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Nichlas Kruse Jensen

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180man strategy by krusemis
As the topic may have already given away, this article will be about 180man SNGs and the best and
most efficient way to maintain a steady win rate playing those. Since I became a professional poker
player/coach/backer my preferred format has always been 180man Turbo SNGs on Pokerstars with
a mixture of MTT play as well. Since the majority of the time I have put into studying this game has
been circling around this particular format, I thought I would share some of my recent findings with
you guys in the hopes that you will benefit from them just like I have. This article will examine:
what it takes to win consistently, how ante sizes should make us deviate from our standard
push/fold and call/fold ranges, ICM vs CEV and opponent exploitation.

What it takes to win consistently
Before we get into crme de la crme we must, once and for all, establish what it takes to beat a
180man SNG. For any format of poker it actually isnt enough to be better than the average player.
The reason for this is because of the rake. A break even player is only considered break even if
he/she is better than the average opponent by exactly the rake (infinitely speaking). What I mean by
this is that in a 15 dollar 180man SNG, $13.77 is distributed to the prize pool while the remaining
$1.23 is taken by Pokerstars as rake. I hear a lot of people saying the rake is not a very significant
consideration and I will have to respectfully disagree. In a format like a 15 dollar 180man with a
decent amount of competent regulars and a structure that is 75 BBs to start and a 5 minute blind
level increase we really shouldnt strive to play a push/fold game exclusively. With all the different
softwares, stables, coaches, and professional training sites out there it has become exceptionally
difficult to maintain a steady win rate for these games by playing an old school push/fold strategy.
However, this doesnt necessarily mean that we should just give up. If youre facing a long term
downswing and you keep blaming variance, I encourage you to read and listen carefully now. For a
long time I have tried to find a legitimate MTT/SNG variance calculator with a very limited amount
of success. Ive finally managed to find one that I trust and use myself. The site is
www.pokerdope.com and is, as far as Im concerned, a very useful tool for figuring out your actual
EV over a larger sample + the standard deviation of your EV. It mathematically calculates your
probability of win/loss after a given time period (game sample). In order for you guys to get a better
understanding of this, allow me to demonstrate with some screenshots captured from the pokerdope
website:
Nichlas Kruse Jensen
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The image right above us is illustrating the different parameters we will need to provide on the
website in order for the calculator to accurately figure out our actual EV, variance etc. As we can
see we need to type in the format (players + payout structure), Buy in, Fee and EV ROI (our
estimated ROI) and base it off of a sample. The sample number I have chosen for this is 5000, and I
asked Pokerdope to run this simulation 100 times. I chose 5000 games because I think it is a sample
that most somewhat casual grinders over the course of a year will be able to play. Some people
might average a little higher or a little lower, but unless youre playing professionally or semi-
professionally it is quite rare for people to exceed this number by a substantial margin.


As we can see here, the probability of loss over the course of a year is quite high (23%). With this
in mind I think we can all agree that playing a high variance game such as 180s with an ROI of
only 5% pre rake back infinitely speaking is just a waste of time. What we should strive to do
instead is figure out a way to improve our game and increase our ROI to the point where our worst
annual profit/loss margin remains in the black:
Nichlas Kruse Jensen
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This is 20 random samples of the 100 sample simulation I already initiated. As we can see it is
actually possible to be stuck over 5000 dollars after 5000 games of playing. I have failed to come
across and talk to a fellow 180man grinder who thought 5000 dollars wasnt a substantial
downswing. And this is exactly why we should do something about our approach to the game to
ensure our annual results wont ever look like that. Assuming significant improvement on our game
has been initiated and our EV ROI is now 20% as opposed to the previous 5%, our 20 random
samples would look like this:


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Not a single of our 5000 game attempts ended up with a negative result. This is, of course, because
our edge has lifted from 5% above rake to 20% above rake. Beneath us we see the statistical data
with an edge of 20% as opposed to the previous 5%. We see great improvement here as well:



