Play SNG tourneys to work on your poker game


Editor’s note: This is one in a series.

A poker student of mine recently downloaded my columns from the past year and wrote me a nice note of appreciation. He asked me a few questions regarding tournament play and he said he started a weekly poker think tank, something I advised in my last column.

Practice is your best friend when it comes to tournament play and finding an online venue to play single-table tournaments is a great way to get ready for live tournament action. But first, a few caveats:

Tournaments at local cardrooms have 15-, 20- or 30-minute rounds with blind structures that seem designed to end tournaments quickly so the house can get back to spreading cash games.

If you’re playing online and are multitabling but are frustrated by your lack of scores at live events, this might be a leak, even if you’re showing a profit.

Playing SNGs and focusing on early, middle, late, bubble and first-place, second-place and third-place statistics will reap rewards. To do this properly, we must play one game at a time and shut down the multitabling.

This may hurt your hourly win rate in the short run. However, the leaks you’re sure to plug will more than make up for any deviation from your daily grind.

The obvious place to begin this series is by examining our early play (the first three blind levels 10-20, 15-30, and 25-50). Note that starting stacks are 1,500 and we’re playing at a normal speed. We are not playing turbos. A first-place finish will take about 45 minutes and might even go for an hour.

In the early stage, I advocate a “catch flops” style (loose). We will chip up to 1,900 or more. This is more than a 20 percent increase in chips. Remember, if we are hoping to hit some home runs on the live circuit ($100K paydays):

• We must overcome our fear of flops.
• We must learn to chip up.
• We cannot rely on patience.
• We must avoid all-in confrontations, hence the term chipping-up.
• We must improve our ability to change gears. This is based on our stack size.

So now we are getting somewhere. That “a-ha” moment is kicking in. The first three rounds in the SNG represent, depending on the tournament structure and how many players have entered, the first six hours of play in your live event.

Wow, 21 minutes online and this simulates six hours of live play.

— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima Community College. Email him at