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March 13, 2006

Selective Aggression

Posted at March 13, 2006 09:47 PM in Beginner Topics , by The Padawan.

I have been playing SnGs almost exclusively for the last month and I made what I think are some interesting observations. First, I did pretty well last month (thank you very much) and saw some interesting things. Some of these things are obvious when you think about them, but I noticed that most people don’t see ‘em that way when they are in the moment, so to speak. So I thought it might be a good time to lay out what I saw and noticed and thought.

One of the first things you will notice when you play SnGs is how very aggressive some folks are. Now I am a firm believer that aggression is good in poker, but it needs to be selective aggression. I have seen time after time people going all in very early with only fair hands, and getting knocked out by someone with a good hand. I saw it quite a lot, even if I was rarely the one with the good hand (dang). I also saw people get several good hands in a row (God, how I wish that was me more often) and they would go hyper aggressive with them. It was amazing to watch these people take out a few guys, then get killed when someone sucked out on them with a 2 or 3 outer on the turn or river. This led me to thinking about why these guys were losing. I mean, they were playing pretty good hands, and they were generally getting the money in when they had the best of it. So what was happening? The answer is math. Even pocket Aces only wins 86% of the time. This says to me that if you are in enough all in battles, you are going to lose. So to me, this means you must pick not just your cards, but your opponent and your position. The idea of a SnG is to get to the money. After that you can go for first. It does you no good at all to take out 5 opponents your self but get killed just shy of the money by taking on the big stack to soon. So you have to think, not just play aggressive with good cards. AK is not an automatic winner, so think. If a guy with half your stack raises and you hold AK do you raise or call? If you call and the flop is bad for you, it does not hurt much. But if you raise him, how likely is it he will come back all in? Then you call, the flop is bad (for you) and now you are the one in a desperate situation. Think, don’t just react. Don’t be a coward, but plan your aggression.
I read someplace that you need a better hand to call than to raise. I think this is true, and that is where aggression helps. Nothing is better than being first in. By opening strongly you force others to make a decision about how much to commit to their hand. Not just then, but they must consider the implied commitment. How often have you had a medium hand that you thought might be worth limping with, but then someone ahead of you raises 5xBB? That is selective aggression.

Just to prove my point, I mentioned that I played a lot of SnGs this past month. I also mentioned that I did pretty well. ( I am going to put in a pool this month, thank you poker) Interestingly, I never won first place. ( Hmmm, a weakness in my game maybe?) But I hit 2nd and 3rd a lot. These were all 20 man SnGs that pay 5 places. I even hit a cold streak where I lost 11 straight all in battles just out of the money. All 11 I lost to 2 or 3 outer suck outs. Despite that cold streak, I have made money by being selective in my aggression. I know it sounds obvious, but I think it is worth keeping in mind during your game play.

Good Luck
The Padawan

Thanks for your thoughts. I've been trying out some SNGs (45 person, payouts to 7th) and have been doing okay to well but not as good as I'd like. Are there any books or articles you'd suggest for reading for strats and examples?

Posted by Dawn b. at March 14, 2006 05:34 PM

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