December 07, 2009
Finally! Back for a more formal post. Iâ€™d like to dive right into some playing/strategy considerations for mixing SNG and varying tournament structures. Since Bones and I are coming out with the last couple of episodes of â€œHitchhikers Guide to SNGsâ€, I figured now to be as good a time as any to share some of my general thoughts on the subject.
For starters, while playing just one game type inherently maximizes your EV at that game the most, Iâ€™ve found that there are definitely some benefits to mixing multiple SNG structures at the same time. First and foremost being game selection. Letâ€™s face it; a lot of games and levels have gotten tougher. When youâ€™re playing at certain times, or at certain stakes or sites, itâ€™s important to have tools of game selection in your arsenal. I cannot tell you how many 9 man turbo STT grinders on one single poker site have pissed and moaned about lengthy downswings when they hadnâ€™t yet given a thought to either taking a break or at least expanding their realms to other structures. There are tons of rakeback grinders at specific games, and itâ€™s important to be able to work around the less profitable situations when you know that itâ€™s a matter of a couple more minutes of game selection and incorporation.
Secondly, I believe that mixing structures is a pretty important part of developing and honing skills. Forcibly expanding your thoughts to similar, yet very different structures (say, the differences between a 6 and 9 man STT, for example) really just forces you to think at a higher level. You now have to expand on two different thought processes that relate to two different structures, instead of the robotic tendencies that often develop from mass tabling a single game type. Youâ€™ll be a better SNGer for it. Youâ€™ll be a better No Limit Player for it. Youâ€™ll be a better poker player for it.
I think itâ€™s crucially important that you take the time to examine any new tournament structure that you incorporate into your game the same way that you went about examining and learning the last structure that you undertook. Specifically with SNGs, it is of the utmost importance that you take the time to examine the payouts, some of the bubble factors to consider, and more generally speaking, the ICM considerations that need to be incorporated into your thought processes about the structure in question. I think this should go without saying for any serious SNG grinder, but itâ€™s so important that itâ€™s absolutely worth saying again. KNOW YOUR STRUCTURE!-Familiarizing yourself with player types
At every game, there are going to be regulars. Good regulars, bad regulars. The quality of the good regulars does change from person to person, but on a more broad scale, between structures as well. Just as one example, take the 45 man semi regulars and regular grinders who do little to no work with ICM or considerations for the noticeably flat nature of the payouts (re: Pokerstars 45 mans specifically). Some of these same grinders crush the 180 man structures because they take a strategy into multiple structures that tends to work out better for the one with a top heavier payout structuring AKA where chip accumulation is more valuable to their expectation rather than more subtle advances in the pay scale. The opposite also holds true; there are plenty of 45 man regulars with huge success but that tend to struggle at the 180s. A lot of these players arenâ€™t widening up appropriately, or are not finding the specific spots that require adjustments that just donâ€™t occur in smaller structures (IE there is no dead-even payout for 8 spots in a 18 or 45 man, and no â€˜pseudo bubblesâ€™ to consider, whereas this is a big part of the 180s structure, followed by a drastic change as you progress through the final table).
The important thing to take away is that there are going to be very exploitable regulars in certain structures, and regulars that you should completely avoid, or adjust in a very highly specified way based almost solely on the structure that youâ€™re playing with that particular regular. Know who these players are. Itâ€™s no longer enough to grind one structure and pinpoint who the regulars are and if theyâ€™re loose or tight with their basic shoves. Youâ€™re going to have to do some work and dig into the hands that they show down. Pick out hands that you see them play and run those hands in wiz as well, or talk to a friend/fellow grinder of that structure about them. This guy might be doing something in a 9 man that he just wonâ€™t do in a 18 man. Itâ€™s crucially important to find out where these guys are playing well, and where they struggle in transitioning to different structures. The same goes with the fish, but luckily we deem these players â€˜fishâ€™ because they play so weakly, and the processes used to crush these guys tend to work in a pretty simple and straightforward manner of basic attention to their games and what theyâ€™re doing.
