Here’s the chart showing where we are at:
Note: the basics section is just a general overview. Depending on the M status we are in, the actual play could change.
Things start to get tricky here. This is the hardest stage of the tourney to play in many ways. The reason why is that the blinds are starting to get big but still aren’t big like you prefer in order to push all-in on steal/reraise attempts. Plus, you are forced to make very tough decisions. We’ll examine each M condition in the Middle stage just like we did for the early stage. Depending on your M value, drawing hands are not played as much any more. We start playing a little more aggressively with some key hands. If you’ve gotten unlucky and missed some draws in early stage or perhaps had to fold a top pair because of aggressive betting, you are probably going to be in the all-in zone before you know it.
Normally, since you will have played tight and conservative in the early stage – you’ll still have most of your original stack at this point in the tourney. You might have doubled up as well or perhaps won a decent pot that pushed you into the 2000 range.
Tight play (Slightly tighter than in early stage). We are not getting involved in many pots. Since the blinds are bigger now, it’s a little more difficult to limp in. Drawing hands are not liked at all since it will cost us about 10% of our stack or more to see the flop.
Tight play (slightly tighter than in early hand –selection wise):
We are not getting involved in many pots.
Since the blinds are bigger now, it’s a little more difficult to limp in. Drawing hands are not liked at all since it will cost us about 10% of our stack or more to see the flop.
We still avoid coin flips in most cases.
Overall, we don’t see too many flops (maybe 15%)
Our image should be tight at the table. This is good since we’ll need to have fold equity built up for the next stages (late and DOD). Playing drawing hands is ok as long as we have odds
Blinds are too small to worry about stealing in most cases. However, if someone raises, there are some good spots to reraise all-in in an attempt to take down the pot.
For all M’s in middle stage the following play is allowed: Any two cards Call (your stack is huge compared to his 5X)
Middle, M: 20+
You are in excellent position. We have the chips to play drawing hands and to make probe bets if needed. Don’t waste your chips though. To have this many chips in the middle stage of the tourney means you definitely had at least one good double up. Perhaps AA vs QQ or you hit a set and it paid off, you drew to a nut flush and won, etc. Since your stack is huge compared to most other peoples, start looking for the following play:
Any two cards Call (your stack is huge compared to his 5X): Again, you are looking to grow your stack without risking much of it.
Special Note: In middle stage, if your M is 20+ you have a very nice sized stack. You’ll notice we play these stacks fairly aggressively. We like to take advantage of the general passiveness that exists in middle stage SNG’s. Many people are just trying to survive. They will not want a confrontation with you. If they do put up a fight, you should fold. You don’t want to waste chips. You do however want to grow your stack at the expense of too tight novices. This is only true for large M.
Raising 3BB or All-in?:
You are definitely able to raise 3BB. You want to avoid confrontations with big stacks. A big stack is defined as anyone who has about the same number of chips as you do. The big stack will be doing the same. Because of this, if he shows aggression, you must believe him. Don’t second guess the big stack. Let him bully you around during this stage. Its ok – if he continues, he’ll eventually lose his stack as it dwindles away.
IP: AVOID CONFRONTATIONS WITH BIG STACKS!
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. 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. In middle stage with a big stack, someone raising us has definitely got a decent hand. Don’t start calling just because you have the chips. The only exception is if you’re stack is 5X his and he is all-in. See special play: Any Two Cards Call
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 and we are heads up, we bet anyway if our opponent checks to us. Since our stack is huge, we will usually take it down if he missed the flop. With a big stack, you can make more semi- bluffs and more big-stack bets. You are allowed to use the Semi-Bluff: Big Stack Continuation Bet play: Do this if you are against a small stack and he checks to you or shows general weakness.
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 while in middle position. Even with a big stack, we don’t want to loose it all on some weak draw.
Raising Hands (don’t want an all-in)
AK, 99-QQ: We will raise about 3X the big blind with these hands. If someone reraises us, our action depends on the raisers stack size. If it is small (1500 or less) we can call with the JJ,QQ and AK. If it is small (1000 or less) we can call with the 99,TT also. If his stack is big (same as ours or close to it), we only call if we have QQ. AK is not good to call with since we probably have a coin flip. We don’t want coin flips vs. big stacks that can knock us out.
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. We do this no matter what their stack size is. We want an all-in no matter what.
Facing a raise (you haven’t acted yet)
AK or 99+: You may use the Standard Reraise: ALL-IN play if his stack size is about 1⁄2 the size of yours or less. If his stack is equal to yours (another big stack) only call. See the flop and only bet aggressive if you have top pair top kicker or an over pair or set. If you flop an overpair, its ok to play aggressive and push all-in with TT+.
Facing a raise (you have acted already)
JJ+ and AK: You may use the Standard Reraise: ALL-IN play if his stack size is about 1⁄2 the size of yours or less. If his stack is equal to yours (another big stack) only call.
ATs, AJs, AQs: Call. If your stack is 5x his, push all-in.
AA or KK: You may use the Standard Reraise: ALL-IN play under all cases. No matter how big his stack is.
Blind Stealing (button or one off button)
You are allowed to use the Blind Steal: 1.5X BB. This should be easy money since your stack is so huge. If he reraises all-in, call with anything if your stack is 5x his.
Blind Defense (from big blind – small blind is stealing)
You are allowed to use the Blind Defense: 3BB Reraise. If your stack is 5X his, reraise ALL-in with any two cards –
pot! Make sure you follow these rules.
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. After the flop, you can use the Semi-Bluff: Big Stack Continuation Bet play: Do this if you are against a small stack and he checks to you or shows general weakness.
Post-flop Play (flop,turn,river):
You have nothing
You can use the Semi-Bluff: Big Stack Continuation Bet play: Do this if you are against a small stack and he checks to you or shows general weakness. Otherwise if his stack is big or he is betting into you, FOLD.
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 aggressively if you have a big stack vs a small stack. Bet into them but fold if they reraise all-in or show some aggression (of course if the call is only a couple hundred chips you should call their reraise).
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
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 middle 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!)