Phase I is the meat of the system. If you can get past Phase I you will be one step closer to finishing ITM. Phase I is also the hardest phase to follow – mainly because of all the different situations you can encounter.
Phase I has been broken down into four stages. These stages are early, middle, late and DoD (Do or Die). Each stage represents the actual levels in a SNG as described in the previous chapter. Early is typically levels 1-3, middle 4-5, Late 6-7, DoD 8 and beyond.
We also have a Systematic Poker Phase I playbook. We will start with the play book details and then describe each stage of phase I. This section/chapter is probably the most complicated to master. There are lots of situations that you can run across. Reread and study this section to understand the whys of each play.
Systematic Poker Phase I Playbook
The following plays are standard plays that we will use on occasion. We explain them in this section. If they are allowed to be used in any of the tourney stages, we mention them at that point (highlighting the play in Red to help it stand out).
The first play is the easiest! You have nothing after the flop and push all-in in an attempt to steal it pot- IP: NEVER – NEVER – NEVER USE THIS PLAY. They don’t pay off in the long run. The only exception is if we are pot committed. For example, we have 300 chips and the blinds are 200/100. The blind is on us, now we only have 100 chips left, 200 are committed to the pot leaving us only 100 left. We are committed to the pot at this point. After the flop, we are not folding under any circumstance. If we fold, we need 3 double ups in order to get back into a decent position. If we stay in and get lucky on the turn or river, we are back in the tourney. We are committed and must stay in if someone bets.
This is when we have a drawing hand and make a fairly strong bet – representing a made hand. This is done usually after the flop when we have an open ended straight draw or a four card flush draw or AK and we missed the flop. We are betting about 1⁄2 the pot to the full size of the pot in an attempt to take it down immediately. If someone calls, we play the rest of the rounds passively unless we hit our hand. This is very important since it allows us to win even if we don’t hit our hand. We almost always will make semi-bluff bets if our M is high and we have a decent drawing hand – especially if we are heads up after the flop.
We check raise as often as we can in all stages. Check raise is when you have a very good hand (top pair/top kicker) and you check knowing that a preflop raiser will make a continuation bet. You check to them and they bet. You now raise them and put incredible pressure on them. They will fold almost always. Early in tourneys, our check raises might be about 3BB, later on it will be all-in only (as M goes down).
If you flop a set, trips or two pair you are allowed to slow play If and only If the following condition is met: The flop must be rainbow (all different suits) and the flop can not have any two connected cards or be paried (flop: 722). If the flop does have two same suit cards (or more) OR two connected cards (KQx) OR is paired, you will not slow play. Slow playing is rarely done therefore. In each stage exceptions to this are given if needed. If the system says to slow play, then you will check on the flop – trying to look weak. Hopefully, your opponent sees weakness and bets. If he does, you call immediately. After the turn card comes, your opponent has one more card to look forward to. If you are first to act, make a big bet – MAKE SURE YOU OPEN FIRE(bet) BEFORE HE GETS HIS LAST CARD.
He’ll know he was slow played but we want him to think he has a chance of outdrawing you.
Don’t wait until the river to bet– this is too late. Only slow play immediately after the flop, betting on the turn. If you are not first to act, hopefully he will bet again into you. If there were no real scare cards on the turn, push all-in or bet the pot. You want to trap him BEFORE the river. Let him draw for his 3 outer – he’ll pay to see the river card.
Blind Defense: 3BB Reraise (Big Blind vs. a calling Small Blind only)
This play is ONLY VALID IF YOU ARE IN THE BIG BLIND AND SOMEONE FROM THE SMALL BLIND CALLS YOUR BLIND AND NO ONE ELSE HAS ENTERED THE HAND.
For example, you are in the middle stage of a tourney and in the big blind. Blinds are 100/50. Everyone folds. Small blind calls 50 to see the flop (pot now has 200). You can either check or raise.
Here’s the move: You will RAISE 3x the blind with any 2 cards.
The only exception is if your M is super low (7 or less) – in which case you’ll reraise ALL. In each stage of the tourney we mention if you can do this just to be clear. This is a very high probability play. You will take the small blinds bet plus keep your blind about 60-75% of the time. This makes it well worth it. Usually, people calling your blind are wanting to see a cheap flop and are hoping to get lucky. Sometimes they are sow playing a monster. If they call after you raise 3BB– be weary (scared). If they reraise your 3x raise – definitely FOLD unless you have AK or TT+. The other advantage to this move, is that next time this happens, the Small blind will more than likely fold to you- instead of calling your blind.
IP: ONLY USE THIS PLAY IF THE SB IS CALLING YOUR BLIND (not raising). ALSO, IT MUST BE THE SB – not the button. Furthermore, there can’t be anyone else in the pot – you must be heads up. Clear?
Early on, this doesn’t happen too often however at some tables it starts happening a lot in middle stage (as people are tightening up).
Any two cards Call (your stack is huge compared to his 7X)
Sometimes during a tournament, you will have a huge stack compared to someone else who is about to be wiped out. In these cases, you should call his all-in bet with any two cards if given the chance. Remember – in most cases, you will not be that big of an underdog (70/30 worst case). The potential gain is very high though. The reason why is that you can knock him out of the tourney if you get lucky. If you lose there is no risk (except that he is doubled up now and could pose a threat later). This isn’t really that bad given your other options however. Allowing the small stack to take the blind is even worse, because now he’s growing his stack for free. You should call if your stack is 7X his (in some cases this number can be 5x, other times 10x). You need to understand the principle behind the play – then it will become clear when to use it.
Blind Defense: Reraise ALL-in
If someone in either the button, one off the button(late position) or the small blind raises your blind about 3BB and you have AK or JJ+, in most cases you want to do a Reraise all-in blind defense. Sometimes this is ok with any pair and even AQ. Details are given in each section where this is mentioned. The idea is that you have some fold equity with the reraise plus a decent chance you have him dominated or over paired even if he calls. This is a very good play long term that will help give you some good double ups. Of course, sometimes you’re unlucky and he out draws you or actually has a better hand which wins. You will see that this play is a big winner. If they FOLD you’re happy (just won blinds and their raise), if they call you are generally ok with it (since you should have him dominated at least). Get comfortable with this “all-in pushbot” style of play.
Standard Reraise: ALL-in
This play is similar to the blind defense version, however now instead of being in the blind, you can be in any position. The requirement is that someone makes a raise of around 3bb in an attempt take down the blinds. We really only use this in the middle stages and beyond, when blinds have increased and are worth stealing. You reraise ALL- IN with QQ+ or AK in most cases. This is another great play since usually you have him either dominated or over-paired. You also have some fold equity since you’re showing great strength. Typically your reraise will cause any border line hands to fold and you will be placing huge pressure on the raiser who was just trying to keep his stack size up and steal a blind. This is another good play that you need to take whenever the opportunity is available. Key point here is that this is only good if the blinds are fairly big. Early stages, this play isn’t as good since you are only winning 100-200 chips but risking your entire stack. The small chance that he has AA/KK will eventually hit and you’ll be out. Gaining 100/200 chips doesn’t help increase your odds of finishing ITM so the risk reward is not there. Good play for middle stages and beyond though!
Blind Steal: 1.5 X BB
During the later stages of the tourney, the system lets you do raises of 1.5 X big blind to steal the blinds (example: blinds 200/100, raise 300 to steal the blinds). Typically this is done only if you have any pocket pair or AT+. This is allowed in later stages because you need to try and hold onto chips as much as possible and you need to make some moves when given the chance. If the blind reraises you, you will typically only call if you have AK or 99+. Also, you really only want to do this if you are in Late position, Button or small blind.
Semi-Bluff: Big Stack Continuation Bet
This is another great play but only is used if you have a huge stack. Here’s the situation: you have 4000 chips and your opponent has only 1000. You might limp in to a pot with any pair in some situations (looking for a set). If the set comes, you’re good. If it doesn’t then you are still in decent position if your stack is huge compared to your opponents. If he checks to you, you should almost always make a bet of about 1⁄2 the pot to try and steal it. You might have him beat or you might not. He will not risk his tourney on a bottom pair or middle pair so many times you will take it down without a fight. You were probably beat, but because of your stack size, your opponent was scared to call or reraise you. If he does call or reraise, assume you’re beat and play passive unless your hand improves. He is showing great strength by calling because he knows if you have a hand, you will push him all-in without thinking twice (since your stack is so big you could afford to do this with any top pair or even drawing hand).
Small Blind Play: Call any half bet from small blind if one or more limpers exist.
If you are in the small blind, another common play we use is to call any half bet to see a cheap flop. You usually do this early and middle stages of tourneys when the 1⁄2 bets are still relatively cheap (50 chips or less typically). The idea behind this play is that with any hand – worst case you are usually around 1:5 favored to lose. It’s actually better if you are heads up. In our case, there are others in the pot, so you are very unlikely to win with any two random cards. You see the flop if its cheap by calling the limpers and the big blind. You already had 1⁄2 a bet in the pot so another 1⁄2 bet plus the other peoples chips gives good odds usually.
You are looking to trap a slow playing premium hand with a miracle flop (trips, two pair, weird straight, etc). If the flop comes and you don’t have trips, two pair, straight) then you will not play it further – you will play passive.
If you have top pair but its junk, play passive. Check and only call very small bets made into you. Only bet aggressive if you have 2 pair or trips.