Don't get emotionally involved. Play the blind level.
The turnover of players who come to play the SNG is huge. You have a massive number of players who come from No Limit cash games, Limit games and Tournament players.
In addition the failure rate for a poker player is enormous. It is estimated that around 85% of all poker players are losing players. That’s a lot of players who consistently reload their accounts with new money.
What this means to you is that on a busy poker room you have no chance of keeping notes on players and using that information to your advantage.
In a cash game you will often sit down for two or three hour stretches or more and have the same people at the table for long periods of the time. After a while you start to get a read on the types of cards that someone is prepared to play and their betting patterns, this is where you can begin to play the player.
It’s very common for someone to join the table and go through their chips in very short order – especially at a shorthanded limit table and the good six handed player can make money very quickly by spotting these players and raising with premium holdings at every opportunity.
In our SNG however, we have no such luxury. We have no handle on the players we are up against and so it’s important not to try making risky plays where we put our stack at risk.
The key point here is to play the blinds and not your opponents.
Many players at the $5 or $10 level are beginners or weak players at poker and so any picture card looks like a good hand to them. Hands like 8J offsuit are a certain raising hand in their book and so you have to play very tight to beat them. If you play loose and try to match these players at their own game then you will constantly get outdrawn and become frustrated.
This is why you play tight and play against the level of blinds.
When you get a good flop and you hold top pair top kicker you need to make goodly sized bets so that you get paid off the maximum chips from these players, because they are only too happy to oblige you . It makes playing lots of pots a redundant exercise. You only need to play three or four pots to get down to bubble play.
Take no notice of how the other players are playing. Very often you get the maniac who raises with nothing and then delights in showing every one else at the table the trash they raised with.
At the higher limits this is a valid ploy to try and unsettle more experienced opponents who will call a later “all in” thinking you are on the bluff again. But at this level it’s simply done to try and show off and the people doing it always try it one too many times for it to be an effective tool for them.
Don’t let this affect your play so that you begin to tilt and play back. There is no need for this. By playing tight you will have the edge over this type of player and they will try one time too many to bluff at you. You only need that one time for this to happen and you will see the chips move your way.
Always play the relative blinds to your stack. If you have no need to play an A 8 from early position then don’t play it. Similarly marginal hands like Q 10 suited or A 5 suited don’t need to be played unless you need to take down the blinds.
Playing too many pots and getting involved in a war with another player because you think they are constantly bluffing you are the routes to failure. Whether or not the player is bluffing you, you have to play the cards and the flops that are dealt. If you play straight forward ABC poker then you will win more often than you lose.
When you play against the level of blinds relative to your stack you get to see many more cards and many more flops. Even though you are playing tighter than everybody else at the table you get to see more flops because you stay in the game longer and don’t bust out as easily.
Every SNG that you play will give you the cards that you need to win the game.
Now of course occasionally you will get great cards at exactly the same time as someone else and those confrontations can not be avoided. When you run KK into AA that’s just unlucky and you can’t do anything about it, but those situations are few and far between, especially in the six seated game.
Be patient and the cards will come. It’s quite common to not get a playable hand for the whole of the first two blind levels. It’s frustrating to be dealt trash every hand and then pick up a nice A J only for someone to raise in front of you and have to lay it down.
If you play this hand then you’ll most likely bust out. Wait for a better opportunity.
Similarly it’s quite common to get nice playable hands like AQ and get a caller. Then you miss the flop completely and the out of position player bets straight into you or moves all in.
This can happen several times in a row against the same player and you have to fold here.
This is where you need to play the blind level and not the player doing the funny stuff. If you miss the flop and the villain moves all in then it’s quite likely they made two pair with junk like 10 4 suited. This is very frustrating but you have no need to call here. The blind level means that you can keep on playing for a long time before you have to put all your chips in the middle.
Most commonly all of the bluffing is done in the early part of the SNG. Once we get down to four handed and a reasonably high blind level, then the bluffers tend to dry up because they know any false move is curtains for them.
This is when you begin to play the against the blind level by raising with hands like 9 10 suited to maintain your chip stack. You are simply waiting for a monster hand to come along and get doubled up.
In these situations you take no notice of what the other players are doing. Some of them do some crazy stuff and you need to be confident when you play a hand that you have the best of it.
There is also another reason why you should play in this fashion which is just as important.
As you move up from $5 to $10 to $20 the standard of play improves and there is much less crazy stuff going on. If you have learnt to play super tight and can fold your AK on the flop when you miss then you will be ready for the higher limit games.
The players who continue to try their “moves” at the higher limits get found out very quickly because the other players have far superior hand reading skills and know that on a 10, 5, 2 flop their pocket sixes are most likely the best hand. The better players know which flops are better suited to a bluff than the players who try to bluff at anything going.
So, to summarise, play the blind level and not the players. If you have no need for confrontation then avoid it. There are plenty of other players itching to get their chips in the middle. Be patient and wait for your opportunity.
You only need to play two or three hands to get to four handed play and if you suspect someone is taking advantage of your perceived weakness when you fold on the flop then you have to learn to live with it. You only need one hand to hit and take their stack.