mistakes
2. Lack of understanding of tournament dynamics
Here the basic structural mistakes are of far greater importance than the lacking understanding of the tournament dynamics. It is my experience that players who do not do the basic structurel mistakes can easily be winning players even at levels with entry fees of up to $ 100 and $ 200, and the lack of understanding of the dynamics of tournaments more influence how large a plus the player have. The explanation is as follows: Those who do not have so many basic structural mistakes very often makes it to the money, and those with a great understanding of the tournament dynomics more often end up at first place.
Structural mistakes: The most crucial element of being a winning tournament player, whether for small Sit’N'Go’s (between 6 to 10-man tournaments) or the larger Multi-Table tournaments, is that a player chooses to play the right kind of hands in the right position everything in relation to your total amount chips and the size of the blinds. There are basically 3 types of hands you can pickup: 1. Monster Hands, 2. Potential monster hands and 3. Crappy hands! It is a rather radical way to express it, but the fact is that people who play their monsters and potentially monsters right and keep away far from bad hands are winning players. For example, it is important that when you call a small raise in the startgame with a pocket pair of two’s up to a pair eights, and there comes a low-flop, but it did not hit it a set (three of a kind), then you don’t go bankrupt and loses the remaining pile of your chips. Usually I just fold my small pair if I did not hit my set in the startgame (I basically never call small pocket pairs during the mid or end game, unless the odds are very favorable and they are almost never).
Start Game – The low Blinds
The following description of hands is from the startgame of a Sit’N'Go with low Blinds and 9 to 10 players. Before the flop – which hands should be played: Monster Hands: The following hands are monsters if you go bankrupt on them, so you should not have it so bad, especially if you end all-in preflop, in return you must watch it with them I have here categorized as semi-monsters. I would as a general rule, always raise and / or ReRaise these hands.
Natural monsters: AA, KK (aces and kings) – These two hands, I have never yet managed to fold before the flop in tournament games, and I lose my stack with KK if there is another player who holds the aces it is what I call a setup! If you are able to fold KK preflop in Sit’N'Go, then I recommend you to be more loose, you will in most cases have the strongest hand.
AKs, AKo, QQ – These three hands belong also to the absolute top of the pop, but they are harder to play after the flop. Before the flop, I am basically willing to throw my entire stack into the middle the table – if I have to! With AK you will often see a flop with nothing else but ace high in your hand and then be in a difficult flop-situation. QQ you will often be up against an ace or a king on the flop, and here you will face some tough decisions if your opponent (s) start to play back at you.
Semi-monsters: The following hands are monsters in late position or lowstacked in the later games, but I would not immediately end all-in against any player in the beginning of a SNG: JJ-1010 – These two pairs are strong, but often overplayed especially in the beginning of a tournament. I would typically just limp in with these two pairs in early position, while I will raise them in middle and late position. There are simply too many potential monsters they may encounter with 10 players at the table! AQs, AQo, AJS, KQs, KQo – These five hands are perfectly fine just to fold if you’re in early position, but I personally would like to see some flops with especially suited hands while I did not hesitate a second to throw the rest away in early position in the starting game. But in middle and late position their value increases – but when facing to much action and reraises hands like KQ should just be mucked , unless you play deep-stack and is willing to gamble – then again I would recommend the roulette it gives better odds! AQ and AJ is a slightly other situation – here in certain read specific cases an All In might be in order but ONLY IF you have a very strong read on your opponent as a maniac who is willing to throw all his money on a weak ace. As a general rule, these semi-monsters should be folded when facing to much action before the flop – that is what I recommend particularly in the beginning of the game!
