Early Stage Rules

Here’s the chart showing where we are at:

Early Basics

Note: the basics section is just a general overview. Depending on the M status we are in, the actual play could change

This is the start of the tourney. Your stack is still pretty huge compared to the blinds. You will always start the SNG in this spot. Some tourneys you will go through the entire early stage without playing a single hand. This is ok. There is not much to gain but a lot to lose typically. Blinds are small and not worth stealing. Don’t need any coin flips yet. Its ok to play drawing hands since we might get lucky and double up.

Tight play:
We are not getting involved in many pots.
We are preserving our stack for later stages.
We take pot shots at lucky flops on occasion and only risk the tournament with premium hands.
We avoid coin flips.
We look for cheap ways to see flops to get luck.
Overall, we don’t see too many flops (maybe 15%)
Playing drawing hands is ok as long as we have odds
Blinds are too small to worry about stealing

For all M’s in early stage the following play is allowed: Any two cards Call (your stack is huge compared to his 5X)

Early, M: 20+


Excellent position. We have the chips to play drawing hands and to make probe bets if needed. Don’t waste your chips though. For our tourney structure, we start with 1500 chips. It is good if you can keep this many chips before leaving for the middle stage. If your M is 20+ in the early stage, you probably have not been unlucky. Maybe you doubled up with AA/KK or hit a set or a nice drawing had that paid off.

Raising 3BB or All-in?:

You are definitely raising 3BB. Blinds are too small to justify an all-in.

Pre-flop Starting Hands:

Limping Hands – all positions

AT, AJ, AQ: You are limping with these hands from all positions early on. You don’t want to get trapped against AK or some other hand. The amount you have to gain is very small compared to the blinds. You need to keep an edge. By limping in, it will help you identify any big hands behind you – and give you the chance to escape. If someone raises behind us, after we’ve limped in, we only call if we had ATs or better. The Ace + Ten or better must be suited for us to call. Otherwise, we assume they have AK and fold. Again, early on, risking our stack is not worth it. The blinds are small and therefore the risk/reward is not positive for us.

22-88: We limp in with these low pairs. We are hoping to flop a set and have an easy double up. After the flop, if there is no set, we are letting go of the hand against any decent bet. Other wise we check it down. If someone raises us after we’ve acted we fold. Odds of hitting a set are only 12% so we don’t want to risk much in the hope that we hit a miracle set.

Any two face cards suited: We limp in with JTs, JQs, KTs, JKs, KQs, etc. Any two face cards which are suited. We are doing this with the hope that we will hit a miracle flop (made straight or

made flush or open ended straight flush draw, two pair, or trips). If someone reraises after we’ve limped in, we fold. Don’t get involved against any type of aggressive play with these hands early on.

Raising Hands (don’t want an all-in)

AK, 99-QQ: We will raise about 3X the big blind with these hands. We don’t want to risk our entire stack so will more than likely fold to an all-in reraise by someone acting behind us. Since we are in the early stage, we don’t want to risk the tourney yet for a small potential gain. If someone makes a small raise against us after we’ve raised, we will call and hope for a very positive flop.

Raising Hands (we want an all-in)

AA and KK: We raise about 3BB and are hoping someone reraises. If they do, we push all-in and hope they call.

Facing a raise (you haven’t acted yet) AK or 99+: Call

Facing a raise (you have acted already) ATs, AJs, AQs 99+ and AK: Call

AA or KK: Reraise all-in and hope they call.

Blind Stealing (button or one off button)

Blind stealing is not done in the early stages.

There’s a couple reasons why:

  1. The risk / reward is definitely not worth it. The blinds are small relative to our stack so gaining 60 chips won’t make any difference on the final tourney results. At the same time, we could get trapped and lose if we’re unlucky. So don’t steal blinds in early stage.
  2. We don’t want the guy in the blind to think that we steal blinds. We will steal blinds later – when its worth it or we are forced to because of an X state. We want maximum fold equity when we need it. Right now, we don’t need it so don’t start labeling yourself as a blind stealer.

