Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Party Poker Steps SNGs - A Guide to Steps Strategy Part #4 - Step 6 ICM

Time for the next in the Party Poker Steps SNGs Strategy articles series. This one will look at the changes that having a 5 person payout structure will entail at the bubble of Step 6 - the top of the steps ladder.

Before we get into the ICM / Mathematical part let us think about our opposition for a while. Back in the 'old days' before the UIGEA there were a small group (might have included Gigabet even...) of SNG pros who used to buy-in directly to Step 6 to exploit the relatively weaker opposition. While we can not rule this out the availability of higher buy-in SNGs these days and the flatter payout structure certainly make this less likely... It would be easy to consider the opposition a mix: Good but not great SNG players, some nervous that the money is close, some who understand Sit n Go Strategy and some who do not... I feel we can be fairly confident in saying that the level of understanding of ICM will be low compared to a $500 SNG on Stars! This of course includes the critical skill of understanding when not to use ICM...

Right, let us start with the payout structure, total prize pool = $4700, it is easy to visualize here that bubble play will not resemble a standard SNG!

1st - $2000 (42%)
2nd - $1000 (22%)
3rd - $700 (14%)
4th - $500 (11%)
5th - $500 (11%)

There are 2 scenarios to look at here... firstly the actual bubble with 6 players left, secondly 3 players left with the only big jump left being from 2nd to 1st (note: due to yet another long post I will complete the ITM part another day (will just be a shorty)).

ok, so somehow we got to the 6-player bubble with equal stacks... this is what the $equity looks like.

Players 1 to 6 - 3333 chips each! $ equity - $783

So we face an all in (ignoring the blinds for the moment) our decision on whether to call based on ICM would look have the $783 on the 'risked' side, to decide what edge we need we need to calculate the reward -

You - 6666 chips - $1169
players 1 to 4 - 3333 chips - $882.6

So in order to call an all in at the bubble we would need 1169/783 or 1.49 / 1 odds, that is as near to 60% against your opponents range as we are going to get... this is actually less that we would expect in a standard SNG... you can call lighter!

Some examples (suggest 'pokerstove' if you would like to go any deeper with this...)

Opponent Range = Top 20% (66+ A4s+ K8s+ etc), you need 7% (88+ A10s+ AQo+)
Opponent Range = Top 40% (44+ A2s+ J7s+ 98s+), you need 11% (77+ any suited 10+ etc)
Opponent Range = Any-2, you can now call with top 33% of all hands!!

Right then, we have established that your calling range can be lighter than a standard SNG bubble... (this is in fact a double edged sword as inexperienced opponents often call too light!). What about your pushing ranges? Well regular readers will have the plan3t Gong mantra drummed into their heads already right... will repeat it anyway!

"You can not decide on a pushing range without first defining your opponents calling range"

Now we have to look again at our opponents, they may well have spent weeks going up and down the steps levels, they find themselves 1 person from the money... calling light? Personally I do not think so - what we need to do is define what each opponent thinks of as a 'great hand'. This of course can be observed during the early stages of the game. To have something to work with here let us use A10+ (fish always overvalue these hands!) 88+ and maybe KQs too.

If we work with top 7% then, and put the blinds at 400 / 200 what can you profitably push with?? Would you really be suprised to hear that it is 100%!??!

Thats fine but don't push any-2 just yet, ICM (as always) is only aspect of the situation. Some things to think about when deciding on a push:

- Does your opponent put you on any-2 when you shove? In this case he can profitably call with 33%, in which case your shove range goes way down to 16% (if we follow this logic through we eventually reach an equilibrium but that is another topic for another day). So beware of multiple pushes...

- How likely are the other players to burst the bubble for you? This is significant in all SNGs but with 6 players the likelihood can only increase, if other players are going to war then tighten up both shoving and calling ranges.

- Stack sizes... our example used equal stacks to clarify the numbers - the presence of a very big or (more importantly) very small stack(s) will drastically change your strategy. An extreme example of this being someone at the table with less than 1 big blind... now you can not call a shove light if this guy is not in the hand! (this is discussed at lenth in other posts - see www.sitandgoplanet.com for more on stack sizes and bubble dynamics).

Right, fingers getting tired - will (finally!) finish this series next week.

If you have not experienced the Steps SNGs yet check them out right now at Party Poker

GL at the Tables,

Mark

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