Sit-n-Go Strategy Guide - Section 5

As promised, I will write a little about the final type of SnG….the Satellite SnG. Satellite SnGs are a bit different from the normal type of SnG in that the payout structure is very small. Generally only the winner gets the prize…and occasionally 2nd place will get their buy-in back. They provide an opportunity to win a larger buy-in for a tournament you may otherwise not be able to justify with your bankroll. Satellite SnGs offer a great value for the dollar, but in the end they can be very frustrating as well. For example this weekend I played a few Satellite SnGs, one was at Pacific Poker…it was a 11+1 single table buy-in, and first place wins a $110 seat to the “Weekly Whopper” after an hour of solid play I took second place and received nothing for my efforts. On Poker Stars I played a couple two table SnGs which were $13+1 buy-ins for a $215 seat in the big Sunday Freezout. The first one I made a very bad call and went out in 8th or 9th at the final table…the second one I again lost heads up, I had my opponent exactly where I wanted him and he caught his card on the river to severely cripple me to the point of being all in to cover the blinds for three hands straight. I eventually lost and received $19 for the effort while my opponent received the $215 seat. All of the 17 other opponents got nothing. Again….these Satellite SnGs provide an excellent value because your ROI is very high….but you simple must win for it to pay off. Until you have gained a good bit of experience I would recommend staying away from these types of SnGs….particularly if you are just starting out. You time and money may be better spent in a regular SnG where even if you don’t win you will get some return on investment thereby building your bankroll. These satellites can take a toll on your bankroll, although they buy-ins are small….but more importantly they can take a toll on your self confidence. I have become very good at shrugging off disappointment due to being a MTT player, but bubbling out of 2 Satellite SnGs this weekend is still a bitter pill to swallow for anyone.

Reading Opponents

Reading opponents is an extremely important skill to develop. You may not be able to put your opponent on an exact hand but putting him on a range of hands is critical to making good decisions. I have often recommended writing down on a scratch piece of paper what you think your opponents are holding….even if you are not involved in that hand. In order to develop this skill you must practice and pay attention to what is going on at the table even if you are not currently playing a hand. I would encourage you….for at least 1 solid week to play one table at a time and write down your opponents suspected holdings based on the action and what is on the board….and every time a hand is shown take note if your read was correct, close or completely wrong. It may seem like an awful lot of work, but I promise you after following through with this exercise you will be a much better player. You will be able to follow the action, even if slightly distracted (important skill needed to multi-table) you will be able to pick up on subtle betting habits of opponents, whether his pause is a trap or whether he is actually considering a move. You will be able to tell whether your opponent is acting quickly and decisively or if he is simply using the “action buttons” to call or fold.
***Side Note***: I would urge you to refrain, or at least reduce your use of the “pre-action buttons” particularly in SnGs and Tournaments. When I multi-table it is sometimes necessary, but it gives your opponents information and you can miss out on good stealing opportunities. I have auto folded many hands in late position when I could have easily stolen the blinds because the action folded around to me. By doing this you essentially give the button or small blind the opportunity to steal and cost yourself 1 free orbit.

By writing down a range of hands your opponent may be holding, you begin to get a “feel” for how they play in what position….and with what types of hands. Once you are involved in a hand with that opponent and are forced with a decision you can replay the hand in your mind and draw on your past experience/notes of how this individual plays….and hopefully make the correct decision. People learn in many different ways…A proven method and one which I use is repetition. I can pick up a lot from reading, but it does not truly become real for me until I do it….over and over again. I have not spent a lot of time analyzing the intricacies of how and why I know what my opponents have….I have just done it so many time that I have learned to trust it. Over time you just learn what a TPTK bet looks like….you learn what a draw bet looks like, you even start to pick up on when people are likely bluffing or stealing (whether you can call the bluff or re-raise them is a different story) You will make bad reads….it just comes with the territory, some opponents are adept at switching gears and changing how they play hands, but people are creatures of habit and will fall into a comfortable pattern you will be able to pick up on if you pay attention. As you develop your opponent reading skill you should develop the habit of taking notes on them.

Note Taking

I strongly suggest, at least initially, keeping detailed notes about your opponents. Not notes that say; “this guy is a complete asshat, what kind of player gets this lucky” I have a few of those notes, but they are not productive and are generally a waste of time and energy. Productive notes are lists of hands they play in and out of position. What type of raises they make (do they vary the amount they raise with the strength of their hand). Do they call a lot, or fold easily under pressure and any detailed descriptions of how long they take to bet…long thinking pauses or decisive action? There is plenty of down time when you are playing a tournament, some people like to watch TV or browse the web, but until you become a very experienced player and even when you become an experienced player you should make notes on you opponents. Taking notes will help keep you focused on the action, it helps develop your ability to read players, and it helps you become more disciplined and focused in general. I find it amazing how many people you will run in to that you have played before, and having notes on them gives you an advantage. Yesterday I was playing a $50+5 single table SnG and there were 2 opponents I had apparently played before because I had notes on them. One note said something along the lines of: “be careful this guy will play ANY two cards if they are suited, he is a flush chasing fool” The note on the other player became very valuable for me. It said; “this guy will bluff a lot in position and will bet very strong/semi-bluff with second or bottom pair” Sure enough within the first level he was playing his usually hyper-aggressive game. The first hand I got involved with him he tried over betting 2nd pair but I smooth called him to the river where he simply gave up and checked it off to me. The other two times we tangled heads up I check raised him……once with the goods and once on a re-steal…both times he gave up. If I did not know his style of playing I would have easily folded two of the three hands to his aggressive betting….costing me a bunch of chips and ultimately may have cost me second place in the SnG. I will often sit and take notes on an opponent after I have been knocked out of a tournament early (Stars allows you to do this) If someone made a bad play or even put a good move on me and busts me out….I surly do not want to forget that valuable information I just paid for. I will hang around and make the note so the next time we meet I will have more information to go on. Part of playing good poker is being disciplined and developing good habit….taking notes on as many players as you can is certainly a good habit – it may lead you to make a good lay-down or give you the confidence to call a bluff.

Sit-n-Go Strategy Guide - Section 5 Summary

• Satellite SnGs
• Learn how to read opponents
• Refrain from using the “pre-action” buttons
• Practice, practice…practice making good reads
• Take as many useful notes on you opponent’s play as possible