Not only did our probability of loss shift from 23% to 0%. We also gained another 12,000 dollars to
our annual Expected Value (EV). Now all we have to do is figure out how we improve our game to
the point where it is 20% ROI. There are certainly a bunch of incentives/adjustments that will allow
us to improve our game so that downswings will not be as dreaded and painful as if our edge was
marginal at best.
In the upcoming section(s) of this article I will try to go over some of the things that I find great
profitability in doing while grinding 180man SNGs and MTTs on Pokerstars. Some of the things
will have great impact on your EV (Applying ICM correctly and exploiting opponents tendencies)
while others are of slightly more subtle significance to your overall win rate. I do however think
that in poker, where edges in general are marginal, we should do everything we can to push those
edges and stay ahead of the curve. By doing this we will also associate poker with something cool
in the sense that downswings wont be as massive because our skill is simply great enough that long
term downswings will be breakeven stretches as opposed to 5.000 dollar holes.

Nichlas Kruse Jensen
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Ante sizes being dynamic
As I am sure most of you already know, 180man SNGs are largely about push/fold and call/fold
poker once we reach middle/late stage. This is a part of 180s that most regulars grasp very well.
What this means is that it is very difficult to exploit people if they have very close to optimal
calling- and shoving ranges themselves. Luckily there is a minor edge that we can push on these
stack sizes that is appropriate for push/folding. This edge involves the sizes of the antes of
different blind levels. When you determine whether or not a shove is +Chip EV you are actually
not looking exclusively at the blinds and the fact that there are antes in play. What you should be
looking at is how much you are risking versus how much you are picking up. I will now illustrate,
using Icmizer, how this will vary from blind level to blind level:



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This is a Blind on Blind situation 9handed of a 180man SNG. For Chip EV it is pretty obvious that
the different ante sizes have impacted somewhat greatly on our optimal shoving vs folding
tendencies. I assigned the BB calling to be 48% (Nash Equilibrium range vs our Nash Equilibrium)
and the optimal range went from 64% to 81%. Note also that the profitability of any hand that was
already in the T300 shoving range went up substantially in value.
To put this into a mathematical perspective I will try and figure out just exactly how much of our
stack we pick up when people fold. To keep things simple we will be using the same example for
every single blind level. The example will be us seated in the CO with 10BBs (full ring):

T400
4000 chips with 1050 chips in the middle. 1050 divided by 4000 = 26.25%

T300 and T600 (same ante sizes relative to the blinds)
3000 chips with 675 chips in the middle. 675 divided by 3000 = 22.50%
6000 chips with 1350 chips in the middle. 1350 divided by 6000 = 22.50%

T250 T800 and T1000 (similar ante sizes relative to the blinds)
2500 chips with 600 chips in the middle. 600 divided by 2500 = 24.00%
8000 chips with 1875 chips in the middle. 1875 divided by 8000 = 23.44%
10,000 chips with 2400 chips in the middle. 2400 divided by 10,000 = 24.00%

Since ICM starts to become a very important factor for the later stages, I have decided to omit ante
size implications for blind levels exceeding the ones we have already gone over. Instead I think we
should think about what weve learned so far in this section. Ante sizes arent going up with the
same static rate blind levels are. This means that we need to deviate from our ranges accordingly.
When theres more money to pick up in the middle we would want to exploit that by shoving and
calling off with wider ranges (slightly) just because were being offered a better price than we
would at another blind level. This goes the other way around as well, of course. When we are at a
blind level with smaller antes (in relation to the blinds) we would be forced to respect that by
having slightly tighter calling- and shoving ranges. By applying this knowledge you will gain a
somewhat significant long term edge over the other regulars that will not adapt correctly.

Nichlas Kruse Jensen
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When to apply ICM for 180man SNGs
Saying ICM is only a concern during Final table play for 180s is a common fallacy. ICM is a
concern as soon as real money is involved. Given the payout structure is distributing a percentage of
the prize pool to the final 27 people it would make sense to think ICM starts with 28 left which is
also wrong. Personally I start to think in terms of ICM when we reach the final 4 tables (36 left).
Prior to this stage I take the approach of chip EV to the point where ICM is more or less completely
ignored. I will now illustrate how much money you can potentially burn by playing sub optimally
and completely disregarding ICM around the min cash bubble and FT bubble:

