While even one-table Sit & Go tournaments have a multi-table flavour, a key difference is that we’re effectively being fast-forwarded straight into final table mode as soon as we sit down. Thanks to the more rapidly increasing blind levels than we experience during the much, much longer course of a MTT, much of the strategy specific to S&G poker is related to both the blinds and the limited number of prizes.
Most players are aware of the standard, sensible tight approach during the earlier stages, but it can be difficult to know when this style is no longer practical, and when we need to step up a gear or three to be more aggressive.
With this in mind, as the blinds increase to a level at which they’re beginning to eat into our stack, and a couple of players have already been eliminated, we simply have to play dirty and bully the opposition. This can be easier than we might expect, as some players will be way too passive and particularly susceptible to steals and aggression, while others will be better acquainted with the theoretical recommendations yet unable to put what they know into practice.
This is a psychological aspect of the game that will forever be a fascinating side to poker – we know exactly what we should be doing but lack the clear-thinking logic and objectivity to actually commit ourselves to its execution. Such a difficulty with taking the bull by its proverbial horns manifests itself in every form of poker, from appropriate aggression in No Limit cash games to bluffing big or pushing all-in when so short-stacked it’s our only option, and so on.
In this context the key is to be proactive as soon as opportunities present themselves and, typically, acknowledging that we might well need to engineer the right scenarios ourselves – it’s imperative to remember that those valuable chips won’t be dancing their merry way to our stack without us making an effort to collect them!
We should have already identified which players are the most ripe for bullying, and be ready to strike early, picking up blinds and seeing our stack increase as others’ dwindle with each successive round of hands. The advantage of assuming the role of aggressor is that, from the middle phase (and subsequently) of a Sit & Go, opponents tend to almost willingly accept whatever new table dynamic is put before them as long as they’re happy with their current position. Even those with big stacks will acquiesce to someone else’s period of aggression because they don’t want to risk their (good) chances of making the money. Those nurturing average stacks are conscious of being ‘safe’ and in with a chance and, ironically, players with short stacks procrastinate and are experts in finding reasons why ‘this hand isn’t good enough’ to push, hoping while they wait for the elusive big pair that someone else will be eliminated (a futile, ultimately losing strategy).
A key Sit & Go tactic: Bullying.
Good luck at the tables!
We don’t need years of experience to appreciate a couple of the implications of playing small pairs pre-flop (for the purposes of this article we’ll define small pairs as 22-77). On the upside, when the flop promotes the pair to a set it’s great news, particularly in view of the fact that such a hand can be so well disguised that the ‘reveal’ might come only at the conclusion. However, what happens far more often is that, not only does the small pocket pair remain a small pocket pair but, invariably, the arrival on the flop of at least one overcard immediately starts to sow the seeds of doubt – our pair might already be beaten and we’re effectively sitting in the dark armed with a pretty toothless pair.
And herein lies the problem – are we simply wasting money by investing (even modestly) in a small pair in the first place? When we do hit a set would an eventual big pay-off (not in itself in anyway guaranteed, of course) be enough to at least compensate for the cumulative losses incurred through trying our luck all the other times?
While it tends not to be quite as ‘black & white’ as that, this aspect of No Limit Hold’em can nevertheless be considered in, if not simplistic terms, at least a way that helps put the situation in perspective and thus makes the do-we-or-don’t-we decision making process easier to handle.
Here are a few factors to take into consideration when dealt a small pocket pair. Keep in mind when contemplating the following that a pocket pair will become a set on the flop less than 12% of the time:
Position – this generally important subject is going to make a difference here, too. The earlier we are in the pre-flop betting order the greater the chance, after we have limped in, for instance, that someone will throw in a raise or – worse – a reraise, thus putting us in the often unenviable position of having to face facts and cut our loss rather than unjustifiably call a big bet. Conversely, if we are last to act, we have the relative luxury of having seen all the preceding action and can approach the hand with much more confidence. Note that position is absolutely relevant post-flop, too, as being on the button extends this strategic advantage until the river. Were we to have called a (re)raise in early position, on the other hand, the problem would be compounded by being out of position for the rest of the hand.
The kind of game in which we’re playing has an effect on whether playing small pairs is or isn’t a viable option. If the nature of the game is generally quiet we can get away with seeing the flop cheaply but, when sitting with aggressive players, we can’t expect a smooth ride to the flop – thoughtlessly limping with a small pair in early position is often a mistake, while doing so in a clearly aggressive game is unforgivable…
In a particularly passive game we can also slot in an occasional raise – apart from picking up a pot uncontested here and there this also serves to both mix up our play and better disguise a set when we strike lucky.
The bigger our stack size the more justified we are in getting involved pre-flop with small pairs due to their high(er) implied value. This is another subject but, not surprisingly, it’s logical to be able to make the most of our chances when hitting a set – better to invest a modest amount of our stack with a view to a big win than to risk too high a percentage of our money for a payout limited by our (short) stack size.
Good luck with small pairs!
