Taking a Look at SNG Hands

by Carl Sampson
Submitted by: snoopy on Fri, 19/12/2008 - 11:53am
In this article I will be taking a look at several hands that I have played recently in SNG’s and examining at the philosophy of how to play these hands at various stages of the competition. I believe that this is a far better way to learn than merely looking at a hand and then telling someone how to play it.


Blinds: 10-20
Your Stack: 1,470
Situation: 10-handed SNG (top 3 get paid)
Hand: 6h-6d UTG

In a full table situation like this very early in the tournament folding is clearly the correct play. I see many players limp in with hands like this trying to hit a set and double through very quickly. They reason that the almost trivial T20 in tournament chips that they are expending means very little when compared to the possibility of actually doubling through.

On the surface there doesn’t seem too much wrong with this line of play but what it does reveal is a faulty understanding of the strategic nature of SNG’s. The fact is that when a player open limps like this with a hand like pocket sixes then they will more than likely open limp with other hands as well from all sorts of positions merely because it is cheap and the hand is speculative.

The primary strategic reason why you should play tightly during the early stages of an SNG is to do with the fact that you actually gain equity by folding. This statement may sound odd, especially to cash game players, but your equity in an SNG will increase with each player that gets eliminated.

Open limping with the pocket sixes is not a huge error but don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is the only type of hand that you will ever make this play with because if you are open limping with sixes then you may be doing so with suited connectors and other types of hands. One factor that you need to consider is that chips equals time in an SNG and the chips that you preserve now will not only increase your overall equity but also create more time for you to see a couple of extra hands during the high blind phase of the tournament.

Having extra chips during the high blind stages will also give you more fold equity as well as enable you to make moves with a bigger stack and stealing the blinds when they are far more meaningful.


Blinds:  200-400
Your stack: 1,500
Situation:  4-handed play (top three get paid)
Hand: 7c-4h on the button

The UTG player folds and you are on the button with what is essentially a junk hand. In this situation then it would be a mistake to even look at your hand. You have less than 4BB in your stack and you need to make a move now while you still have a stack that is big enough to create fold equity.

Many players would fold this hand looking to get one of the other players involved in a big confrontation so they can slip into a money placing without much trouble. Of course, one of the dynamics that I must also mention here is the size of the other stacks. If there is another stack that is comparable in size to yours then it changes the dynamic somewhat.

But even then it is usually a mistake to go into your shell here as you stack is large enough to exploit bubble passivity. With the blinds at 200-400, a successful blind steal represents an increase in your stack of a colossal 40%. But as I have just said, if you have another player who is almost down to the felt with a stack of say T500 then you have a reason to fold if doing so will not only increase the pressure on them but will also increase your chances of making the money.

Quite often when getting down to the latter stages of an SNG, carefully selecting your targets can make the difference between cashing and not cashing. For example, your level of fold equity in this four handed situation will vary wildly depending on your stack size and the stack size of the players who you are attacking and specifically the big blind.

If you have a T1500 stack and you are attacking the big blind of a player who has T7000 in chips then expect to get called with a much greater frequency than you would against a player who has T4000. The big stack can afford to call and put you all-in and should they win that confrontation then they automatically make the money.

Also it pays to remember that small stacks are also likely to call you as well because they instinctively know that should they call and win that they too would also be in the money and also that they cannot afford to sit back and be blinded away. Therefore the best size stack to attack in bubble situations if you have the option to be able to choose are the intermediate stacks as they have the stack to not only sit and wait for a while but can also be seriously hurt by getting involved in a confrontation with you.

Carl ‘The Dean’ Sampson is sponsored by Cake Poker and can be seen at www.cakepoker.com/thedean