Running Over the Table - Beating SNG

Some of the most fun I’ve had playing in sng tournaments is when I managed to build a commanding lead, and then leveraged that lead to outright run over the table. No one could –or would- do a damn thing about it. Even if they knew what I was doing.

It’s not just about the fun, though. I found that while you can win with a big stack, you leave too much to chance when you sit on your hands and wait. You can lose your stack to the blinds, the other players can double up or bust, changing the overall dynamic of the table. A win isn’t guaranteed when you rest on your laurels.

But by learning how to run the table over you can make it so that your win is all but guaranteed.

Want to learn how? I’ll show you.

2 Ways to All But Guarantee a SNG Win

Keep in mind that the following assumes you have a solid stack. Ideally you have everyone covered, or are a play or two away from having the largest stack.

Now, there are two different ‘strategies’ that will help you secure the win.

1. Abuse the Bubble – The premise behind this strategy is to keep the other players from playing hands and winning pots. Every time someone opens, you shove over them. Every time you open you shove all in.

Why all in?

Because you maximize fold equity this way. You force the players into an all or nothing situation, whereas if you just opened raised, 3-bet or called, you’d give them a chance to see and catch a piece of the flop.

We don’t want to do that. We want simple, black and white decisions on the bubble. As much as possible, at least.

When we shove all in players have to resort to ICM. They look around the table and have to decide if they want to bust, if they have an edge against the other players and if there is a chance that they can wait it out (for other players to bust first).

2. Keep the Bubble Alive – This isn’t always an option, but the second half to abusing the bubble (when the opportunity is there) is to keep the bubble alive. You do this by avoiding the small stacks and abusing the big stacks. It doesn’t matter what you have.

For example, say you have pocket aces. The smallest stack shoves into you. Snap call, right?


You want to pass on a spot like this because if you fold, you keep the short stack in the game which extends the bubble. As long as there is a bubble the other (medium to large stacked) guys have to fold.

The idea behind keeping the bubble alive is to keep a short stack around so that you can leverage them against the other stacks at the table. Your ultimate goal is to abuse the other players so much that by the time the bubble does finally burst, every only has a few big blinds left and they’re all scrambling to cash. All the while you’ll take a top finish.

Making These Strategies Work

In order for these strategies to work you’ll need to pay attention to a couple of different variables.

  • Table dynamic. Are their regulars? Do you have a history with any of the players?
  • Player image. Who is your opponent? Are they tight, loose, passive, aggressive? Are they regulars, total fish, winning players or losers?
  • Chip counts. You want to know who the short, medium and deep stacks are.
  • Overall position. The most important variable is the combination of players and chip counts, and their relation to your position. For example, nothing but short stacks to your left isn’t good. Medium stacks are better. The best dynamic is a short stack to your left, followed by medium stacks. That means you can abuse them while in the blinds, because the short stack will likely fold, allowing you to use them as leverage.

If these things aren’t aligned you won’t be able to run over the table.

For example, if your table is full of fish that don’t have an understanding of ICM or don’t care about the bubble, they’ll call you with hands like K9s or AK. If you know these players will call with hands like these on the bubble, it’s not their mistake when you shove and they call – it’s yours.

You should be aware of regs, too, because they’ll call you light knowing that you’re abusing the bubble. Against good players this may be the only edge they can find, and they’ll take it.

Keeping this mind, it won’t always make sense to abuse or extend the bubble. Sometimes it will make more sense to bust the short stack to end the bubble, because you can’t find a way to run the table over. In doing so you find that you actually risk your tournament life. So in cases like these, it makes sense to cash ASAP so that you don’t bubble instead.

My point is that while abusing the table is a solid strategy, and one that will give you more wins than you care to count, not paying attention to these variables will be counter productive. So pay attention to your opponents, and when the opportunity arises, run them over as many times as you can. It’s a heck of a lot of fun.