Double or nothing poker strategy

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy, Poker Tournament

Submitted by Steve, this article belongs to The Poker Strategy series.

In this article, Steve takes us through the basics of double or nothing SNGs and in particular double or nothing poker strategy.

Double or nothing poker introduction:

Before we get into the details of double or nothing poker strategy, let’s clarify one thing: Double or Nothings are SNGs in which half the players go home empty handed while the other half double up their buy-ins. Why do people play these SNGs? They’re excellent for bankroll building, on account of the increased odds they carry for each individual player. Technically speaking, a Double or Nothing is not that hot a proposition. However, for those with very flimsy bankrolls, these SNGs represent a good way to get their rolls out of the danger zone.

Why am I saying that Double or Nothings are not that great odds-wise? It’s simple mathematics really. If we leave the skill-factor aside, you have a 50% chance of making the money (it’s basically a coin-flip of a chance). If you apply good double or nothing poker strategy and make the money, you do not double up your buy-in. There’s the apparently insignificant matter of the tournament fee, which comes right out of your potential profits, and which kind of ruins the deal for you. Of course, in Double or Nothings your profits are supposed to come from those less skilled than yourself, those willing to give up their buy-ins on senseless calls. One of the advantages you have is that there are many people grinding away at these SNGs and many of them multi-table too. These guys won’t be able to pay as much attention to any one table as they should, so you may squeeze some additional value out of their presence at your table. You can also sign up for a rakeback or a poker prop deal to diminish the effects of the tournament fees.

Double or nothing poker strategy: the early stages:

Double or Nothings are SNGs, so you should use standard SNG strategy as your starting point. The early stages are about tightness and about some aggression. Be extremely demanding of your starting hands, and only commit on rock solid monsters. Keep your eye on your position and aim to preserve your stack. As your tournament life-blood and your only weapon at the Double or Nothing table, your stack will eventually decide whether or not you make it to the money. During the early stages, you’ll be folding a lot, and that gives you a great opportunity to study your opponents. Make your reads, put them on ranges and allow them to knock each other out.

Double or nothing poker strategy: the middle stages:

During the middle stages, you will have to loosen up. Stealing blinds is always important in a SNG and it’s no different in this case either. Keeping your opponents under pressure and stealing their blinds will allow you to maintain a stack size that will not put you in danger of extinction. When stealing blinds, position is the key factor. Don’t steal blinds from early position, or you’ll be the one to end up with the stolen goods. Try not to commit on rags from late position either. I know that blinds stealing is about making moves on less than stellar starting hands, but try to have at least a little bit of equity on your stealing hands, just in case.

Before reading the following section about double or nothing poker strategy, a short introduction to the “farmer” and “fox” terms is in place. As Steve explains, the “fox” is the kind of player who’s focused on winning the tourney, not on sailing into the money and then fading away. Because of that, in a regular tournament, he can take advantage of the bubble tightness of other players.
The “farmer” is a guy who aims for the money. This guy says his utmost goal sis to make it to the money. Once there, he’ll try to go as deep as he can, but because of his pre-bubble stance, he won’t be in a good position to do so.

Double or nothing poker strategy: the late stages:

Because once you make it to the money, the tournament is effectively over, adopting a “farmer” stance instead of a “fox” one during the late stages of the event may be the right way to go. In a regular SNG, I’d always recommend to go “fox” instead of ‘farmer” but in Double or Nothings, the farming poker strategy pays. 99% of players left in contention on the bubble will adopt the same approach though, which means that the tie-breaker here will be schooling. There’s no shame in ganging up on the weakling, and you’ll be required to do just that in order to burst that money bubble. It is obviously imperative that when you reach this stage, you’re not the weakling the other will gang up on.

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