A very common misunderstanding that most novices confuse is the power of aggression vs. playing passive. Aggression is good as long as there is fold equity. Fold equity is a way of saying that if you raise with a hand, there is a chance the opponent will fold. So your odds of winning a pot if you raise or make the first bet, is the fold equity + the chance you will actually win if you are called. This is very important for the SNG player. Remember, you need an edge. If everyone plays the same ABC poker, you will lose on average 1 buy-in per tourney played.
The second issue most players have is a misunderstanding of the decent strength of any 2 cards. What do I mean by this? Basically 72o vs AK is not that big of an underdog. This is a very important concept to understand to be a winner at SNG’s. I’m not saying its not an underdog – just that its not as big of an underdog as many players think. People think that if someone pushes all-in with 72o, and they get called by someone with AKo, that the AK is a gaurunteed winner. Sure enough the 7/2 comes and the guy with AK is babbling about how online poker is rigged. AK has an edge but not that big of an edge. So – before you go raising all-in with 72o– remember that I’m not recommending this. In fact in our strategy there are occasions when this is ok – but these will be addressed. Don’t take this too the extreme and start playing super aggressive. That is dumb and you will lose in the long run. We only bring this up because many players would NEVER go all-in or call all-in with 72o. You must start to understand odds and how these affect your decisions. For starters, you must understand these initial odds for common drawing hands and all- in type hands.
To be a success at SNG you must understand a couple key things concerning hand odds. Here they are:
Flush draw 35%
If you have a 4 card flush draw after the flop, you have a 35% chance of hitting your flush if you stay in until the river.
Full house draw 33%
If you have a set or trips (3 of a kind), you have a 33% chance of hitting a full house if you stay in until the river.
Open ended straight draw 31%
If you have an open ended straight draw, you have a 31% chance of hitting your straight if you stay in until the river.
Don’t worry too much about knowing the exact percentages. Just remember with these three drawing hands, you are about 30/70 to hit.
All-In Related Odds
We play No Limit. In many ways, this makes our system easier than a Limit system. The reason why is that most of the time when odds are important, we are only going to be heads up. This simplifies life greatly. Also, when we hit certain points in the tourney, we are pushing All-In or coming over the top (reraising) ALL in or perhaps just calling an all-in.
When we do this, it is important to remember the following:
Dominated – e.g. AK vs AQ (very important – 70/30)
If you have AQ and your opponent has AJ, KQ, QJ, A2 he is dominated. He basically has three outs with two cards coming. This is easy to remember – think 75/25. The guy who has the upper hand (you – with AQ) will win about 70-75% of the time, while the other guy will in 25-30% of the time. Like wise, if you have AQ and your opponent has AK, he will win about 75% of the time. You will have to catch a Q to win without him hitting a K.
Pair vs. Overcards e.g. AK vs 22 (very important – 45/55)
This is another big one. You have AK and he has 22. You will win around 45% of the time and he will win about 55% of the time. This is the coin-flip case that we’ll talk a lot about. Overall its about
Overcards vs Undercards e.g. AQ vs 89 (very important – 60/40)
About 60/40. The further apart, the better for the underdog. Suited helps as well. In general however, look at this as about 60/40. The AQ will win 60% and the 89 40%. This is very important! Many are surprised that this is so close.
IP: Many times it comes down to who ever pairs up is going to win. Usually someone will pair up – its even odds on who actually does. This makes AK vs 89 almost a coin flip
Overpair vs underpair eg. 99 vs 55, AA vs KK (Important 80/20)
80/20. Wow! This is the best situation you can be in with two more cards coming.
Chance of pairing a card after the flop comes (You have AK, what are the odds an A or K will come on the flop? 30/70)
Wow! This means that you will only hit your flop 30% of the time. This is huge. So when someone makes a preflop raise, and then places a continuation bet after the flop – there’s a decent chance they are bluffing. Don’t do anything about it though. Don’t reraise just because there’s a chance they missed the flop. Remember that they could have had a pair as well. We bring this up more to caution you on playing AK,AQ type hands too aggressively before the flop (early stage).
Chance of hitting a set if you have two paired cards. (You have 22, what are the odds the flop will have another 2 on it? 1/7)
So if you limp in with 22, you will hit a set on the flop about 12% of the time. This is important because when someone raises behind us after we’ve limped in with a small pair, we typically will fold. The reason why is that we really don’t have odds to call. We will have to hit a set to have a low risk/ high reward situation. Even if we hit a set, there’s no guarantee that the raiser will pay us off. We limp in hoping everyone else limps in. More details later.
Putting It Together
Overall, if you are new to poker, this will be shocking for you. You are used to thinking that if you have AK and he has AJ – you are a guaranteed winner. This is not the case at all – in fact, you will only win on average about 70% of the time. While this is good, don’t be surprised when you get rivered by that J even though you have him dominated. Also, we’re used to thinking that two overcards and you are practically guaranteed a winner. AK vs 72o. Well, the bad and good news is that you are not a guaranteed winner. In fact, you will probably only win about 65% of the time. He will win about 1 of every 3 times this happens. If its AK vs 89 its even better for the 89 – basically a coin flip for all intensive purposes.
Note: in our odds calculations, you have other outs typically as well. These usually cross themselves out though. The reason why is that your opponent also has these funky outs. Sure you might hit trips on the last two cards coming – he might too though.