(125/250 + 25 and beyond)
ADJUSTING TO OPPONENTS
Ultimately, you are going to need to steal a lot of blinds in DONs. Premium hands don’t come along all that often, so this means you are going to be pushing an awful lot of marginal hands.
Generally, you should try to avoid the players who are potentially going to call with a wide range. If you are running a HUD, displaying calling stats can be very useful to identify which players call wider. Avoid these players. You should also generally avoid the larger stacks. Larger stacks have lower penalty for calling; they will not eliminated by calling a smaller stack. Most of the time, larger stacks have doubled up early by making a marginal call. There is an exception to this rule; if you can find a tight player who has doubled or tripled up early, they may go into ‘lock-down mode’ and consequently be very easy to steal from.
You should also steal liberally from tight regulars, particularly when you are in the SB or button positions. If you are unfortunate enough to have a particularly loose player (or loose caller) immediately to your left, you should consider pushing from an earlier position. This is because looser players love to call SB and button steal shoves. They aren’t particularly discerning with their calls; any Ax will usually do. They correctly figure your range is extremely wide, and incorrectly conclude that they can call if their hand is better than your range.
Figure 2: Hand decay in SNGWIZ
In this example you will show a profit unless your opponent is calling wider than about 15%. It he is so bad that he is calling with any ace and any pair, you should fold (If Hero pushes any two cards, villain should fold no matter what his cards are). This is where having the calling percentages in your HUD should prove very useful.
WHY IS CALLING GENERALLY A BAD IDEA?
The flat payout structure generally means you need to be quite far ahead of your opponent to call profitably. If you are not sufficiently ahead you will end up damaging both your own equity and your opponents and donating it to the other players at the table.
Figure 3: Calling ranges in SNGWIZ
In this example, even though the villain is probably pushing something like 70% of hands, you can only call with about 6% of hands. In fact, the graph on the right shows that even if he is pushing 100% of hands, you can only call with 8% of hands.
You WILL be punished for calling loose. If you learn one thing from this post it should be “push light, call tight.”
WHAT DO I DO IF THE WORLD’S BIGGEST DONK IS TO MY LEFT?
Well, it’s just unlucky, but it happens to everyone. If he is going to call very wide, you should firstly fold all your below average hands when you are in the SB. Pushing these is profitable against tight callers, but usually a losing play against the wider callers. Wait for a good hand. Failing that, and getting desperate, you have two options. You can push from an earlier position (i.e. not from SB or button), looser players to your left will generally call much tighter, since there will several players to play after them. Pick a hand where the tightest players are in the blind and push fairly wide at this point, almost regardless of your hand.
Alternatively, you can pick on the middle stacks at this point. As we discussed, big stacks are quite likely to call particularly wide. Small stacks may be getting desperate and prepared to make marginal or -EV calls (see section “Making -EV moves”). Middle stacks usually have the mentality that they are relatively secure and therefore don’t really need the chips. Also, they usually stand to lose a lot of equity if they call and lose the hand, making placing difficult. They will usually leave behind blinds, unless they run into a premium hand.
MAKING -EV MOVES
I’m not going to post a specific hand here, but you should use your brain and logic. For example if you are one of two short-stacks at the table and the other short-stack pushes into your BB, you should consider calling fairly wide if you are going to be rather distant in terms of stack size to everyone else at the table. Often ICM will say fold here, but sometimes I will give myself a likely 40-60% flip instead of meekly blinding out.
On or near the bubble, you should collude with other players to knock out a short stack. Colluding means two or more players call or limp into a pot for the purposes of knocking a short stack out. This increases your own equity and gives you the maximum chance of finishing in the money.
- Factors to consider when colluding.
– Generally you should automatically call if the call costs you less than 10%.
– Will you have fold equity on other players should you call and lose?
– You should strongly consider calling if you are on the bubble and two or more players are already all-in who you ALSO cover.
Things to remember
– Don’t raise if there is a very short stack at the table, even with AA. All you are achieving is folding hands that may actually beat the short stack. Limping in will encourage other opponents to follow suit. This is especially relevant where a short stack will have a very small amount of chips left if he folds.
– Your job isn’t to knock other players out, it’s to place in the tournament. Don’t justify loose calls simply because you have lots of chips; they may be useful in the future.
TIMING THE BLINDS
At every opportunity you have, you should attempt to time the blinds. While some people may consider this unethical, the rules in online poker allow you to take the full amount of allocated time to make a decision. In my mind it makes sense to seize every small edge that is within the rules and etiquette of poker.
- Factors to consider
– You should firstly consider whether you actually want a bigger blind. If you are significantly shorter than the rest of the stacks of the table, you should actually play quickly, as you really want to maximise the number of hands at the smaller blinds, thus maximising your fold equity.
– Consistently taking the maximum amount of time will likely cause you to be target at the table, most likely of players playing one or two tables. They will likely notice your time-wasting efforts and may call you down light or repeatedly steal your blind to ‘teach you a lesson’. Time waste intelligently.
– Time wasting is difficult if you are using a stack, simply because you can’t see the other tables before you actually make a decision on the current table. Timing the blinds will only generally be available when you are tiling (or tiling towards the end of a stack).