This is a 180man SNG right on the min cash bubble. The HJ on 10x (exactly the same stack as us)
decides to shove all in. I gave him a relatively wide and realistic range of 27% in order to ensure we
keep things as real as possible. As the image suggests we can profitably call with A2s A5o 22 K9s
QTs QJo KTo and better. The problem with calling this range is that were completely ignoring the
fact that we can fold our way into the money and not having to risk losing approximately 1 BI by
calling off with a wide range. This should greatly impact our decision-making to the point where we
cannot call with this range anymore at all. If we would run the exact same scenario with the only
difference being ICM EV as opposed to Chip EV (what most people falsely use for this situation)
we would get a very different (and much more optimal) result.


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Beneath us I will illustrate the difference between a Chip EV calling range and an ICM EV calling
range for this exact spot. Weve already examined the Chip EV considerations so the next thing we
need to do is to figure out what the ICM considerations have to say about this:



As already stated, the Chip EV calling range is 23% which is certainly way too wide considering we
are on the bubble. The optimal calling range for our EV (our money gain) is actually substantially
tighter. Our calling range is supposed to be 77 A9s ATo give or take. By deviating from this and
ignoring ICM at this point of the tournament will be very hurtful for your overall equity. We simply
cannot allow ourselves to make a call that, on average, will make us lose over 2 dollars. Poker
doesnt work that way. There is a distinct difference between ICM and Chip EV, and I hope this
example has illustrated this so that you guys will apply it to your own game as well (and maximize
your profitability by doing so). To emphasize the importance of ICM for pre FT play I will use
another example, this time on the exact FT bubble:
Nichlas Kruse Jensen
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Even though we already made the money there is actually still a very important pay jump to be
considered. The way to look at a FT bubble like this is to assume the FT is already 10handed. We
are 10 people left and from now on every single time someone busts we will move up the pay scale.
This, of course, will result in some heavy ICM considerations. The jump from 9
th
- 10
th
is almost
1BI. This means the ICM involved is as important as when we were dealing with ICM min cashing.


Nichlas Kruse Jensen
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Identifying and exploiting opponents using a HUD
All the money being made in poker is coming from opponents making mistakes we dont make
ourselves. Poker is a game of EV and should be treated as such. The way to maximize our
profitability is by understanding what goes through our opponents minds at all times. By knowing
this we can effectively adapt our strategy and adjust our plays in every single situation so that we
always ensure our line has the most amount of EV associated with it.

Exploiting a nit / money scared random
A lot of the players youll be facing in todays 180man SNGs arent playing an optimal game
strategy (GTO) and there are several reasons for that. The main thing I find is that people play too
many tables at once in order to fit in their desired volume (Supernova status for example). This
means that they have to play more tables than most of them can handle which essentially will cut
down on their EV. The way to exploit this is by respecting their EP opens (since they will always
have a value oriented range) and applying a lot of pressure on them while they are in the blinds.
Tight multi tabling regulars will not 3bet light nor will they defend appropriately from the blinds
when you raise into them. The same goes for scared money random players (arguably to an even
greater extent). When a player is playing too tight we combat/exploit that by widening our own
ranges and steal their money. If a player is playing too aggressively/spewing we combat that by
waiting for a hand of significant strength and exploit their loose tendencies by trapping them. With
all this in mind we just need to establish:
What exactly is considered a good exploiting opportunity for 180s?
Without going into too much detail I would say that having as much information on your opponents
as possible is very essential. When youre faced with a situation where you arent sure what to do,
you should right click your opponent(s) to check how many tables theyre playing. Using an
appropriate color coding system is also important in terms of identifying what regulars and randoms
you can profit from. While playing several tables yourself this could be slightly tricky, so I strongly
encourage you to develop a HUD that is as simple as possible to understand, with only the most
important information showing (VPIP/PFR/Steal/FoldvsSteal/3BetvsSteal).
I do understand however that this simplified HUD isnt necessarily very applicable for slower
structured MTTs or for any deep stacked poker game like a cash game for example. That being
said, I find that it is a great way to make life easier on yourself and make you make the appropriate
decision a lot faster (giving you more time to focus elsewhere).