It’s strange how some of the most logical, rational people are prone to superstition. Even during my days as a pro chess player it was not so unusual, in a vast hall full of people engrossed in arguably the most testing game around in terms of there being no luck element, to see superstitious types. Lucky shirts are common (despite causing certain sartorial challenges), as are pre-game rituals and even placing (and moving) the pieces in a very specific manner, and without exception. A Dutch International Master, for example – also a fan of loud shirts, funnily enough – deliberately positions knights facing backwards which, from the opponent’s point of view, can be quite disconcerting…
Poker players are no different. Anyone who plays ‘live’ for the first time might initially be surprised to see people around the table almost obsessively stacking and rearranging their chips in a particular fashion. Some like the sight of giant stacks, others multiple small stacks which, in turn, will be arranged according to a player’s taste – all ostensibly meaningless but, in reality, often providing the player with a confidence-boosting familiarity.
Lucky charms (usually as card protectors) abound, which might be more understandable when our fate can be cruelly determined by Lady Luck but, of course, has no influence on which cards will next appear. Some male players believe they’re ‘unlucky’ against women, others have one or more starting hands (not necessarily trash hands) that they simply never play. This last one perhaps best explains how we might succumb to superstitions, which are (in this context) essentially a subjective construct founded purely in hindsight, and emotionally driven. We might experience unusually good (or bad) results – or perform with a certain level of success – which we attribute to a change in circumstance and, subsequently, consciously endeavour to reproduce (or actively avoid). We see a pot ‘stolen’ from us two or three times after calling a pre-flop raise with this or that hand, and will be loathe to repeating the same play. Poor results against women, incidentally, might well be a genuine problem for lots of male players, but this is due to poor luck or – more likely – good old-fashioned chauvinism obscuring the decision-making process (or simply being an inferior player).
Of course results-led irrational thinking can also have its upside if it means scaring us away from poor strategy but, in the main, we are far better off having nothing to do with superstition and instead focusing on facts. Poker is, after all, a matter-of-fact game that continually delivers psychological blows, and if we were to succumb to the notion that all manner of circumstance and condition can contribute to our fate, then it would never end.
Ritual and habit, on the other hand, can be quite different if it means adhering to certain types of behaviour that are beneficial to our game, such as sleeping properly, good diet and the general aspects of health that aid concentration and help us maintain psychological stability. We’re going to have more luck in the long-term if we avoid alcohol before sitting down to play. Listening to ear-bursting thrash metal isn’t something we should associate with bad luck after noticeable losses – it’s a distraction we should associate with producing poor concentration.
Good luck at the tables!
32Red Poker Ambassador
Flip your way to cash prizes at 32Red Poker with our Flip Festival II: Flip Harder promotion… €33,000 is up for grabs! Flip (formerly ‘carnage’) tournaments are modern, online poker‘s easy, strategy-free format where everyone is automatically put all-in, every hand, until just one player is left standing. Apart from not having to worry over difficult decisions in Flip tournaments, you don’t even need to be logged in to take part in them! It’s enough to just register for the tournament, and you can leave the rest to fate.
However, during the Flip Festival II you’ll be able to increase your chances of winning. Only 100 raked hands during the promotional period are necessary to register in one of the three weekly Flip Freerolls, but the more hands you play, the bigger the starting stack! Given that each tournament offers a prize pool of €11,000, with €1,000 for the winner, and the top 400 finishers are paid, it’s well worth racking up those hands! The promotion runs from 9th January 2015 until the last promotional Flip tournament ends, and the freeroll tournaments will take place on the 16th, 23rd and 30th January 2015, with each starting at 18:00 GMT. Get flipping, and good luck!
Click here to find out more…
It’s that festive time of year again, and at 32Red Poker we like to make sure you’ll remember December for being a great poker month. From Monday 1st December, right through to Thursday 1st January 2015, our 32 Days of Poker will feature a range of festive goodies. Check out what’s on offer by clicking on the corresponding bauble on our special seasonal tree…
There’s something for everyone, with different tournament formats from freezeouts to rebuys, free bonus chips just for logging in to 32Red Poker, micro buy-ins with mega prize funds, freerolls… it’s a veritable hamper full of poker treats.
Day 1, for example, on Monday 1st December at 7pm GMT, will be our €1,000 Welcome Freeroll, with free entry and a prize fund of €1,000! A freezeout, this tournament offers 2000 starting chips and 12-minute levels.
We’ve even made ‘competing’ easy for you as New Year approaches by having ‘Flip’ tournaments (everyone is all-in), where the only effort required is playing a few raked hands to qualify and then registering. Day 31, Wednesday 31st December, 10:30pm GMT is our €1,000 Flip Freeroll (100 Raked Hands)…
Our 32 Days of Poker culminates on Day 32, Thursday 1st January, 7pm GMT, with the HAPPY NEW YEAR! (€2015 Freeroll) when you can start 2015 with a bankroll-boosting bang.
Have a December of poker fun with 32Red Poker!
Not very much tends to happen in November, so we’re spicing it up at 32Red Poker by adding money to the prize funds of our bankroll-friendly Sit & Go tournaments. This format is popular among both beginners and more experienced players, being simultaneously exciting and instructive. Sit & Go poker is also good for when you don’t have a great deal of time but still want to play, allowing you to enjoy the poker tournament experience in a small field, even lending the proceedings a final table feel.
