Back in the SnG saddle after a trytophan overdose. My Empire bankroll has ballooned from $14 to over $98 and back down to $76. Small potatoes for many of you, but enough to sustain me for a good while in the $10 NLHE and O8 SnGs at Empire. And it’s all profit anyway… I’ve had a nice little run at the $10 O8 SnGs. Like I’ve said many many times, these seem to more profitable because of the public’s fascination with Hold ‘Em and the dearth of good O8 instruction.
I’m totally bankrupt at PokerStars, though I cashed out $400 ahead. No biggie. I won’t miss their cluttered tournament board and cheesy graphics. I only deposited money there to participate in the WPBT anyway, and by any measure, the venture was successful.
For some reason, I still have $11.60 at UB. Certainly that money will be spent or multiplied this week as I will fire away at a couple of SnGs there. Luckily, their SnGs have a flat 10% vig and I can play two $5+.5 and still have some change left over for the penny-ante NL tables for a desperation run should I completely bomb out.
Money ($150+) is still floating at Pacific, though I haven’t had the inclination to play there recently. If they’d add some Omaha SnGs, I might re-activate. As of now, I’m tempted to pull back $100 for whoring opportunities, and play with a short bankroll for a little while.
That reminds me. I wanted to mention shortstack play. I’ve gotten some backhanded compliments on my shortstack play, both from those on the rail during the WPBT and the SnGs at the sites mentioned above. Not enough has been written about shortstack play for SnGs or multi-table tournaments, and I won’t pretend to be an expert. After all, if I was an expert, I wouldn’t be shortstacked, would I? And I think it’s more that others are BAD at shortstack play, making my play look better, but here are some quick tips:
1. Know your opponents. When you fold, don’t watch TV or go get a beer… watch. You’ll figure out really quick who is trying to back into the prize money (weenie), and who is pushing their big stack to establish dominance (bully). We’ve all seen tournaments where the people around the bubble start folding every hand, hoping that the other guys will bust first. While you’ll be tempted to steal the weenie’s blinds, beware! He’ll only call when he’s probably got you beat. On the other hand, the bully with the big chip stack is ripe for the picking since he’s usually freer with his marginal calls.
2. Don’t get desperate. If you have more than 4xBB, you have two full orbits to get a decent hand. Don’t necessarily go all-in on your first Ace. Remember, as shortstack, your goal is to cash, not necessarily win the whole thing. Limping is permitted with good starting hands. In fact, I encourage it since it brings more callers. The converse is to push with mediocre hands where you really only want one caller or, better yet, no callers.
Let’s say blinds are 100/200 and you have 700-800 chips and get AK or AQ, your optimal play might be to limp and hope to pull a couple of callers. After all, you’re pretty sure you’re taking this hand to the limit, why not maximize your odds by limping? Think about it, if you push all-in, you’re folding out the weaker hands. If they fold, you’ll just take down the blinds… For what? So you can wait another round? You ain’t gonna get a better hand, you’d better maximize your profit NOW. This is the exact time where you want more people in. Ideally, someone else will limp and the bully will raise, enabling you to possibly triple up. Even if it’s just called around, if you catch any piece of the flop, you’re gonna push all-in after the flop with a big advantage over the Ax and Kx calling hands. If the flop misses you horribly (like T85 or something), you have the choice of bailing on the hand or making a bluff at it, depending on your opponents.
In the situation above, you should push all-in preflop with small-to-medium pockets, trying to isolate the overcards. If called, you’re probably down to a race with you holding a slight advantage (around 54-46 depending on the overcards). I’ve also seen bigger stacks call with A-rag just because they think the shortstack is desperate, improving your odds even more (ie. 99 vs. A7s is 67-33 in your favor). Funny, but people seem to forget that A2 is pretty much the same as J2 against pocket pairs.
3. Know the blind escalation structure and when the blinds are going up. This is HUGE, but is very rarely mentioned since it only affects tournament play and not ring play. Empire (Party) counts down the hands before the blinds change, Pacific has a clock, UB has a timer but doesn’t show the exact countdown. Your strategy needs to be tied to clock/blind management just as much as it needs to be tied to cards and position. Think of shortstack play as the two-minute offense in football. If the blinds are about to go up, you need to be more aggressive and loosen up your starting hands.
If you’re one of two shortstacks and you’re on the (timed) blinds, take your time. Your money is already in the pot, you have nothing to gain by playing quickly. If you take your time (cynics would say “stalling”), the blinds will soon go up and the other shortstack will have to commit a greater percentage of his stack to the blinds. Figure that each hand takes about a minute and plan accordingly. If you’re on Empire/Party, count the seats until the blinds go up. If you see that the blinds will go up for the other shortstack, raise your hand requirements, knowing that he’ll be forced to play with weaker cards.
Of course, all of this is moot if you’re not the shortstack at the table. But we’ve all been there… Even during the blogger tourneys, I’ve seen desperate shortstack play (ie. all-in on QTo), when with proper planning and table awareness, there really is no reason to be desperate. If you pay attention to the three things above, I think you’ll probably do better in the endgames, where the cash is separated from the bubbles.