Passing up edges in online turbo SNG poker tournaments

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By Jay Houston

What is EV? It’s an abbreviation for “expected value.” You may see people write they had a +EV, which means a positive or profitable expected value. There have been countless debates among professional sit-n-go players over the years as to whether you should take a positive-EV spot just because it’s +EV: Should you wait for a better situation because your skill will help you find a better edge? Or should you take advantage of every edge you find?

Before sharing my thoughts on the matter I’d like to provide a disclaimer that this is just my opinion. Take these concepts into consideration and hopefully they’ll add to your game.

Imagine you’re playing in $27 single-table turbo SNG on PokerStars. It’s down to eight players and the blinds are 75-150. You are in the small blind with 1,500 chips, the action folds around to you and you have 2-3 offsuit. Assuming the BB and his stack of 1,500 will call you with precisely 20 percent of hands (3-3+, A4+, A2s+, KQ+, K10s+), what is your move? Shove or fold?

If you shove you’re going to get folds 80 percent of the time. When you get called you’re going to win 27.8 percent of the time (Remember these numbers are against an entire range of hands). This means you’ll survive this shove about 85 percent of the time. So this hand becomes a typical any-two-card shove.

But all of that is mostly standard; the real decision lies with the big blind. Imagine you have 10-7 suited in the BB and you know the SB is shoving his 10 big blinds on you with any two cards. If you decide to call, you will win about 51 percent of the time against his 100 percent shoving range. So if you make this call over a million games, it’s profitable, but is it the right call?

A few things to take into consideration before answering that question are the skill levels of all of the players at the table, not just the player shoving into you. If you’re playing against the seven greatest players in the world then by all means just go with it because chances are you won’t find a much better spot. But if you’re playing against the seven worst players in the world, then I would suggest you let this hand go because you’ll find yourself in better spots to pick up chips. Generally speaking, the higher the stakes, the more likely I am to make this call.

In short, there’s no reason to take every edge that shows up because every edge is not created equally. Remember in SNGs the goal is to maximize your OVERALL equity, not the equity for every hand you play.

— Jay Houston is a young poker pro with DeepStacks University and is a sit-n-go specialist. You can email him at jay@deepstacks.com