– If the blinds are going up in 2 minutes or less you should consider whether you can make it through the cheaper blinds, in which case you should play as quickly as possible. Otherwise you should slow down immediately until the blinds increase, in order make other players put in a larger blind, putting them under pressure.
MOVING AI WITHOUT MOVING AI
Occasionally you have a hand that may warrant a push, but you don’t necessarily want your push to be called. You should consider putting most of your chips in, but not all of them.
Hero (UTG) (t1195)
Hero’s M: 2.17
Preflop: Hero is UTG with J , J
Hero bets t1000, 6 folds
A couple of good things can happen when you use this technique. Firstly, the human brain is exceptionally adept at picking up patterns and, more importantly, things that don’t fit into the pattern. Psychologically, someone is less likely to pick up that your bet is an AI bet when you put in 750 chips at the 100/200 level than if you pushed an odd size like 890. Odd-sized bets draw attention by not fitting in with the general pattern of a standard bet size. Most people tend to like to make their bets standard sizes and pushing in 890 chips may set off the alarms bell. If you opponent is a serious multi-tabler, they only have a few seconds to make a decision. They may actually quickly fold not realising your bet does not have many chips behind it. I occasionally make this mistake myself.
Secondly, you may cause a thinking opponent to pause and think about why you are not pushing AI. He may fold a hand that beats you because he is running out of time and can’t make a decision, or he may consider you have a big hand and are trying to suck players into the pot.
Thirdly, if players several call your bet and you only have a minuscule stack, a donk may violate the concept of implied collusion and bet 500 or 1000 or all his chips, potentially forcing hands that could potentially draw and beat you, out of the pot. Believe me, opponents sometimes do this with A-high on the bubble.
Anyway, my opinion is that all in bets where you don’t actually push all you chips in, tend to be called tighter.
FOLDING THE BEST HAND
Often in DONs (particularly towards the bubble) you will be required to fold what is probably or certainly the best hand. If you can’t or are unwilling to do this, you will probably lose at DONs over the long-term.
Hero (BB) (t1920)
Hero’s M: 3.66
Preflop: Hero is BB with A , A
1 fold, MP bets t750, 3 folds, Hero ??
Hero obviously has the best hand here, but he should fold rather rapidly. There are three shorter stacks at the table, including one very short stack. You also have virtually zero fold equity on the initial raiser. It will be 1145 chips for him to call and win 2895 and potentially finish the game. With a monster stack, all but the tightest opponents WILL call here.
An analysis in SNGWIZ will show pushing here is a large mistake whatever cards the villain is playing, unless he folds a significant proportion of the time. As we have already discussed, that will not usually happen. Simply fold your way to victory.
An example of why folding the best hand is sometimes the best course of action…
Hero (MP) (t700)
Hero’s M: 2.22
Preflop: Hero is MP with 10 , 3
2 folds, CO calls t150, Button bets t500, 2 folds, CO raises to t3305 (All-In), Button calls t2805
Flop: (t6925) 2 , 9 , 10 (2 players, 1 all-in)
Turn: (t6925) 4 (2 players, 1 all-in)
River: (t6925) J (2 players, 1 all-in)
Total pot: t6925
Button had K , Q (straight, King high).
CO had K , K (one pair, Kings).
Outcome: Button won t6925
ICM AND IGNORING IT
When everyone is getting low in chips, ICM is often not a useful tool anymore. Other factors start becoming important, such as who will be forced to play before they are blinded out, etc. Use your brain and mathematical skills while you are playing. Remember, you need a valid reason why you are rejecting what the ICM says.
SHOWING YOUR HANDS
I know some people never show their cards. It’s not a bad strategy as opponents can never be sure what you have. On the other hand, not showing your cards occasionally arouses enough suspicion for an opponent to eventually call you. In my opinion, showing some of your big hands can be beneficial, and keeps your opponents’ fear that you are stealing every hand, at bay. I don’t suggest showing every big hand you have, as it would be easy for an observant opponent to then know which hands are bluffs and which are you big hands. I do however suggest showing big hands where a bluff looks likely. You should be particularly keen to show some of your bigger hands if you are balancing your min-raise hands at mid-high blinds levels by min-raising with AA or KK. This is because you will often be min-raising with marginal hands and you should be keen to demonstrate that you also min-raise with big hands. This may prevent aggressive players from re-stealing when you adopt a min-raise strategy.
On the other hand, showing your bluffs and rubbing players’ nosing in it is generally imprudent. You will make them feel stupid and encourage them to call you, which is generally bad in DONs. Quietly muck your hand and try to get away with stealing again.
In very specific cases it may be prudent to show your bluffs. For example, if a regular is repeatedly stealing your blind, you may decide to re-steal with any decent hand and FE. You should consider showing your hand to demonstrate that you are prepared to defend your blind and prevent further abuse. If he steals your blind again, he either has balls or a good hand.
DONs offer a good opportunity for grinders to build a bankroll. Think carefully before you act, remember some of these concepts and I’m sure your results in DONs will improve. Good luck at the tables.