Potential monsters: These hands should in general be played very different than in Cash Games and it is for the simple reason that in Cash Games, you have a significant bigger stack typically 100 x big blind and the ability to instantly reload if you lose 10 to 15% of your stack. This possibility does not exist in Sit’N'Go’s and you seldom have more than 50 to 100 Big Blinds, and this relative low amount decreases rapidly as blinds increase. In Cash Games you will often raise your suited connectors and small to middle pocket pairs. It is a winning game in Cash Games, but it is not in Sit’N'Go’s. In Sit’N'Go’s you often limp (just calling the blind) in the early to middle position and if there are other limpers then you join the limping in late position (if it is folded into a single in late position, I’d personally raise on these potential monsters, but a limp here is also alright – as it makes decisions much easier on the flop).
The following recommended actions described here is based on the low blinds – typically the first 2-3 blind levels.
Suited connectors: This refers to the bottom two because of a ‘color’, which is directly connected ie 8 spades 9 spades, but personally I think certainly you can also play ‘semi’ suited connectors in starting the game, then 8 hearts 10 hearts. These hands, I usually limp in with, or make a small raise in late position when folded to me, but otherwise it’s fine with many callers. You’re looking for a monster out there, the more players that calls increases the possibility have an option of hitting something out there, the more likely it is that you get paid. If you do not hit or people go crazy on the flop and end all in, and you only have a draw, then it’s an easy fold! On the other hand you might get payed big times if you hit, and often you get good odds to call your draws on the flop.
Two aspects, however, is very significant about suited connectors are: 1 Do not make to big calls before the flop with suited connectors the pot is preferably kept relatively small on the flop until you hit your monster, and you must not pay too much to chase your draws. 2. Have position on your opponents (ie sit after your opponents on the flop), this is especially true if you call a raise, where you in position easily can control the pot size and thereby control the battle.
Playabel suited connectors: This range should be from 45s to KJs. Stronger hands are defined as semi-monsters, while lower than 45s. is more problematic when one loses outs downwards in relation to one’s straight draws. The low boundary should be at 45, since here people can make a straight all the way either one or the other way ie A2345!
Small to mellempar: There are MANY amateur poker players who have big difficulties playing small pocket pairs and particularly middle pocket pairs! This is probably the most common problem for players who besides this have reasonable play.
Let me give a standard example:
I sit on the button (the position just before the blinds) my hand is
My stack is about start size 1950, buy in 100 + $ 9 (starting stack: 2000). Blinds are 10/20.
UTG (first player to act before flop) who have 2100 raises to 100, cutoff calls I have very good odds to call which of course I do! Big Blind also called the remaining 80. I have no read on my opponents.
Pot: 410 Action: BB checks, UTG makes a continuation bet of 250, CO folds, my turn to act
Well the flop has not given me a nine, which I went after, but on the other hand besides hitting a set (three of a kind) the flop hits my hand as perfect as it can. My choice is in this situation to call and see if BB has hit something and see what UTG does on the next street! I call, BB folds
Here I think there are two relevant situations
UTG bets 600, I??
Here is the appropriate decision whether to play for stack or not. He can make second barrel with AK / AQ – a total bluff – he can bet his 8x and in that case we are actually ahead of a value bet. Or he may have an overpair or set – in that case we are way behind. If you call here, you give him the possibility to get a free card – but it is a bad play in general. The reason for calling on flop was to find out where I stood in the hand, and now UTG says he has a monster. We should now respect we have lost 350 chips in this pot and still be in the game with a good amount of chip. The alternative approach is to reraise him All-In. Maybe I would get a call from an 8x, but the probability of UTG has raised with such a hand is very small – a second barrel with AK and AQ will most likely fold, while all hands that will call us are better hands than ours and then we are out of the game – except if we hit our two-outer on river. This is a fold!
UTG checks – What to do??
Many players make a continuation bet with way too many players in the pot holding a hand which is basically complete air (ie here AK / AQ) on the flop. It’s usually a good idea to make a continuation bet if one or two players in the pot, even if you have not hit the board make it a little more than half the pot (which typically would be your bet when you hit something at a ‘safe ‘board). In this situation 2, there are now two possibilities: first we could check. This is a very good way to control the pot and keep it small based on the fact that our hand can’t stand much heat and if I play against the sneaky fancy playing types who love to create traps, then my answer to an action here is to check behind the turn and check / call any blank non scary card on the river.
