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In this video you will learn what the bubble phase in Satellites and Double-or-nothing SNGs looks like, and what your gameplan during the bubble phase of such SNGs should be.
Bubble strategy: Satellites and double-or-nothing SNGs
In this video you will learn What the bubble phase in Satellites and double-or-nothing SNGs looks like, and what your gameplan during the bubble phase of these SNGs should be.
By now you should have a general idea about what the bubble phase is and how you should approach it in general. You have also learned about the intricacies of the bubble in single table SNGs specifically, as well as the nuances of the bubble in multi-table SNGs. All this, however, has little use in satellite and double-or-nothing SNGs (shortened to DON). The reason for this is quite simple – in the tournaments mentioned above it does not matter how many chips you end up with. Since all top prizes are equal, the only goal is to survive the bubble, and that in turn changes the dynamics. That is why you should change the way you think about your strategy, and this is exactly what you are about to learn in this lesson. The contents of this article can be applied to: • any satellite SNG (or scheduled tournament) with more than one seat/package or ticket awarded, and; • any double-or-nothing SNG. It should not be applied to satellites with a single top prize, because in these formats the bubble reduces to a heads-up match which is beyond the scope of this article. Also, it should not be applied to Fifty-Fifty and similar structures, which are a mixture of satellite and winner-takes-all.
The stack size is a variable that is in plain view, but in fact this is not a good predictor of an opponent's chances of cashing in satellites. What really is important is the $EV value of your stack, and this reduces simply to the probability of cashing. In effect, the stack sizes should never drive your decisions directly. Rather, you should think about stack setups in terms of the probability of each player making the money. Later on, you will learn how to use this approach to make informed decisions on a satellite bubble. For the moment, take a look at how stack sizes might translate to percentage chances of cashing.
There are 7 players left with 6 top spots paying the same top prize. To get the first idea of how the chances of making the money look for each player, you should apply the ICM. Note that the ICM shows the probability of cashing before the blinds and antes have been posted, so the numbers may differ to some extent after the hand is dealt. Based on the results, the following conclusions can be drawn: • The difference between being a medium stack and a large stack is small, and the difference between being a large stack and a very large stack is negligible. • There is always much more to lose than there is to gain. For example, if the chip leader was all-in against SB or MP2, he could lose 2% in cashing odds by losing the race, while winning could not possibly net him more than 0.2%. That means he would need over 90% equity to break even. This calculation will be explained later on. • The ICM’s biggest flaw is that it does not account for positions. With stacks deep compared to the blinds, the effect is negligible. With shallow stacks, however, the order in which the players blind out is of the utmost importance. In the example, it is clear that in reality, button’s chances are much better than those of the player in middle position, as it is the latter who will face a forced all-in sooner. The ICM does not account for these differences, but you should.
Another factor which the ICM does not account for is how the other players are playing. The more willing your opponents are to call all-ins, the tighter you should play. Your first thought on a satellite bubble should be, “what are my chances of making the money if I continue to fold each hand?”. With a large stack and loose opposition this is often so close to 100% that no risk is worth the reward. In such a case you should be in autofold mode. If you find it difficult, try not looking at the cards dealt.
Assume that the above is not the case; you might then consider entering a pot. In order to calculate the profitability of such play, you should follow the following steps. You need to: • consider all possible outcomes, which are: your stack after losing and winning a given spot, then; • estimate the probability of cashing for each outcome (which means evaluating your stack in each scenario) and multiply this result by the probability of the scenario itself, and then add it altogether; • finally, you need to compare the resulting figure with the current probability of cashing, or more precisely the odds of cashing after a fold.
Take a look at how this could be performed in practice. Let’s analyze your decision in this example. Assume small blind is pushing with any two cards, as he might be tempted to do. The current odds of cashing for you are 94%, according to the ICM. In fact, due to the position setup, it might be a bit lower – probably around 92%. After you fold, this drops to around 85%. If you lose, it’s simple – you’re out; therefore, your chances of cashing reduce to 0%. If you double through, your chances of winning would be around 99%. Thus, to breakeven on a call, you need to have the showdown equity of more than 86%, as shown on the calculation. That means even pocket aces should be a fold here, even if your opponent shoves with any two cards. If the small blind can reasonably believe that big blind understands that, he should push with all hands because even though he hasn’t got much to gain, it is always better to gain a little something than not. In practice, lots of villains have problems with folding the top of their range and so the small blind should be much more wary. In this case, if you were on the small blind knowing that the big blind calls with the top 40% of his hands, then you should only push with your top 20%. As you can see, it is crucial for you to always have in mind your opponent’s potential calling range when considering a push – remember that their bad calls hurt not only them, but also you, benefiting all the other players due to the ICM.
Of course, during the session you don’t have access to ICM software. Therefore, you need to estimate the chances of cashing by yourself. It comes with experience, although there are a few common shortcuts that you can take. Have a look at them now. If you have a large stack, you can often assume you are a 100% favourite to cash. If there is a group of shortstacks with similar stacks, you can assume each of them busts with equal probability and the others all survive. Of course it is a simplification, but often it is enough to help make a correct decision. If you decide to enter a pot, remember that fold equity is the most important factor. As a consequence, you should do everything to be the one going all-in - not calling one. You should manipulate your bet sizing in order to achieve that goal. Most commonly this includes overbet shoving preflop to close the action. Another consequence is that your repushing range should often be wider than your open pushing range because the risk is similar but you stand to gain more. If you decide to push, the stacks behind you are much more important than your holding; it is always better to push if there are no short stacks left to act. Medium and large stacks should almost never call, while short stacks are forced to take a stand at one point or another. As a result, fold equity against short stacks and medium or large stacks differs tremendously. Last but not least, you should remember that if you are one of the short stacks, you should always try to manipulate the blind increases so that larger blinds always hit the other short stacks first.
Take a look at the following example: The blinds are about to be raised to 400/800 ante 100, meaning that the player who is now on the cutoff will be all-in on his small blind. It is crucial for him to make sure that the early position player is hit by either both blinds at the new level or at the very least the small blind at the new level. The player on the cutoff should use his entire allocated time bank to ensure that it happens. Otherwise, if the blinds get raised after going through the early position player, he will be able to survive longer than the cutoff. If, on the other hand, the early position player is hit by the higher blinds, he will be all-in either before the cutoff, or on the same hand but with a smaller stack.
In this lesson you have learned that: The bubble in a satellite and double-or-nothing SNG is unlike any other sit-and-go bubble. You should be thinking in terms of chances of cashing, not stack sizes. If you need to, you should earn chips by pushing, and not calling. You should attack stacks that are safe at the moment but could be eliminated or crippled if they lose to you. Avoid attacking short stacks.