I recommend that you play very similarly to the strategy you used to beat the $1 SNGs, with only a couple of adjustments. If no changes are mentioned here, assume that the same actions are prescribed as for the $1 games.

Levels 1-3

Continue to play very few hands during the first 3 levels of play. Unless you’re on the button or in the “cut-off” seat (1 before the button), continue to play only Category 2 or better. If you’re on the button or cut-off and no one has raised before you, raise with Category 3 and 4 as well. If there’s a raise before you, fold the Category 3 and 4 hands and re-raise with 1 and 2. you can make your standard raise slightly smaller as well: Raise to 4 big blinds if you’re the first to enter the pot. If others have already limped in, add 1 big blind to your raise for each limper.

Post-flop, play the same as before. Make pot-sized bets and raises only, not more or less, and rarely just call if someone else bets. on the flop, if you have top pair without the top kicker, put in a bet if everyone checks to you. If someone bets first or if you get raised, fold the hand. Get in the habit of deciding if you like your hand on the flop, then raise or fold, rather than calling and having another difficult decision later with more chips at stake. Continue to resist the urge to bluff!


Blinds are 15/30, you have 1,500 with Ad Jd, and are on the button. Two players before you limp. You should raise to 180 (4 big blinds + 1 for each limper) with your Category 4 hand. The big blind calls and everyone else folds. The pot is now 435. The flop comes Ac 9s 8s and the big blind checks. You should bet 435. If he bets first or if he raises you, fold. 

Level 4 and Higher (5 or More Players Remaining)

Since your standard raise is now 4BB, push all-in whenever your stack is 12BB or smaller, since a standard raise would be a third of your stack. The logic for this is simple: whenever you raise a third of your stack, you’re pot-committed. What I mean by this is that if you’re re-raised, you’ll be getting
at least 2-to-1 pot odds. Those odds are good enough that you should call the re-raise with any hand strong enough to raise with originally. Therefore, you might as well put your whole stack in now, to put maximum pressure on your opponents and increase the chances that they’ll fold, which is generally what you want them to do in tournament play.

Play as you were instructed in the $1 games, with the exception that if everyone has folded to you, make a raise with 1 category weaker than before:

Your opponents in the $5 games are a little tighter, so it pays to raise more often. If there’s a limper or a raise before you, play as instructed in the $1 games.

Four Players Remaining—The Bubble

on the bubble, play tightens up. often one player pushes all-in and everyone else folds. As a result, you should tighten up your calls, but push much more frequently when first in. It also becomes critically important how big your stack is relative to the others.

As the big stack, raise with Category 8 or better from the small blind or button and with Category
7 or better from the cut-off. If you’re considering calling someone else’s push, you can call a 10BB push with Category 2 or better. you can call 8BB with Category 3, 6BB with 4, 4BB with 5, and 2BB with 6. If you’re in the big blind, you can call one category weaker (or with any two cards if the raise is only to 2BB). If there are two big stacks that both have a similar number of chips, avoid each other like the plague! Don’t put in a lot of chips against the other big stack unless you have the nuts, or close to it!

As a medium stack, you need to watch the bigger stacks. If all the bigger stacks have folded, act like a big stack yourself. If someone who covers you is still in, tighten up two categories when pushing. you can also act like a big stack if you’re calling a smaller stack and there’s not much chance of a bigger stack calling as well. If you’re thinking about calling a bigger stack’s all-in, be careful! Tighten up 2 more categories than you would as the big stack, although you can always call with aces and kings.

As the small stack, act like a medium stack when pushing, but you can call like a big stack. you can also use your own stack size as the size of the raise, even if someone else pushed in for more. If you get really small, say under 3BB, then push all-in on any two cards whenever you’re in a blind.

The following charts summarize this.


Blinds are 200/400 with a 25 ante. You’re the big stack with 5,000 and are on the button with 7h 6c, a Category 8 hand. Push all-in and try to pick up the blinds and antes. 

Blinds are 200/400 with a 25 ante. You’re a medium stack with 2,300 and are in the small blind. The big stack pushes to 5,000 from the cut-off and you have As Qc, a Category 3 hand. Use your own stack size of 6BB to determine if you can call. If you had a big stack, you could call a 6BB raise with a Category 4 hand. But as a medium stack you need to tighten up two categories. Fold. The bubble is a funny time. The medium stacks need to play possum and try to slide into the money. 

If two of your opponents are all-in and you’re considering overcalling (that is, being the 3rd one in the pot), think twice on the bubble. The only times you should consider overcalling are when: 

1. You’re the biggest stack still in the hand.
2. You’re the second-smallest stack and the smallest stack is all-in. 

In these cases, you can overcall with JJ or better (and AK if the middle stack between the three of you has 6BB or less). If you aren’t in one of these two cases, fold no matter what you have, even AA. 

Blinds are 200/400 with a 25 ante. You’re in the big blind as the small stack with 2,000. The second smallest stack with 2,500 pushes all-in. The big stack in the small blind calls. Fold kings, fold aces, fold the laundry, fold everything! You’re being given a chance to walk into 3rd place and you should take it. 

Three Players Remaining

Push with the same hands you would with four players, but you can start calling with hands one category weaker than you did on the bubble. The medium stack also only needs to tighten up one category when pushing into the big stack.

Heads-up Play

Category 7

You’re the biggest unfolded stackAn active player has a bigger stack

Category 5

Category 4

Category 7

Category 6

Category 6 Category 5

Category 8

Category 7


Move all-in with any two cards heads-up, as long as either you or your opponent has 8BB or less. When both stacks are above 8BB, pushing all-in on garbage hands is probably a little riskier than necessary. So I’ll revise my heads-up recommendations to the following (in all cases the stack size refers to the shorter of the two stacks):

When on the button:

If 8BB or less, push all-in on any two cards.

If 8-12BB, push all-in with any Category 8 or better hand.

If more than 12BB, raise to 3BB with any Category 8 or better hand. If re-raised, call with any Category 5 or better hand.

When in the big blind and the button limps:
If 8BB or less, push all-in on any two cards.
If 8BB-12BB, push all-in with any Category 7 or better hand.

If more than 12BB, raise to 4BB with any Category 6 or better hand. If re-raised, call with any Category 4 or better hand. Notice that you make a bigger raise when you raise from the big blind. This is to compensate for your inferior position post-flop. The bigger raise is designed to win the pot pre-flop.

When in the big blind and the button raises.
If 2.5BB or less, call with any two cards.
If 2.5BB-4BB, call with Category 7 or better.
If 4BB-12 BB, push or call all-in with Category 6 or better.

If more than 12BB and he makes a raise of 3BB or smaller, quadruple his raise with Category 5 or better and just call him with Category 6 or 7. If this raise commits 1/3 of either of your stacks, push all-in instead. If he raises more than 3BB, push all-in with Category 5 or better.

Play after the flop:
Bet as you did short-handed (any pair and good draws), but also bet any ace-high hand as well.

If he bets first, lower your calling standards as well. Call with middle pair or bottom pair with an overcard kicker. For example, if the flop is Q72, you can call a bet with A2 or K2.

A summary of heads-up play:


  1. Make your standard pre-flop raise 4BB plus 1BB for each limper.
  2. Post-flop bets should be the size of the pot.
  3. Play more hands from late position.
  4. Pay attention to your stack size as well as everyone else’s. Be a bully with a big stack and be cautious as a medium stack unless the big stack has folded.
  5. Stop pushing your worst hands when heads-up.
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