SNG Tight is Right, Recording LIVE Hands and Changing Plans | Q&A | #65

In today’s Q&A, I answer 3 listener Q’s about the “tight is right” SNG philosophy, recording LIVE hands for later review, the profitability of cash vs SNG games and changing your plans mid-hand.

The Hand Reading Lab

In episode 64 I started my series on the Hand Reading Lab and discussed all the things we can learn from showdowns.

SNG: Tight is Right, Recording LIVE Hands and Changing Plans

Question 1 from Rob (1:15)

Hi Sky. I totally get the tight is right philosophy of the early levels of a SNG. The early levels can easily amount to only 20 – 30 hands and in that small sample, we don’t always get a decent playable hand in position. On top of that, it is rare to get a playable hand in position with the action folded to you. So for most of the lower levels I’m playing fold’em hold’em and almost always get into a short stack scenario. Any suggestions for the above scenario?
  • I play a ton of SNG’s and I also prescribe to the “tight is right” philosophy.  Yes, you’ll be folding most of the time but you can find spots to open and steal vs the right players in the blinds.  You want to look for guys that fold a lot, and also keep your steals to the BTN, SB and occasional CO w/the right players on the BTN and the blinds.  When you’re not stealing and have a decent hand that can get value like pp’s and suited broadways and connectors, you can open up your opening ranges based on the players yet to act.
  • The range I play isn’t set in stone. If you’re dealt something a little outside the range, but you’re on the BTN w/weak blinds, go ahead and open. The more you practice it the more spots you’ll find to pick-up chips w/ some well-times aggression.  Also, look for opponents who give up easily post-flop, so even if they call you they’ll fold a lot to cbets.
  • With tight SNG play, sometimes you won’t pick-up hands that you can open with or 3bet with, so you’ll end up getting to <15bb’s stacks pretty quickly and you’ll have to get comfortable w/ your push-fold game and practice it with programs like Hold’em Resources Calculator or SNG End-game Tools.  You can even just use push/fold charts you can find online.  I really recommend getting comfortable with short-stacked play as SNG and MTT players get into these situations quite often.

Question 2 from Chris (3:35)

Hi Sky,
I have been listening to your podcasts and find them entertaining and informative. I would like more info on playing live as so far I have found that you focus a lot on online. I play exclusively live and would like better ideas on how to take better notes on hands to be able to study later.
Thanks, Chris

Here’s my quick 5-step answer: Practice, Review, Post, Learn, Repeat:

  1. Practice – on your next trip to the cardroom, simply use Evernote and practice taking hand notes on it (you can even use a pen and paper if you prefer). Write down all the important details you think will help in later review.  These details include stack sizes, positions, the blind level (if it’s a tourney) exact hole cards, the board cards, actions on each street, your reads on the opponent and anything else that might help you analyze later.  For example, here’s a poorly recorded hand:
    • I open MP to 250, he shoves 4,000, I call with AKs, he has AJo, I win

Here’s a better recording of the hand:

  • 8 players, 50/100/10 level, 3400 stack, I open 250 in MP w/AKs, folds to BB (LAG donk who 3bets a ton) and he os 4,000 w/AJo, I call.

The added info will allow you to do a better analysis later in Flopzilla or however you study.

And, I want to emphasize the word “practice.”  It will take time for you to be able to recall the action at the end of a hand so you can write it down accurately.  But, practice makes perfect, and perfect practice makes a winner.

    1. Review – When you’re back home, take out your notes and start analyzing hands. If your notes are complete enough to allow for good analysis, then great!  But, you might find some hands where you missed some key bit of info and you have to think back and try to remember what it was.  Take this mistake with you the next time you play and practice taking better notes.
    2. Post – Post your hands in forums or in Facebook Groups (like the Smart Poker Study FB Group). One of the great things about doing this with LIVE hands is the forum members will ask you all sorts of questions like, “Has he ever 3bet light before?” or “What type of player is he?” or “What’s your image?” or “How close were you to the money?”  These questions will help you realize what info you’re missing when recording LIVE hands and you can learn from this.
    3. Learn – In the Review and Post steps you’ll realize what info you’re missing when recording LIVE hands. Learn from this.  Commit to not missing these the next time.  Make a list of the key things you need to record for precise analysis later.
  1. Repeat – Take all you’ve learned into your next session and practice taking better notes. The more you do this, the better you’ll get.  That’s how guys like Andrew Brokos and Nate Meyvis are able to write books about their LIVE tourney play.  They simply take great notes, and it came from tons of practice.

Question 3 from Firaga (9:30)

Good morning! I have two questions for you:
1) When you develop a plan for the flop that involves your plan for further streets, how important is it that you stick to that plan in the middle of the hand, even when presented with clear evidence that your plan may not have been a good plan? Then he goes into an example hand.
2) Prior to Black Friday, I was a winning regular in SNG tournaments, but I also played a lot of cash games. I left poker and returned recently to find SNG traffic is at a crawl compared to what it used to be, and my cash game is way behind the curve. My biggest concern is that long-term, there is more profitability in cash games than SNG’s, and that playing in SNG’s to build my bankroll will damage my development as a cash-game player. Do you think there is any benefit to playing both regularly (not in the same session, maybe alternating weekly) or do you think it would be better to specialize in one and mix in an occasional sprinkling of the other for variety? Am I worried for no good reason?
I would appreciate any advice you might have.
Best regards, Firaga

1) Having a plan for the rest of the hand on the flop is great, but it doesn’t have to be just a plan for bad cards on the turn or river.  In the hand you put in your original email (but I left out here), it seems like you planned for cards that didn’t improve your hand and ignored the cards that would bring you 2p or trips.   Having a more complete plan on the flop for both bad and good future cards could help in your decision making process.

Also, to answer your general question of whether or not to change your plan, you’ve got to do it sometimes.  I’m sure you’ve heard something like this quote many times, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”  You need to be adaptable to whatever cards or actions the turn brings.  Don’t get caught up and feel like you need to stick to any pre-flop or flop plan made.

2) I feel the same way you do about the profitability in SNG’s right now, but I still play them a lot b/c I love them and the opponents in the games I play are still very weak.  I prescribe to the “tight is right” philosophy for SNG play, but many of my opponents don’t.  I’ll routinely play with super LP fish who gamble their buy-in away.  Of course, the “tight is right” philosophy can get you in some short-stacked situations, but that’s where lots of push/fold study comes into play.  If you can make better push/fold decisions than your opp’s, you’ll be way more profitable than them.

So, regarding playing both cash and SNG’s, I definitely recommend going on long stints in one at a time.  If you’re finding cash particularly enjoyable, then play cash until you start to get bored or the allure of the SNG’s draw you back, and vice versa.  The longer you focus at a stretch in one discipline the better you’ll get at it.  If bouncing back and forth in one session isn’t good, bouncing back and forth daily or weekly wouldn’t be that good either.

If you’re looking to go pro one day, you should choose just one and stick with it.  My suggestion would be cash of course.  Throw in SNG’s for fun sometimes, but relegate all of your studies to what seems to be the most profitable  and long-lasting form of poker that you enjoy.

Sky Matsuhashi
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