Blind Defense (from big blind – small blind is stealing)

You are allowed to use the Blind Defense: 3BB Reraise. You want to establish yourself as a blind defender early on if possible.

Other Pre-Flop Plays/Comments

Early on, the reraise all-in moves are really not worth it. You don’t have much to gain since the blinds are tiny. The risk is high since on occasion you will run into AA/KK types of hands.

You are allowed to make the Small Blind Play: Call any half bet from small blind if one or more limpers exist. You are hoping to trap someone and get a lucky double up.

Post-flop Play (flop,turn,river):

You have nothing
Check it down, fold to any aggression. Happens a lot since we limp in with AT – AQ, and any suited face cards.

You have AK and missed the fop (happens 70% of the time) If you raised post-flop and had only one caller, make a continuation bet of about 1⁄2 the pot. Otherwise check it down.

You have a drawing hand (4 card flush draw, open ended straight)
You are allowed to use the Semi-Bluff play: This is always done. It is good because you might win the pot immediately and if you don’t, you’re growing the pot with a decent shot at winning it. For the turn, check and only call a bet if you have good pot odds. Don’t call a bet that can knock you out of the tourney unless you’re pot committed (half of your original stack is in the pot).

You’re facing a bet and have a drawing hand

Check out the pot odds section for rules on calling or folding. Generally speaking, if the bet is small you call(1/2 the pot or less), if its big (3/4 the pot or more) you fold.

You have a middle pair
Play this passively early on. You should check and fold to any bets. After the turn card comes, you can make a small bet if you are last to act and everyone else checked again. People like to check raise a lot in the early stages. This is why we only bet if everyone has checked twice and we are last to act.

You have a top pair (kicker average)
Check and if someone in last position bets, make a small reraise. This is a probe bet. You want to see where they are at. Most of the time if the guy in last position bets after everyone checked to him, he will fold if reraised.
You are allowed to use the Check Raise play: small check raise is ok as a probe bet. Don’t get too carried away here. If you are unsure about this, you can ignore the probe bet.

You have a top pair (top kicker)
You are allowed to use the Check Raise play: Only if you didn’t raise – someone else did before the flop. You should expect them to bet again to try and win the pot. Check to them and let them bet into you so you can check-raise. If someone reraises you, make another small reraise just to let them know you have a hand. If they reraise you again, you are probably beat by a set or overpair – if they are now all-in its ok to FOLD here.. If they only call, then assume you have them beat and make another bet after the turn card comes.

You had a big pair and an over card hit the flop (JJ,QQ,KK, flop is A2T)
This sucks. If you are heads up make a bet of about 1⁄2 to pot size. You are hoping he folds obviously. If he calls, you’re beat. Play passive and fold to any aggression. Many times you will win though. Lots of people call bets with pocket pairs (looking for sets). Your bet will convince him you have AK or something similar. He will only call if he has AQ/AK/AJ/AT(maybe). In which case you are beat.

You have an overpair (99-KK, flop is 72T)

Make a big bet. You don’t want an Ace to come and beat you on the turn). Bet at least the size of the pot to discourage people from staying in.

You have an overpair (AA)
Make about a pot sized bet. In this case, you don’t mind if someone stays in – you are a strong favorite and should try to get all of his chips in the pot.

You have two pair or a set
If a flush/straight threat exists, bet about 1⁄2 the pot. If you are reraised, push all-in. You should be way ahead in this hand. Even if someone has a flush/straight, you have about a 30% chance of hitting a full-house.

You are allowed to Slow Play: OK to slow play early on if no threat exists as described in the slow play rules.

You have flush/straight
You are allowed to Slow Play: OK to slow play in early stage. If you have a straight and there is a flush draw out there, don’t slow play. Make him pay to draw out on you.

You have four of a kind or better
You are allowed to Slow Play: No matter what – you will win. Open fire after the turn card comes (hopefully he has something and will call or reraise!)

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