(10/20, 15/30 and 25/50 + 5 blind levels)


As we have discussed previously, you should play fairly tightly in the opening. The exact nature of how tight depends on personal preference. Since I am frequently playing 15+ tables at once, I want to limit both the number of hands I play and the difficulty of those hands. This means I actually open-fold AK from an EP. My own personal raising range is QQ+ and sometimes I’ll limp JJ or TT (normally I open-fold these). If you feel comfortable and play fewer tables you might want to expand your selection of hands. If you are a DON noob, I recommend playing an extremely tight selection of hands in the early stages, until you are confident in post-flop play and stacking off ranges.

My standard raise at the 10/20 and 15/30 levels is 4xBB +1BB for each limper. This will generally thin the field a bit more than raising 3 x BB, which will in turn make the hand a little easier to play post-flop. At the 25/50 level I’ll start making it 3 x BB + 1 BB for each limper.

When I’m in a MP I’ll usually open up my range a little. I’ll add AK and AQs, which I open-raise. I’m usually folding these hands if there has been action in front of me, since if I’m re-raised, I will seldom be able to continue with the hand. If there is one caller, you can throw out a standard c-bet of 2/3 pot on all but the most terrible flops, but you should be prepared to fold the hand if you encounter any resistance. If two or more opponents see a flop, you should probably check-fold if you don’t connect with the flop or flop an over-pair.

In a LP you can open up your range even further, although mine tends not to be terribly wide at the early stage. I’ll maybe splash around with hands like KQs or pocket pairs and attempt to steal the blinds.

Once again, this hand selection is personal preference. Some good DON players will play aggressively with AK and perhaps wider in the early. You will need to find your own balance here.


When everyone starts a $10.40 DON tournament, they all have 10% of the equity or 0.1 of the prize pool, which is $10 (See the left hand side of figure 1). Consider the example represented in figure 1. Hero stacks off with player 10 and wins the hand. He has now increased his number of chips to 3000, but if you do the ICM calculation, he has only added $5.56 to his stack. Where does the missing $4.44 go? Well each of the other players not involved in the hand have increased their equity by $0.56 (there are slight rounding errors here). Their share of the pie just got larger by doing nothing!

Figure 1: ICM calculator results

So what does all of this mean? Let’s imagine it’s the first hand of the tournament and everyone has 1500 chips. You are on the button with KK. Everyone folds to the tight CO, who pushes (we have a few hundred hands on him). Let’s say we know with total certainty that his range here is JJ+, AK+. Can you call here? Well, let’s do the ICM calculation.

KK has 62.6% equity versus a range of JJ+, AK+. You will need to win 10.00/15.56 (or 64.3%) of the time to break even with this call. Unfortunately, kings just don’t cut it here. Therefore the rather surprising result of our KK hand, is you should fold, since you aren’t going to win often enough here to compensate for the risk of busting out of the tournament.

I hope this shows you exactly how far ahead you need to be to stack off in the early stages. Avoid confrontations in the early stages unless you are convinced you are far ahead.


As you may have noticed, I’ve not talked much about pocket pairs at the low-blind levels. In SNGs, pockets pairs are a great hand to limp or call with, particularly from a LP. Traditionally these are ‘set or forget’ type hands and you may end up stacking TPTK hands that cannot lay down the hand. So now I hear you saying, “But if I call I can just fold if I miss the flop.” The problem is this; the general DON player is playing so tight that they will not give you the implied odds to call. In other words, they are not getting their chips into the middle often enough to for you to recover the chips you are losing from set-mining. In my opinion, maintaining your fold equity is much more important than shooting for the small odds of hitting a set and stacking an opponent.

There are a couple of thoughts to think over.

    – Are you able to accurately place a player (like a regular) on KK or AA PF? If so, you should be more inclined to limp pocket pairs, as they will likely stack off with an undercard flop and you therefore have a high probability of stacking them.

    – Be more inclined to limp into multi-way pots, especially from a LP. Obviously in multi-way pots, there is a higher chance that one or several opponents will connect the flop and happily stack off. Feel free to limp or call a small bet in a LP.

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Double or Nothing SNG Advanced Strategy - Early Stages
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