Inside the Tour, #86 — Inside 'Sit'n Go Strategy'
Continuing our review of various works that I can recommend and think are useful for the professional player brings us to Sit'n Go Strategy by Colin Moshman (Two Plus Two Publishing, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2007). Of course, one does not need to be a professional in order to educate one's self in the areas of poker that one plays or is interested in — after all, who wants to be a certified loser in any area? My operating belief is that even social players will enjoy their nights out more when they win, and having some knowledge of how to make that come about is worth the hours it might take to read one of these books. The reason that I mention professionals specifically is that my belief is that the true professional poker player can adjust to any game at any time — and further, he should be able to sit in any game with comfort. Of course there is something to be said for those that specialize in one game, but there always comes a point where "your" specialty is not the best game for you for one of many possible reasons.
I will ignore the misprints that happen periodically in this book… as in the first edition of most books.
Sit'n goes are immensely popular online, so that is what a lot of this column and book will examine. They are also played at tournaments and in some cardrooms. The difference in the "normal" format of three being compared to winner-take-all formats is mentioned in one chapter, but is not central to this book. The satellite possibilities (also mentioned) are not talked about at length here, but as they are only mentioned as a counterpoint to the SNGs I don't have any problem with this at all.
The things I like most about this book are: that the correct way to play in sit-and-goes is explained; that this is contrasted with other forms of no-limit hold'em; that mention of winner-take-all events is made; that computer modeling is used; that computer tracking is recommended; and that specific examples are given for almost every situation.
Now, what I don't like, or openly disagree with, is almost the same list. (Let's take specific examples off this list, because I think they are wonderful, as well as a big positive — it adds an interactive element!) What do I mean when I make this outrageous statement? Let's be specific: My biggest disagreement comes with using computer modeling. The computer is a marvelous tool and a great aid to playing correctly. As Gurdjieff once said about the mind, "It's a wonderful servant… and a miserable master!" That said, a computer simulation is only a mathematical centerline for correct play. In teaching one always has this problem, in how to present all the variables that helps one make the correct decision at the table, so that at that moment, you are playing your 'A' game. This is exactly why you have to put in hours at the poker table as well as read and study. Some players have an instinctual understanding, an ability to make the right move at the right time. Some seem to be "lucky" over some period of time. Here we are attempting to move beyond statistical fluctuations and cut to the chase.
Personalities, position, and stack sizes are given in most examples in this book and that is essential knowledge for a professional. Beyond that knowledge you have to have your rear in the chair and be paying some attention to what is going on — Player B may usually be TAG (Tight-AGgressive) but now he is mad at the world and drinking… suddenly he is going all in at every opportunity!
Every answer leads to more questions and this is no exception. Would you rather be multi-tabling online and playing 12 tables at once with an expected hourly wage of five dollars an hour from each, or playing six tables with an expected hourly wage of nine dollars each? Part of this is personality, for sure. Is the stress of playing more games worth the possible small increase in theoretical and expected hourly profit worth it? You'll decide for yourself if you choose this path of play, but for sure when you play more tables your ability to follow the changes in others will be hampered.
This past week I was playing an online tournament where a player chose to move all-in from mid-position on hand number one for 3000 in chips with blinds of 10/20! That was bad enough but his actual hand was T-5o! It was passed to the big blind, who had a hand he couldn't lay down — A-A! Perhaps the T-5 had somewhere to go, perhaps the wife was pulling him away — but in any case, no matter what excuse we make for him, why did he enter this tournament? I doubt that his purpose was just to prove how horrid his decisions were, or that money didn't matter to him, but who knows.
I find notes very useful, but I never place too much value on them. What I mean specifically is that even if someone plays one hand abominably that does not mean that they are an abominable player. It is one play in one session—it could have been a misclick, it could have been a blood-sugar imbalance, it could have been a maiden voyage on the computer — we don't know everything we would wish to, that is for sure.
Back to the recommendations in the book Sit'n Go Strategy. The tie-in here is that we can track results and we can track players, but don't let that be the most important factor in deciding how to play against those same players. It can be useful but it can also be misleading. When you're in the game with someone you'll be able to see what type of player they likely are within one round. Of course, if their personality is shifting, as yours should, as the sit-and-go progresses you'll have a weaker read at first, but after a few sit-and-goes the mystery will be gone.
In regards to how to play sit-and-goes I disagree with a few examples and one phase of the book. But if I were teaching someone else how to play, and they weren't very experienced, I would say to use this book as a guideline, and use the computer to back it up. If you are a sit-and-go player, or are interested in playing them, this is a great book for starting your quest. The examples, as given, are great food for thought.
Until next time, play good… and get lucky!