- -Run your ICM! Know your bubble!*
I know that I referenced this earlier, and it should always be done either by longhand written methods and/or more conventionally with use of an ICM-based calculator such as SNGwiz or SNGPT. Specifically though, think about it in the context of differing structures. Take a 9 man bubble hand and run it in an 18 man simulation. Why is it changing so much? What are the differences about the structures (and perhaps the player specificities) that are making it this way? Why is a 45 man final table button shove 4- handed different than a 4- handed 18 man button shove with similar effective stacks and similar calling ranges? Helping yourself to gain insight into even the most basic nuances to the differences in some of your ICM considerations will vastly improve your thinking in-game. Itâ€™s not always enough to just study the structure, but often studying it in the context of its relativity to other, perhaps similar (or perhaps vastly different) games and structures will help to seal a lot of misgivings in the gap of knowledge that might present themselves on your quest to mixing games.Maximizing your approach
I feel that, with hard work with ICM, and with hard work studying the player types that present themselves in your games, that anyone putting in the volume and that kind of time and effort to study of play will succeed. At least, in the sense that they are likely to be able to become profitable and make money in their games over a long stretch.
I think everything thatâ€™s been said so far is either a) inherent to varying degrees or b) quickly learned and understood as an important part of SNG success, both with learning a given structure, and with mixing several game types. Thereâ€™s something more, though. I really feel that, in order to maximize oneâ€™s approach in the effort of mixing SNG structures, one has to put more thought into his own game than into anyone elseâ€™s. Reads and paying attention will take you far, but itâ€™s really maximizing your comfort zone that increases confidence and puts you in the right frame of mind to play your A-game on a regular basis. Unfortunately, mixing structures inherently works against this force. The more games that youâ€™re playing, and the varying degrees of the differences between those structures, the harder it is to stay in your comfort zone. You have to think about a lot more and you have to think in many different ways. Playing one structure provides you with that comfort, and it is therefore important that we take steps to maximize our approach to mixing different games in order to minimize any negative effects that this setup has on our comfort zone and confidence.
So what does this mean? How can we really ease the load of playing 2 or more different games? There isnâ€™t a solved arrangement for this question, but I tend to think that the most basic mistake people make is playing the same amount of tables, or even dropping down buy in levels to play more tables, while adding in additional structures to their session. This is a huge oversight! It takes a lot more focus and resource to reason through the decisions of what might be completely different ICM considerations than it does in adding a few more tables and removing a structure. Playing a lot of tables is not an easy thing to do optimally, and you only make things more difficult when you fail to account for a new playing environment. I donâ€™t know of many well known, solid high stakes SNG grinders that play 6 and 9 man STTs and play more than 9-12 tables while doing it. Do yourself a favor and drop some tables when you decide that itâ€™s time to add in new structures.
The other thing that I feel is very important is very simply your screen setup. Everyone organizes games in such a way that they feel maximizes their comfort zone, and their information intake. You need to find out what that way is, and unfortunately, it might not be what it is for your single game setup. Some people like to organize by buy in, some people by structure, and some try varying mixes just depending on what makes sense to them. Some people tile for one game and cascade for another due to reasons of game quality and of table number considerations or screen space. Perhaps someoneâ€™s goal to maximize their ROI wonâ€™t quite match someoneâ€™s goal of mixing two games to maximize their hourly. Between that and the inevitable learning differences and differences in information intake and perception between any two people, and Iâ€™d think it crucially important to experiment with your setup when incorporating another structure. Find out what the changes in information intake are doing to your ability to play the game better than everyone else playing with you. Work to maximize the ease with which youâ€™re able to make your decisions, click on your tables and lobbies, take notes on players, view stack sizes on various tables, and anything else that seems important for increasing your SNGEV. After all, thatâ€™s the entire point of incorporating new games and playing regiments, isnâ€™t it?