Play our promotional Sit & Go tournaments during November and you’ll have the chance to boost your winnings by getting your hands on added prize money. If you fancy the gladiatorial strategy found in Heads-Up poker, then these are included in our promotion, too. See the Sit & Go lobby to find the tournaments that are eligible, as well as how much money is added to the prize fund.
If you’re new to S&Gs, a good tip is to keep your powder dry during the earlier blind levels and not slip into the habit of calling with decent looking but not very strong hands. There’s also no need to panic when one or two players seem to be forging ahead with big stacks – the important thing is how many players are still in contention, and having a stack that can do some damage. The mission, of course, is to finish in the money and make a profit – in this case a bigger than usual profit.
Click here to find our more.
Thanks to the internet and the natural development and evolution of online poker, every poker enthusiast is sure to eventually play enough hands to experience some very bad luck. How many times do we see our near invincible hand lose on the river to a long, long shot? (too many…). While bad beats can be demoralising, we should be able to see the funny side and put them down to simply being part of the game.
Thanks to the Bad Beat Jackpot it’s possible to earn money from the ultimate in bad beats – even someone else’s. When a big hand (minimum 2222) loses to an even bigger hand, the jackpot is paid out on multiple levels. The ‘loser’ (the bad beat winner) receives the biggest share of the booty but anyone who has paid the 2 cents to opt in is also a winner – it’s not even necessary to be playing at the same table as the jackpot hand, merely the same stakes.
This week, for example, the jackpot was hit on a €100 max table, four of a kind, 4444, ‘losing’ to four aces, when the jackpot had reached €13233.59…
You’ve got to be in it to win it, so to be in with a chance of making a profit from poor fortune for a change, opt in by simply clicking on the BB icon.
Everyone wants to try ‘live’ poker at some time in their career, and we’re giving our players a chance to do just that in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, 15-18 January 2015, when the MPN Poker Tour lands in the beautiful city.
32Red player LeoLeou has just won a €1,500 all-inclusive package and will be taking part in the €40,000 Guaranteed Main Event, as well as an additional €150 buy-in Side Event, enjoying four nights’ accommodation at the luxurious Radisson Blu Olümpia (the venue hotel) and making the most of €400 in expenses – all part of the packages available @32Red_Poker…
Remember that the qualification process is suitable for all bankrolls, with satellites having buy-ins so low they’re in cents! Not only are they cheap, but they also cater for different poker format preferences, from Sit & Go to Rebuys, and even pure luck Flip tournaments.
‘You’ve got to be in it to win it’ is the perfect poker motto because everyone has a fighting chance, so forget how many days there are to Christmas – set your sights on Tallinn and get involved in the satellites!
Click here to start your journey…
When the MPN Poker Tour rolls into Tallinn, the scenic Estonian capital, 15-18 January 2015, 32Red player TTayseer555 will be on his way to the €40,000 Guaranteed Main Event after winning his way to glory this week.
We’re giving away €1,500 packages via our extensive, bankroll-friendly qualification satellites, so if you fancy a fantastic poker break, including four nights’ accommodation at the Radisson Blu Olümpia (the venue hotel), an additional €150 buy-in for a Side Event and €400 expenses… hit those satellites.
Remember that our satellites provide players with more than one format, from Sit & Go to Rebuys, as well as wonderfully random Flip tournaments. Different poker variants call for different approaches, so good luck on your quest for Tallinn.
Click here to start your journey…
Poker, of course, is a rich, complex game that comes in many guises and formats. We all have a particular favourite ‘perfect’ poker game which, ideally, we both feel comfortable with and can achieve a level of success from. The potential problem with this, like all manner of favourite things, is that not only could we be missing out on something equally rewarding, but sticking with the same recipe week in, week out also runs the risk of restricting our growth and consequently stifling our game.
A fun, action-packed, psychologically demanding NL poker variant is the adventure known as heads up play. Stripping down poker to 1 v 1 leads to obvious comparisons with chess, where strategy and the need for ceaseless mental agility are paramount. These factors are no less important in poker, which also has more by the way of bluff and brinkmanship than chess.
For those who have not tried heads up there are two quite different types, namely the Sit & Go (SnG) and cash. These are clearly two independent animals, the former featuring blind levels that increase over time (with a frequency depending on structure), while cash games continue ad infinitum with the same blinds. Consequently the two formats share some skills but not others. A SnG typically starts the protagonists without too much of a healthy stack/blinds ratio which, in turn, makes for a more urgent approach than we might be used to. Moreover, before we know it, the tension increases along with the blinds, and we soon find ourselves making more critical decisions, hands being characterised by their not exactly having a great deal of play. Pre-flop all-ins become a key part of the game, as is stealing and re-stealing and so on.
Moving on to heads up cash poker, the constant cadence of the game provided by the almost reassuring fixed blinds affords players the opportunity to experience the most that their stack can offer. If deep-stacked play is your thing you could do worse than use heads up cash as a fascinating training ground.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador