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Publication: Hold'em or Fold'em
Texas Holdem - What you should know about Sit n Go Games

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HOLD 'EM or FOLD 'Em                        January 13, 2006

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Hello Poker Players, 

Today's article is a great one for online poker players.

Ante Up,   

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

              ? ? ? WHAT ARE THE ODDS ? ? ?

You hold two pair. What are the odds against hitting a full
house on the turn or the river?

                      Answer Below 



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The online Sit & Go (SNG) games are a popular choice for 
many cyber poker players (like myself). Let's take a look 
at a strategy for the typical No Limit game with the common 
three places paid payout structure. In our game we'll assume 
that 1st place pays 50% of the buy in, 2nd place pays out 
30%, and 3rd pays 20%. This payout structure leads us to our 
first strategy decision. That is, are we going to be playing 
to finish in the money or are we playing to win?

Some will argue that we must play for first place. They would 
argue that only the larger payoffs will enable us to be a net 
winning player. The buy in includes a steep rake for the house
they argue and only by playing to win can we overcome this 
charge. For example in a $10 SNG the poker room may charge you 
$10+1 with the house keeping the dollar. This is over 9% that 
goes to the house. Larger SNGs usually have slightly smaller 
charges but they are still significant. In our example a first 
place finish pays two and a half times more than a third place 
finish. That justifies taking some risks.

Playing for first early means playing more aggressively. It 
means taking chances early in an attempt to build up a large 
chip stack. With the large stack you can control the action. 
You can push people around and put them all-in. Sometimes things 
will go your way and you'll find yourself sitting on top of a 
pile of chips. Other times this more risky strategy will leave 
you crippled or out of the tournament early. Proponents of the 
play to win strategy don't mind busting out of a SNG early. 
They figure that it's better to go out early and just get into 
another game than to lose out on the bubble wasting all that 
time and effort.

Continued below...


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Other players play to get in the money. If they make it to the 
cash, they reason; then they can try to move up. These player 
will tend to lay low and avoid the action early in the tourney. 
They want to avoid the aggressive action that can break out at 
the beginning of the SNG. The finish-in-the-money player is 
seeking to shorten her odds by letting the other players take 
each other out. She reasons that if one or two players make a 
quick exit that significantly helps her chances. Furthermore, 
one of the players eliminated early might be a powerful player 
who just suffered a bad beat. A player using this strategy 
tries to cultivate a tight table image that they can later 
exploit. So the mantra of a finish in the money strategy could 
be, "Don't gamble early."

So which strategy should you adopt? Like most decisions in poker 
the answer is, "It depends". Online SNGs are unique in that we 
don't have much of an opportunity to engage in table selection.
Typically when a table opens up for registration there is a 
'land rush' for any available seat. We don't get the luxury of 
observing a table for a round or so like we do at a normal ring 
game. We have to figure out our opponents on the fly. If you 
play regularly, your notes can be a great help. But usually the 
first few hands will be a learning experience. Who are the 
aggressors and who are the maniacs? Who is sitting out the early 
action? Is this an aggressive table or is everyone playing 
tight? What's my position relative to the aggressors?

If you find yourself in a crazy game where several players are 
going all-in in a suicide pact, that's great. Sit back for 
awhile and let them chew each other up. You are hoping that 
several of these guys make a quick exit. The blinds should 
still be relatively low and you'll have plenty of time to pick 
your spots. Your chances of finishing in the money are good. 
If you find yourself at the other extreme and no one is stepping 
out of line, seek to take charge of this type of game. Look for 
opportunities to play your opponent more so than the cards. 
You're going for the gold in this type of game.

Most games will require tactics that mix the two basic 
strategies. As an example, last night I was in a SNG that was 
very aggressive at first. Four players were strongly contesting 
each pot. I chose to sit back and really picked my spots. I 
managed to stay pretty much even lurking around third or fourth 
place. After about 25 minutes, the character of the game changed.
Two of the aggressive players were eliminated. The other two had 
accumulated large chip stacks. At this point it seemed none of 
the remaining 8 players wanted to play aggressively. The two high 
stacks seemed content. The other six of us were slow to recognize 
the new situation. Finally, I picked up on the new situation and 
started picking up some easy pots. As with most games, the 
character of that game changed several times. Each time it was 
important to recognize the change and adapt.

Continued below...

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The default strategy that I feel most comfortable with is to play
conservatively early. Don't gamble and play very tightly. Wait 
for the field to thin. As you near the bubble use your tight table 
image to play aggressively and steal a few pots. Your opponents 
may be reluctant to contest a pot and risk busting out on the 
bubble. But recognize that this strategy is a strategy now widely 
espoused by the better SNG players. You may need to take your 
tactical thinking to another level if someone else is aware of 
what you are up to.

So, while I'll enter the game with a basic thumbnail strategy; I 
think the important point is to not get wedded to either SNG 
objective. A good businessman will ask himself everyday, "What 
business am I in today?" He knows that conditions and opportunity
are ever changing. He must adapt in order to survive and to 
thrive. Perhaps sit & go players should ask themselves a similar 
question, "What type of game am I in right now?" Asking this 
question on an ongoing basis will point us in the right direction. 
Play for the win when conditions are right to do so. Play to place 
in the money when that's the best choice. By being flexible and 
adjusting our objective when needed we can enhance our SNG play
and boost our win rate. 

QUICK TIP: Your position at the table is crucial in Hold'em.
If you are dealt weak pocket cards and you are in early
position (one of the first players to bet), you should
probably get out right away. However, if you are in late
position (one of the last to bet) you have the benefit of 
seeing how many people fold and how others bet. With a
late position you can get away with playing a less-than-
perfect hand and perhaps employ your bluffing skills. 
This is especially true if the previous bettors don't
appear overly aggressive. 

              ...ANSWER to What Are The Odds...

QUESTION: You hold two pair. What are the odds against 
hitting a full house on the turn or the river?

ANSWER: 5 to 1 against or you'll fill up (make it) about 
17% of the time.

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Copyright 2006 by GopherCentral All rights reserved.   

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