When you reach the $100-SNG level and beyond, you’ll notice a large jump in the skill level of your opponents. While you’ll still find recreational-type players, a significant number of the players at every table will be professional types whose main goal is earning money. Because of this, playing at this level requires additional skill.
As Your Opponents Improve
How will you notice the better players? They’ll be playing a lot like you! Early in the tournament, they’ll play very tight and conservative, but as the blinds go up and the number of players goes down, they’ll become much more aggressive. In $50 SNGs and more so in the $20 SNGs, you had many opportunities to be the first pre-flop raiser in level 4 and beyond. Now, however, in many games you might only get one chance per round to be the first raiser—when you’re under the gun!
As you can see, in this type of game you’ll have many more opportunities to call an all-in and many less to raise all-in. So you’ll need to bone up on the proper calling strategy. Make sure you have a good understanding of the bubble effect. Also, if you plan to play a significant amount of time at this level of play, I urge you to read the book I co-authored, Kill Everyone, for a complete discussion of advanced SNG concepts, including an in-depth strategy for pushing and calling on the bubble.
The Re-Raise Steal
Up to this point, you only re-raised with an excellent hand. That’s because even on and near the bubble when proper play calls for aggression and wide raising ranges, your opponents played way too tight. Their raising ranges were small and even when they did hold a less than great hand, they were very likely to call your re-raise. Starting at the $100 level, however, many of your opponents have wide (and proper) raising ranges when they’re first to enter the pot, particularly in late position. They’ll also be capable of folding them to a re-raise. Therefore, when an aggressive opponent makes a standard raise, maybe 2.5 to 3 BBs, from late position and both you and he have enough chips to give you fold equity, you should often re-raise him all in.
Requirements for this Play
- Both your stack and the raiser’s must be big enough to give you solid fold equity. This means that you must have at least 4 times the original raise in your stack and he must have enough chips left after his raise to call at least 3 times his original raise.
- The conditions must be such that your opponent will fold at least half of the hands that he’ll raise with. This means that his raising range needs to be wide and his calling range narrow. Most professional-type players will fall into this category. Most recreational players won’t.
- you must be able to raise enough so that one of you will be all-in if he calls.
- All the opponents behind you, particularly the BB, must have enough chips to fold.
Other Factors to Consider
- How strong are the bubble effects? As always, the lower your bubble effects, the more often you should be gambling. His is most important, though. The higher the raiser’s bubble effects, the more often you should re-raise him.
- What’s your hand? When he calls, he’ll usually have a Category 3 hand or better. So a hand such as KT is vulnerable. Ideally, you’d like to have a suited connector, giving you a fighting chance against AK and big pairs. This doesn’t mean that you can’t re-raise with KTo or any hand, but when you get called it’s beneficial when you have a hand that isn’t likely to be dominated.
- How many players are behind you and what are your bubble effects against them? The fewer players and the lower your bubble effects, the better for re-raising.
- What’s your image at the table? The tighter your image, the more often the raiser will fold, the better for re-raising.
Note that your better opponents will be keen to use this play against you, as well. Therefore, if you’re on or near the bubble and at least one player behind you is capable of this play and has enough chips with which to do it, never make a standard raise. Either move all-in or fold. This means that when you have more than about 8 CSI, you’ll be playing somewhat tighter than you were at the lower levels, since you’ll often have a hand that can’t stand a re-raise, but you have too many chips to move all-in.
Five players remain with the blinds at 100/200, no antes. It’s folded to a good and aggressive player on the button with 2,600 chips. He raises to 500. You’re in the SB with 2,000 chips, holding the 4h 6h, and haven’t raised for a round. Move all-in.
Four players remain in level 7, with blinds/antes of 200/400/50. The SB has 1,200, the BB has 1,600, the player under the gun has 4,100, and you have 6,600 on the button. A reasonable player under the gun raises to 1,000. Move all-in. You don’t even need to look at your cards. The raiser likely only raised to 1,000 so that he can fold if you move all-in. His bubble effects are so high here that he can only correctly call with a premium hand, even if he knows you haven’t looked at your cards when you raise. This is an incredibly powerful use of this play.
with 4 players remaining in level 6, 100/200 blinds and 25 antes, it’s folded to you in the SB with 2,800 chips. The professional player in the big blind has 4,800. You have As9h. Fold! That’s right, fold, even though you have a decent ace in a SB-BB situation. You have a high- bubble-effect situation and you can’t risk 2,800 chips trying to win 400 with this hand. If you make a standard raise to 600, the BB is likely to re-raise you all-in and now you’ll have to fold 600 chips lighter.
The Squeeze Play (or Power Re-raise)
An opportunity for a squeeze play presents itself when someone raises and at least one other player calls. If you re-raise, you’re squeezing the initial raiser; he not only has to worry about you, but about the caller behind him as well. Very often you’ll have more fold equity using the squeeze play than when there were no callers.
Blinds are 50/100, 6 players are left, and all the stacks are between 1,500 and 3,000. One player raises to 300 and another calls. You’re on the button with 6h 4h. This is a time when you can occasionally move all-in. This is the squeeze play or power re-raise. The initial raiser probably won’t call without a powerful hand and it’s unlikely the caller has a strong hand either, or else he would have re-raised. If one of them calls with a good hand, you’ve got a nice suited connector that might get lucky.
you can make a squeeze play from the blinds as well as in position, but I recommend that you only do it if your raise is all-in. If stacks are deep and your re-raise might be called, your positional disadvantage becomes a major factor. The all-in push removes this problem.
Four Players Remaining—The Bubble
Keeping the Small Stack Alive: If you’re the big stack and there’s a very small stack still at the table, you have enormous fold equity with the two medium stacks. you should be raising every single time there’s no action before you and often everyone will give up without a fight. But if you bust the small stack, the bubble will be over and you’ll have lost most of your fold equity. Consider folding in a slightly profitable situation against the short stack, just to keep him alive a little longer. If he stays alive a little longer, you may pick up another couple rounds of blinds from everyone else. you’re giving up a small profit here in exchange for a chance at larger profits from continuing to steal for the next few hands. I’m not suggesting that you fold a premium hand, but folding a marginal hand, such as a small pair, may be profitable.
Blinds are 200/400 with a 25 ante. You’re the big stack with 6,000 in the small blind. The big blind is the short stack with 1,100. Both of the medium stacks fold, as they have for the last few orbits. You have 4d 4s. Fold and give the small stack a gift.
Same situation as above except that you are in the big blind and the small stack moves all-in from the small blind. You have As Qc. Call. The small stack will be pushing a lot of hands here, as he’s desperate to get some chips. Your edge is too big in this situation to give up. Take his chips.
Three Players Remaining
- At this level your opponents will be correctly raising more aggressively prior to the action reaching you.
- Players with a high bubble factor who make a standard raise are candidates for a re-raise steal.
- Never make a standard raise when you’re on or near the bubble and good players with big stacks left act behind you. Move in or fold.
- Occasionally, try a squeeze play when the opportunity presents itself. You need to be confident that:
- The original raiser is capable of folding a good hand.
- Your raise size is large enough to have some fold equity.
- On the bubble as the big stack, occasionally fold in a marginally profitable situation against the small stack, in order to prolong the bubble.