Friday, March 30, 2007

What Makes a Winning SNG Player??

New subject for my ever questioning mind today... this one was triggered by reading No Limit Hold 'Em: Theory and Practice by David Sklansky and Ed Miller. They have an early chaper titled 'Skills for Success' which briefly covers some of the characteristics required to be a successful no limit holdem player.

Will list these below but really wanted to do 2 things here... firstly look at their list and comment on whether (or how) such skills relate to being a winning sit and go player and secondly ask the question; Is this list complete? and cover any additional skills / characteristics that might fit. As usual for Plan3t Gong this 'article' seeks to question and trigger thoughts rather than preach!!

Here is Sklanksky and Miller's List (they do suggest this is not a complete picture).

1) Manipulating the Pot Size
2) Adjusting Correctly to Stack Sizes
3) Winning the Battle of Mistakes
4) Reading Hands
5) Manipulating Opponents into Playing Badly

So for SNGs...

1) Manipulating Pot Size. Yes it has its place but this skill is more critical to deep stacked play (ie cash games). The principal of bit pots for big hands and thinking about the best way to get all of your opponents stack into the pot can happen early, however since many winning SNG players are turning down hands with high implied odds early / mid-game (think small pairs and suited connectors) this is less important. The key factor for SNGs is that high implied odds hands risk too much of your stack too early - chip preservation being more important due to the critical factor of Fold Equity in the late game.

2) Adjusting Correctly to Stack Sizes. 100% relevant to SNGs, in fact so important that one could argue that opponents failure to adjust to the rising blinds (shrinking stacks) is one of the main reasons we can make money in the lower limit SNGs.

3) Winning the Battle of Mistakes. It is not enough just to make less mistakes than your opponents... the magnitude of these mistakes is the really important part. An error that costs 50 chips vs a bubble call that spews your equity (and that of your opponent) to the players not in the hand is a disaster!! We can say that this one is relevant to winning SNGs too...

4) Reading Hands. Since relatively few hands will be played over multiple streets (after level 3 the stacks are just too shallow) this factor is less important for SNG players than in cash games. The key SNG skill related to this might need to become 'reading ranges' instead.

5) Manipulating Opponents into Playing Badly. Sure there is always a place for this, again less important for SNGs as you really do not have the chips required to set up later profitable situations. At a more basic level then checking the nuts to induce a river bluff could be inclused in this so we can not say there is no relevence at all...

Fine, we have a mix of outcomes. Many of the skills above are directly related to deep-stacked holdem games so no real suprise that the importance of these are reduced... now a few suggestions for skills that winning SNG players might possess (in no particular order):

1) Ability to Multi-Table. Lets be honest, the ROI obtainable in SNGs is small - if you are playing 1 table / hour at the 27's (for example) then your hourly rate at 10% is less than $3... might as well work in McDonalds!! Moving to 6, 8 or even more tables can make this endevour worthwile. This skill probably comes under the category 'what makes a profitable SNG player' as many people are happy to play for the enjoyment and challenge and are not so worried about hourly rates.

2) Ability to put people on Bubble Ranges. Many levels here but playing the players ranges is a critical skill... there is never any point complaining about a 'horrible call' by an opponent since you can not control this. The skill here is to work on the parts you can control. Understanding who understands bubble play, putting them on calling or pushing ranges and understanding what hands you can profilably push / call against them is vital.

3) Understanding Prize Pool Equity and ICM. Whether you choose to use this in any detail or not an understanding is a key skill. What is the use of accurately assessing an opponents range if you do not understand how much equity you will win / lose by making the call. Simple example, if you think you are 60% vs your opponents range but are risking $25 equity to win $12 then you have a negative expectation situation and can not call on the bubble... those who do not understand this will cost themselves a lot of money over time!

Could probably include a few more but once again this post is getting long! If anyone would like to suggest more (or disagree with mine!) then feel free to comment.

GL at the tables,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good post, you should elaborate more on bubble play though because ultimately that is usually the turning point in any sng and bieng a good "bubble" player is a very profitable skill to have