Double or nothing

Double or nothing

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Dear Dr Tom,

I'm thinking of trying out the “double or nothing” STT format on PokerStars. It seems that the correct strategy is to basically fold 99% of your hands and try to make the money, i.e. half the table. Also I assume my bankroll requirements can be loosened as they're quite low variance.

Giles, Brighton

Dear Giles,

Effectively you are sitting down at the tail end of a super-satellite with seriously crappy prizes. Five off the bubble and deep stacked (in tournament terms), you should play whichever way you think will get you the most chips.

All you are chasing here is EV. If you get a 55% shot to double up, take it. The stack you win will be only slightly better than average at the bubble when the interesting stuff starts, so you’ll need it and you might as well take this opportunity to grab it. Sure, you might be 60% in a minute but there is zero opportunity cost to going for the double up right now – you sit down at another table immediately if you bust.

Proving how brilliant you are by swelling your ROI with careful small-ball poker is not the point of any kind of SNG – it's a low variance money processing machine and you care about hourly rate not return per game. If you play basic EV poker, you will, without noticing what you are doing, exploit payers who have shifted away from sound poker just because the double or nothing format makes them think they should creep slowly forward to the finishing line.

Later, and particularly on the bubble, remember it’s TAG, TAG, TAG. Make your adjustments around this one core fact: on the bubble of a flat payout structure, the upside of winning a load of chips is massively curtailed. Playing a hand to win a lot of chips (e.g. by checking in order to keep the field large rather than raising) is really daft if there’s an alternative play which will win fewer chips but with much less chance of you ending up all in. Hence you fold aces if you are second chip leader and the chip leader moves all in.

As for variance – yes, you’re right – those nice chaps at PokerStars have created the ultimate in low variance poker for you. Ten to 15 buy-ins will provide as long as you drop down if you hit a losing run.


Tags: Tom Sambrook, Strategy, double or nothing