Playpoker like a pro and clean up at the sit-and-go tables

Having read my other play poker articles on sit-and-go tourneys (SNGs), you should be champing at the bit to secure some loose money.

But before you rush in to play poker at the SNGs, here’s a series of tests to see how well you understand the theory of SNG play.

1) You are dealt AA on the button. Blinds are 50-100. Everybody folds to you; only the blinds are left in behind you.

The danger here is that a raise will convince the blinds not to play poker with you, so you win a tiny pot; the danger of NOT raising is that you will give them a cheap shot to bust your best starting hand.

Because it’s so difficult to believe that AA is losing at any point, and therefore so hard to fold it unless the flop is obviously awful, I still maintain it’s best to raise here. Play poker like a lion.

Note that your raise should be a standard amount, say 300 points. Now it looks like a steal raise from the button. One of the blinds may reraise you to test you, or he may have found a hand he wants to play poker power games with against your monster pair!

Of course they might both fold. But the play which has better expectation and less risk is to raise.

2) You are dealt KK in early position. Blinds are 100-200. You flat-called hoping for a raiser, but oops! Three other players flat-called too, the big blind simply checked, and now the flop has five players.

The flop looks OK:

You bet 400. The next player raises to 1000 and the third player reraises all-in. The player on the button goes all-in too. The big blind folds to you.

This is a situation that cries out for a fold. You know almost certainly that you’re losing here. Somebody among those flat callers has a pair of Jacks, nines or fives. Or perhaps they limped in with a loose-goose special hand like Jd9d and now have two pairs.

When you play poker for long enough, you'll realise there are times to be a lion and times to run like a cheetah...

Somebody else might have as weak a hand as QT for an open straight – if so, you are drawing dead against a set, as your miracle third King would give them a straight. Fold the hand and give yourself another chance to find a better proposition.

3) You are late position with AdJd. Blinds are 20-40. A player in early position raises to 100 and is called by two other players before you.

What’s your move here? Call, reraise or fold?

I’d argue that reraising is probably your worst option of the three. A reraise with AJs is asking for trouble. You might be walking into a big pair, in which case you will be facing another big reraise. If not, hands like AK or AQ are massive favourites against you. It's best not to play poker when the odds are on your opponent's side.

Calling is OK. Note that you are giving lots of people a cheap flop here, which lowers the value of any pairs you might pick up. You are now treating the AJ as a drawing hand, hoping to flop two pairs, a straight or flush draw.

Folding is a little too tight at this stage of a SNG. Blinds are still low, and this kind of hand, if correctly played, should be manageable. So just call and hope for a nice flop. Be ready to fold, even if you flop an A or J and the action heats up.

Don’t fall in love with a hand like AJs. It might break your heart. You can't play poker with a broken heart!

4) You are in middle position with 7c8c. Blinds are 50-100. Three players flat-call to you, you call, another player calls, the small blind makes up the money and the big blind checks. The flop is interesting:

You have a four flush and an open-ended straight. Your 78 also makes two weak overcards to the flop.

The action gets hot. The small blind checks. The big blind bets 200. It’s called by the next player. The player before you raises to 500. Do you call, raise or fold?

Let’s be absolutely clear about this. Folding is wrong. You have a massive drawing hand here. True, you could be behind, either to a lucky straight, an overpair or a set. However, one absolute requirement for playing any drawing hand is that you get good value. This pot is juicy and shows signs of getting juicier.

Raising is probably the next worst action. That’s because your raise might drive out players who were planning to call if you call. A raise might conceivably drive out a better flush draw than yours – this is subjective. A really strong flush draw will call anyway, so it’s better to simply call and hope for overcallers behind you.

5) You’re late position with a pair of ducks – 22. Blinds are 5-10. A couple of players fold in early position. Three others limp in. The player on your right raises to 40. You call and the limpers call.

The flop is:

You now have bottom set, plus the best position. Your question here should be, not “Am I winning?”, but “How can I get the most money in the pot as soon as possible?”

I have read advice advocating folding small pairs to a raise. Obviously, if you always call big raises or reraises with them, you have a problem. Clearly you are hoping to flop a set, so the cheaper it is to see the flop, the better.

True, the raiser could be holding AA or JJ. It’s more likely that he has something else like AK, AQ or even AJ. Perhaps second pair like KK or QQ.

He will probably make a bet on the flop, simply because he raised preflop. Most preflop raisers feel almost obliged to follow up with a bet on the flop.

Raise, reraise, whatever. Try to get as much money in the pot now. And if you’ve walked into a bigger set, that’s life.

Next time, we’ll look at more examples of how to play poker in various SNG scenarios.

Want to play poker for a living? Join the Church of Texas Holdem!