SNG Middle Stage Strategy

SNG Middle Stage Strategy requires that you start upping the aggression, as chipping up by stealing blinds and limped pots is going to help you abuse the bubble.  This is when you’ll have to start deviating from the “tight is right” mentality of the early stages and you’ll need to start adjusting to the situation and look for ways to make aggression work for you.  One of our biggest edges in SNG’s is the fact that we’re still alive and picking up equity from weaker players getting knocked out, so stack preservation is still important.

This is the 3rd in a series of SNG Strategy posts.  Check out the previous post, SNG Early Stage Strategy for how to easily make it through the early stages.

SNG Middle Stage Strategy – Stealing Blinds & Antes

You need to maintain your stack to keep your fold equity and tourney equity, so you’ve got to pick-up the blinds and antes as much as they’ll let you is important.  Start adjusting your ranges and get in there with some lighter steals against opponents who don’t fight back a lot pre or post-flop.

You still need to remain pretty balanced here, as your tourney life is still the most important thing for you to protect.  But keep working to grow that stack as this is what will lead you to the money.

A big part of your game will be picking on tight blinds.  With a starting stack of 1,500 at 50/100 with antes, a steal will increase your stack by about 200 chips or 13% which is pretty darn good.

Becoming proficient at stealing is going to come down to trial and error.  You’ve got to learn which opponents fold a lot to steals, which ones give up easily on the flop, or which ones are sticky to any pair on the flop.  If you’re not comfortable with stealing yet, just get out there and do it.  Learn from your mistakes and vow not to repeat them.

Taking away pots post-flop will be essential here, so board texture and opponent post-flop tendencies will really come into play.  You open w/AK and a loose BB caller comes along and you see a flop of T98?  This smacks a lot of his range w/pairs and draws, and if his Fold to Cbet is already low, it may be a spot to consider checking back.

SNG Middle Stage Strategy – Making Adjustments

Hopefully by the middle stages you’ve lost a few players and are down to 7 or less.  Remember, for each player that gets KO’d you gain a bit of equity, and if you get KO’d you’ve just given equity to your opponents.  Chip preservation and staying alive are still of utmost importance.

Open limping (OL) was okay in the early stages, but not any more.  Stacks are shorter (compared to the blinds) so you just don’t have the odds to set mine or play the speculative suited connectors any more.  Aggression is key in the middle stages (but keep it controlled, no MANIACS here ?).

Staying alive will require adjusting to your individual opponents.  You’ve got to rely on your notes from the early stages (and previous SNG’s) to help you to determine how to proceed.  If you don’t have any notes on a player, that prolly means you either weren’t paying attention or they didn’t do anything too crazy and exploitative.

Read this post on Poker Player Types for some extra info on understanding your opponents and how to exploit them.

Spewey actions are some of the best notes to take on opponents.  Did he call off three streets w/3rd pair A kicker in the second level?  Great!  He’s capable of plays like this again.

Now that stacks are shorter, lots of people are willing to get it in (gii) with lots of marginal hands.  You’ll prolly find yourself playing for stacks with AK and TT, and that ain’t a bad thing.

Speaking of stack sizes, you need to be aware of who you have fold equity against.  These are often like-sized stacks, and the short-stacks and big stacks are less likely to fold to your aggression.  If a player’s tourney is on the line vs your raise or 3bet, this is the most fold equity you’ll have.

SNG Middle Stage Strategy – ICM Now Plays a Part

The Independent Chip Model (ICM) is a very important concept in SNG’s.  It’s a mathematical model that shows you what hands are profitable to shove with or call a shove with based on the stacks of the players at the table.  As you or your opponents start to get down to 10-15bb’s, the push/fold game comes into play.

The program I use the most to study ICM spots is SNG End Game Tools (SNG EGT).  It’s a free program that’s been instrumental in my SNG playing.  Check out this video I made to learn how to get it for free and how to use it.


This video is just a small primer on ICM study.  Check out my ICM post for more on how to use this knowledge in your game.

Make sure you’re putting in daily work with SNG EGT and you’ll gain an incredible grasp of profitable hands to shove at various stack sizes.

***One important note on ICM is that it’s not the be-all, end-all on short-stacked play.  Just b/c you’re at 12bb’s doesn’t mean you have to push or fold.  Depending on the players, stack sizes and situation you’re in, an open-limp, min-open or 3x open might be a better play.  ICM doesn’t take into account the value of future bets or taking pots down post-flop by other means.  You DON’T have to follow ICM.  Learn to use it, but it’s your judgment of the situation which will dictate whether or not to employ a push/fold strategy.

SNG Middle Stage Strategy – Push/Fold Charts

Some SNG players swear by Push/Fold Charts and others don’t.  I don’t use them myself, but they’re something that I’ve tried in the past.  I stopped using them b/c I found that they became a crutch and I started to follow them overly-strictly.

I prefer exploiting opponents and taking each situation as it comes.  A push/fold chart could tell you to shove J6o at 10bb’s.  Well, if you’ve got a super loose calling station who calls w/any Ace, King and suited connectors and pairs down to 22, your odds just aren’t that good with J6o.

If you’re interested in some push/fold charts, Google “push fold charts and download some for yourself.  As you’re testing them out, take notes on their effectiveness and determine if they’ll help you get in the money more often in the games you play.

To sum it all up: SNG Middle Stage Strategy will require you to adjust to your opponents and play with stack sizes in mind, while stealing as many pots as you can and always keep chip preservation (tourney life) at top of mind.

If there are any other considerations we should make in the middle stages, please let me know in the comments below.

Please stay tuned for more SNG strategy posts.

Until next time, study smart, play hard and make your next session the best one yet!

Sky Matsuhashi
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