Fan of online betting? Give up the longshots and bet yourbottom dollar on Sit-and-Go tourneys

Online betting comes down to two propositions: ones guaranteed to lose in the long run; and winning Texas Holdem play.

In the first article of this series, I talked about how Sit-and-Go tournaments (SNGs) can offer the disciplined player a good source of income. You will find three styles: online betting loonies (attracted by the lowish buy-in, limited liability and chance to gamble); middle-of-the-road tourney players; and winning SNG players like you.

Most SNGs attract two or three online betting loonies. These gamblers provide value for the winners. Unless they get lucky, their chips will soon be lost. Some should find their way to you. Now for some specific strategies to help you achieve a top three finish.

Playing too many drawing hands is dangerous to your stack

Unless you have a really strong draw, for example, you hold KsQs and the flop is:

(giving you two overcards, a flush draw and a middle pin draw)

it’s best to avoid drawing hands. Of course, as the blinds get bigger, you may not have a choice. But in the early stages, stick to the bigger pairs and huge cards like AK or AQs, unless you can see a cheap flop.

You will regularly see online betting fiends calling all-in with hands like JT on flops of

These loose guys ignore the fact that they have no chance to win if their straight doesn’t hit. A pair, should they make one, probably won’t do them any good, as the all-in raiser almost certainly has at least a K or Q here.

Small flush draws are the fodder of the online betting loony too. A classic situation is a weak player calling passively on the button with rags like Td5d, flopping a flush draw, calling all the way to hit it and finding the early-position raiser with AdKd.

Be careful about going all-in early on

Once you’ve made that big all-in move, there’s only three outcomes (barring a split pot or a lucky outdraw):

  • You will be called by a better hand and lose;
  • You will be called by a worse hand and win;
  • Everybody folds and you pick up the blinds.

Obviously, if you believe a player has a worse hand than yours AND you think he will call an all-in, it’s the right move to make. However, there are shades of grey in this.

22 is a better hand than AKs (just!). But it’s such a marginal favourite that your all-in is putting your survival on the line with an almost neutral expectation.

Ideally, you won’t commit your chips unless you’re at least a 60-40 favourite. Examples of this are holding AKs vs an early position raiser, or JJ against a raiser on a three low card flop. (He’s more likely to have overcards than an overpair.)

Of course you could be reading the situation incorrectly. That’s part of the joys of Texas Holdem. If so, you could still get lucky and outdraw him. And sometimes, that online betting loony will hit his slim odds and beat you. Life sucks. However, you DID make the correct play, so in the long run that's a winning bet, not a losing gamble. His play LOST him money in the long run, but it won in the short run.

Sometimes a smaller raise is better than an all-in. It allows you to see what the other player’s going to do before committing your tournament future to the whims of the poker gods.

Watch the blind increases and adjust your play

The biggest mistake you can make in the latter stages of a SNG is to not adjust your play when the blinds get big in relation to your stack.

Let’s say you hold 7s7d in first position. With ten players at the lower blind levels, this is a limp-in hand at best.

With five players and blinds of 150-300, this suddenly becomes an all-in hand, unless you have an enormous chip lead. Why?

Let’s assume, by some bizarre twist of Fate, everybody at the table has identical amount of chips. So from 1,000, you have all doubled up to 2,000 points.

You minimum raise to 600 with your 77. Only the big blind calls. The flop comes:

The big blind bets 1,000. What do you do?

This is a horrible situation for you. You have 1,400 left and the blinds are due in the next two hands, which will leave you with 950 chips. But can you contemplate going all-in on that flop with a pair of sevens?

Let’s see what happens if you move all-in preflop. Again, the big blind calls (which you hate), but his hand turns out to be AK.

Now you can see that the flop of ThJd3s is still scary, but you’re actually winning. Sure, you can lose if an A, K or Q comes in the next two cards, but your all-in move has protected you from folding a hand that’s winning at the moment.

Don’t be afraid to move all-in with weaker hands later in the SNG. Folding too many marginal hands will just let the blinds eat you up.

Ironically, the online betting loonies, in the unlikely event they're still alive, are better suited to the latter stages of SNGs, simply because they are more likely to gamble on marginal hands -- exactly the RIGHT strategy for when the blinds get big!

Next time, I’ll show you some more examples to test your feel for SNG play. For now, why not sign up for PokerPrayer!, the COTH eZine? It's free, it's monthly and it's FREE! (And always will be.)