In the last article, we covered strategy concepts for the Sunday Million in the early stages of the tournament. Those stages were marked by the stacks being very deep relative to the blinds, as well as each other. In this article, we are going to move to the next stage, the middle stages pre-money, and talk about what to expect there.
Unlike the early stages, where everyone is relatively deep stacked, the mid stages of the tournament will be riddled with a variety of stack sizes. If you are one of the shorter stacks at your table, you can think about how you want to approach hands and spots on your stack size, as you will be the effective stack. If you’re one of the bigger stacks, then things get a bit more complex, and opponent stack sizes are relevant. When facing decisions, take note of the stack sizes of the players still in the pot. For example, let’s say you are in the cut off and action folds to you, holding 10♥7♥. You’re playing a 50 big blind stack. If the remaining stacks behind you are short, between 8-12 big blinds, it may be prudent just to fold this hand. Should you raise, you will have to call a shove from these short stacks and end up putting 12 big blinds at risk as an underdog. If however, these stacks are in the 20-30 big blind range, this might be a nice spot for a steal raise. You can put pressure on these stack sizes that threatens their tournament life, without having to assume as much risk to your stack.
For example, you open raise to 2.5x and a player with a 23bb stack calls. On the flop, you make a sizable continuation bet of 6bb. It is very difficult for your opponent to call again, because if they do they’ll have about 14.5bb’s left and the pot will be around 18bb’s, meaning the next bet they may face is for all their chips. They don’t know if you have a hand that is eager to get their stack in, or will fold to an all-in by them. In other words, your risk is limited here to 8.5 big blinds at your own discretion, while they must be prepared mentally to play for all 23 of their big blinds to continue. And lastly, if they are other big stacks that can afford to defend against your raise more liberally, and are not put in the awkward position of considering their tournament life being at risk to call a c-bet, you again may want to back off a hand as weak as T7s and pass this spot against tougher opponents, or continue with a steal play vs. weaker opposition.
Now that the antes are in play, there is more of a necessity to fight over the dead money. Players should be opening a bit wider than the pre-ante stages, and defending their blinds more liberally, particularly in the big blind position which will be getting enhanced pot odds to take flops. Take note of who appears to be adjusting to attack the blinds more, who has tightened up, and adjust to them accordingly. Steal from the tighter players a bit more, and 3-bet the wider openers a bit more. These don’t need to be big adjustments to your overall strategy, but even small, subtle adjustments will net you some extra chips here and there, which adds up greatly over time.
In the early stages, there will be many loose cannons afoot. Some that just play lots of hands, constantly looking to engage in big pots. Others that get involved tighter, but overplay their medium strength hands consistently once in a pot. Many of these colorful characters won’t make it to the middle stages of the tournament, but of course, some will run hot in the right spots and get there, usually with a decent pile of chips. These players are among the easiest to get chips in against in very good spots. Look to press your edges against these types whenever possible.
Playing raised pots out of position is still one of the biggest leaks in no-limit hold’em, and presents many challenges. With many stacks either being short now or in jeopardy of becoming short in a single confrontation, it’s really important to strive for the positional advantage when you engage.
It’s ok and prudent to be reluctant to defend your opens against 3-bets from players who have position on you. Conversely, when the blinds 3B and you have position, you can continue a bit more liberally. And, because players play fairly poorly in 3-bet pots, out of position, and also do not 4-bet frequently enough, look for loose open raisers in front of you that can be hammered by 3-bets. If you see a player open from UTG+1 and showdown 65s or K9s, these are way too loose from early position. The implication is this player is opening way too wide to be able to defend their opens properly vs. a 3-bet. They either will be forced to call too loose/wide or fold too frequently. Take good advantage of these types by levering your positional advantage and aggression to accumulate chips. There’s a reason you should try to avoid playing 3B pots out of position as the caller like the plague… but the converse of that idea is you should also look to put your opponents in that unenviable position as much as reasonably possible, as it creates bigger edges for you.
All this isn’t to say press the action and become a maniac. Keep playing your solid game. But look to open things up a bit in these ways when appropriate, and avoid situations where you’re on the bad end of position or stack depth leverage, and you’ll give yourself an extra boost towards the money that other players simply don’t realize.