But I have no read on my opponent and I would therefore like to take the pot down right away: I bet 600
Response A: UTG folds and I win the pot – which oddswise just need to succeed in about 30% of cases, but in my experience happens most of the times.
Response B: UTG reraise All in – We have jumped straight into the trap, and get really great pot odds to call with an overpair, unfortunately, we are so rarely good and basically never have a winning hand here so the right choice is here to fold with a half stack left, BUT I’m still in the game! Create a note on the Villain that he is the type that check-raise the turn instead of making a second barrel and note he is a trappy opponent. Now we have the experience for later use.
Response C: UTG calls. Unless we hit a nine on the river we check behind or fold to a big bet from villain – we might consider calling a smaller bet – but that’s it.
This was in fact a small recipe on how to avoid going broke on middle pairs. But the point by calling small to medium pocket pairs before the flop are obviously not to end up in a problem situation, but to hit a set which can help to double your stack early in the game.
How do you then play your set, when you actually hit them! I would basically play them aggressively. You have three of a kind and now it is time to build a big pot. If your opponent folds to your reraises it is of course unfortunate but your monsters have to be played, so you can double up – usually it is such that either your opponent have something or they have nothing, and in the latter case you will not get much out of them anyway. On dangerous boards like draw-heavy boards, I typically donk bet Â¾ pot out of position and reraise (rr) directly all in, if the opportunity presents itself and in position I would reraise a continuation big.
At harmless boards, I typically play like 99 now except I reraise all-in on the turn. The good thing about these pocketpairs is that one might call slightly larger raises before the flop than it was the case with suited connectors and with that you almost always have the answer to whether you have the monster on the flop or not. And usually you can just go ahead and fold if you have not hit the flop.
Crappy Hands: Around 80% of all the hands that you will pick up in the start game should be folded before the flop. One of the biggest mistakes in starting the game is to call the big blind with any two random cards. This applies whether these cards are suited or they are connected (they must be both and – to be interesting) or there must be an ace or face card in one of the two cards. It is amazing how many times you see players limp with such crappy hands as A8o or K3s in early position especially at the low blinds even in Sit’N'Go’s with a high buy-ins.
To limp with that kind of crappy hands is a huge mistake and this can not be stressed enough! If you have a tendency to limp with this kind of hands then the most important lesson you should learn from this series of articles is: Don’t do it! Why is it a fundamental mistake to make? Basically it is that you very rarely can win a big pot – while you often can either win a small pot or lose a very big pot. This is a revelation of the professional’s major source of income: It’s players who limp with those kind hands, which is the professional Sit’N'Go player primary reason for making good money. Avoid hands in the start game which are not belonging to either monsters or potential monsters. The only excuse for playing crappy hands: You got to see a flop for free in Big Blind! Ok that actually happens a lot and of course you should not fold to a free flop – so let’s take a situation and how you should play it. Big Blind is in the pot with A-rag (ace with bad kicker): Blinds 15/30 – three players have already limped – Small Blind folded. We check!
We are first to act my rag Ace is not Ace 3: So I bet 80 and if there is any resistance I fold. If there is a call, I check with the intention to fold the turn if facing any bets of course that only if I didn’t improve to two pairs with my rag Ace. If the turn gets checked behind, and I do not improve my hand on the river I bet 120-150 and folds to a reraise, or I check with the intention of calling a bet from my opponent slightly depending how I feel my opponent is playing. The central issue here is that if you do not take the pot down on the flop, you’re probably behind and you should rather just abandon the semi-strong hands, and getting paid for your monsters later in the game. The key aspect of this article which I’ve tried to show is how to avoid structural mistakes and how to exploit other players structural mistakes.
In the next part of this series of articles I will introduce you to the thinking of a professional pokerplayers perspective on tournament dynamics!
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