Posted 12 March 2006 - 07:36 AM
I've noticed more and more people playing these and posting questions about them. Since they are my primary livelihood, I figured I would post the strat system that I use, and hopefully help some people out as well as get feedback on where other people's strategies diverge from mine. This is probably going to be a very long post, but if you play the 180s regularly you might find it useful and I would certainly appreciate feedback. If not, you'd probably find it tedious and boring, so go ahead and skip :)General assumptions:1) Playing for the top 3 positions, as that is where all the money is.2) Have the bankroll to play lots of these without making a big cash.3) 90%+ of the people you're playing against have large flaws in their games.The first hour:The first hour I play with a very tight starting hand selection. I will play AA/KK/QQ/AK extremely hard. My rule is to never fold these preflop in a 180. I will raise or if there's already a raise before me, I will jam preflop with any of these hands. You will get called so often by much worse hands (AQ/AJ, 77) that it is a very profitable play, particularly with AK. Assuming I see a flop, I play the premium pairs as if they were the nuts - if someone outflopped me and actually does have 2 pair or a set, so be it, I will go jump into the next SNG. Naturally there are limitations to this (I'm not saying jam QQ against a bet and a call on a Ace-high board), but the general principle holds. With the structure the way it is and the players as bad as they are, you simply have to have faith that your premium hands will hold and double you up.During the 10/20 and 15/30 levels I tend to like to raise to (5 + number of limpers)*bb. During the 25/50 level I tend to switch to (4 + number o limpers)*bb. Beyond that I switch to 3bb raises, adjusted for the number of limpers ahead of me. If I make a raise with AQ/AJ and hit the A, I'm pretty much treating it like I had AK, as I willl very often get action from A2-9. With pps I like to try to see cheap flops and hit a set, as the chances of being paid off if the other person hit anything whatsoever are very high. By the end of the first hour there are usually between 70-80 people remaining, with an average stack somewhere just short of 3.5k. If I have doubled up to 3k, I'm generally quite happy as I should be able to work with that at the 75/150 and 100/200 levels. Ideally I like to have 4k-5k (higher is of course great but not very feasible on a regular basis). The Second Hour:The second hour is the hour where I feel like my advantage over the competition is the greatest. It is the reason that I'm willing to push my premium hands so hard during the first hour - I know that if I can get that one double up, I'll be in great shape to make a run and go deep by exploiting the poor play during the second hour. The reason that I feel like I have such an advantage is simply that people haven't read their HoH. Very few people seem to have an understanding of M, or know which hands to play against which sized stacks, or when and whom to bluff.One key aspect to remember is that the blinds actually increase very slowly in the second hour. You have levels of 75/150, 100/200, 25/100/200, and 25/200/400. Your 3 or 4k will last you quite a while at those blinds, so you really do actually have time to wait for a good hand. Also, do not worry about developing a tight table image and not getting action. The chances that people are paying attention to anything but their own two cards are tiny. Depending on my stack size and villain's stack size, I'm willing to call moderate raises with pocket pairs and suited connectors hoping to break someone if they have enough chips behind them to make it worthwhile. When smaller stacks are involved, naturally preflop rank is my primary criterion for whether to play a hand. One thing that's increidbly important to note is that people bluff A LOT during this hour. I often find it better to just call until the river, letting the other guy do the betting for me since he will so often gladly oblige where he wouldn't normally be calling. By the time that you get to the end of the second hour, there could be anywhere from 35-20 people left in the tournament, and you're going to want a stack of at least 8k to feel comfortable, but I prefer to aim high and get 10k+ so that I have room to manouever with 2 and 3 tables left. Tendencies to exploit in the second hour:1) People constantly check-raise all in with nothing but a flush draw. Naturally not all people do this, but it is a very very common tactic in these 180s.2) People will call bets that are far too large with a draw, whether straight or flush. Feel free to toss in pot sized bets in order to make them way over-pay for their draw.3) People with Ms less than 10 are playing a far too wide variety of hands. Feel free to call their preflop raises not so much for the implied odds but because their short stacked desperation leads them to make horrible desperate plays on the flop which you can easily exploit if you catch any piece of it. Beyond the Second Hour:The blinds start to increase very fast, quickly becoming an important factor for all but the biggest stacks. Having a big stack during this point where the people with stacks of 5-10k are becoming desperate is tremendously +EV since you can be completely willing to take coinflips for only a portion of your stack. There really isn't much of a bubble effect in most of these, since the bubble is relatively meaningless. There are occasional exceptions, but few and far between.Once I get to the final two tables, my goal is to accumulate a minimum of 25k chips to head into the FT with. Obviously more is better. But the FT usually starts with blinds somewhere like 600/1200, and there are usually 2-3 people with short stacks of 10k or sok, a few people in the 20-35 range, and usually one or 2 big stacks in the 50k range. With a stack of 25k going in, you have enough chips that you're not forced to make a move early, and yet enough that you're a threat to everyone and can gamble on a coinflip or marginal situation against a shortie without eliminating yourself. I generally start out playing the final table very tight. The reason for this is simple - we've just been playing for a while at two short-handed tables. Many people were correctly playing a much wider range of hands 5 or 6-handed then they should at a full table. However, the quick change back to a full table and the excitement of being at the FT usually catches them off guard, and some people are liable to not switch gears back down into a more selective preflop strategy. After one or two orbits, most likely one or two people will be out, and this is where I like to go into steal mode, raising preflop an average of 2x per orbit if the situation allows. Again, with these raises I'm really not playing my cards - just the sizes of the stacks around me and their tendencies. I will not call reraises or all-ins with marginal hands like low pps or AJ-A2 (AQ depends on the person). I will call with AK every time, and QQ-AA every time. If I do find myself short-stacked at the final table, I find myself stop-and-going like a madman. I've found it to be an incredibly effective strategy for rebuilding my stack if I get down to the 10kish range. That doesn't mean I become reckless or start targetting the wrong stacks - 10k is still very respectable and you are one double up away from being in serious contention again.By the time it gets down to 4 people, I hope to have some solid reads against my opponents. I'll still be aggressive preflop, but I'll probably mix up how often I'm raising every couple of orbits so as not too become too predictable. Most importantly, I'm going to play the opposite style that my opponents are. If they're weak-tight, I'll be raising lots preflop and bluffing frequently. If they're crazy aggressive (and there usually is at least one) I'll try to set a trap out of a blind and cripple their stack in one key hand. Against some players you're going to need a very big hand, against others tptk is a candidate for going all in. Play the people, not the cards. One major tendency people have is to overplay their small pairs preflop. Usually a tell-tell sign of this is the overly large preflop raise or reraise. There are times like that when you're just going to have to put faith in your read and call off your stack with a hand like 99 or TT. The most important thing when shorthanded is to simply be aware of other people's patterns and the patterns that you are exhibiting. Have you raised 5 times in a row on the button? Well, if you get a monster on the button, go ahead and raise again and hope that you'll get played back at by someone tired of your bullying. Another play I'm a big fan of is just completing the sb and then folding to aggression. If I can develop a pattern of that in villain's mind, it then becomes easy for me to set a trap when I actually have a good holding in that position. I just try to be as aware as possible of the patterns that are forming and how aware I think that my opponents are of what is going on. I won't really comment on heads-up, as that is the area of play where I am weakest. If I come in even in chips and have respect for my opponent, I'll often make a deal to chop. If I come in ahead or my opponent doesn't really strike fear in my heart, I'll play it out and try to get the 1.08k first place payday.