Saturday, February 24, 2007

Poker Stars Sunday Million Satellites - Part #3 - Double Shootouts, the 2nd Table

Not the best timing for this one - it is the end of the month $530 entry Sunday million this week, but hey - at least I am posting on Saturday and not Monday.

The 2nd (or Final) table of a double shootout... 10 players, on a regular week 4 x $215 seats and a $35 runners up prize for the other 6 players. So what should we be thinking about before the first cards are dealt?

- Equity / ICM will play an important role in our decisions later in the game (at the start the total prize pool = $1070, so thats $107 each... 1500 chips each worth approx 7 cents!

- Your opponents will be a mix of the Good the Bad and the Ugly. Do not expect the same donkfest as table #1 but be aware that some bad players will make it through each time. Also be aware that the number of players who understand bubble strategy and can adapt to the prize structure will be small... understanding these concepts will give you a huge edge!

- The fact that a seat is so near will usually tighten up the play, at least for the first couple of blind levels. You will see the usual 'Comedy of Errors' in the play - over-valuing ace-rag / entering multi-way pots with meduim hands and calling rather than raising (eBook still avaliable BTW - link in top right corner).

Will have a look at the bubble in a moment, firstly what about early game strategy?

For me this is more like a 'normal' SNG than the first table, your objective is to get to the bubble where it is possible to use your superior push / fold skills and understanding of ICM. I use the first few levels to observe opponents and ask myself the following questions:

- Who understands bubble concepts?
- What are their likely calling ranges later in the game?
- Which players will fold after comitting money to a pot?
- Any cash game players who defend / raise their button too much? (great for restealing from later in the game)
- Who overvalues hands such as top pair with kicker?

So, like in a normal SNG, stay tight - observe your opponents and play good hands with a raise. The objective is to conserve that fold equity because at the bubble this becomes very valuable indeed!

ICM at the bubble: Here is a typical example of stack distribution along with prize pool equity, at this point the total pool os 4 x 215 and one $35 runner up spot = $895

Player 1 - 5000 chips - Equity = $212.65
Player 2 - 3500 chips - Equity = $201.2
Player 3 - 2500 chips - Equity = $184.1
Player 4 - 2500 chips - Equity = $184.1
Player 5 - 1500 chips - Equity = $144.1

A couple of things to note - firstly the flat prize pool structure means that the $ equity values are a lot closer than you might expect, the small stack does not need to be too desperate just yet... Conversely look at the big stacks equity - he can lose half of his stack and this equity will only go down from $212 to $184 (assuming losing to player 3 or 4).

The key to understanding and to using ICM here is that the risk / reward does not balance in terms of gaining more chips. At the same time losing your stack is a disaster! Will clarify by looking at some examples:

Players 3 and 4 fight over a pot... (all examples ignore the blinds to make the maths easier!)

Take it as folded to the SB (player 3) who shoves on player 4 in the BB. Player 4 knows that player 3 understands the bubble and vice versa - so P4 knows that P3 should be shoving here with any-2 cards. Whats does P4 need to call???

The equity risk for P4 is $149.1 (he gets $35 whatever happens), the potential gain is only $30.9 (he calls and wins then his current $184.1 becomes $215 for the seat). Thus he needs odds of around 4.8/1 to make the call - what hands have over 85% equity pre-flop against a random hand??? The clear answer is no hands do - not even aces.

Player 5 and 1 fight over a pot...

OK so player 5 is desperate, unless he has looked at the numbers he is probably very desperate! he shoves on player 5 the big stack who wakes up with a pair of 5's.... should the big stack call?

No. Here is why, the potential gain for the biggy is actually less than $3!!! While the potential loss is closer to $11. Are his pocket 5's more than a 3/1 favourite vs a random hand... nope. From the big stacks perspective the ideal is to be the one shoving, and for me shoving every single hand - nobody can call!

Now back to real-life!

The scenarios above are not realistic for one important reason - the people in the game will not have a mathematical understanding of what is going on! Even if they understand some of the theory the reality is that calls will be made with a range of hands, even though these calls are -$ev in the long-term - we can not control what people are calling with... so to win a seat we must do the only thing we realistically can - adapt our play to the reality of peoples calling ranges.

For this information I will refer you to my earlier articles on such ranges they are available vis the "Jump off page" Link on the right hand side- the difference is clear for double shootouts and can be summed up as follows:

The equity risked is huge compared to the equity gain in any double shootout bubble situation. The single most important question to ask is "Does my opponent understand this?" if yes then shove with any reasonable holding - if no then tread very carefully indeed!

GL at the tables, if you are not already a Poker Stars player then please use the link under @Poker Rooms@ on the right hand side to check them out!

Cheers, Mark

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