Lethal Weapon HU SNG
This article is devoted to the lethal weapon of modern HU SNG – limping.
I can already hear your laugher, but please bear with me for a little while, as I am speaking dead earnestly!
The back story: when I reached the $200 HU SNG limit, I met several guys who had an over-extreme ROI for this level. This alone made me look at them more attentively. After I had been trampled down, steamrollered and humiliated, I engaged in some game analysis. I found not a mainstream way of playing, but a different one entirely. It was than I started paying attention to the peculiarities.
Modern HU SNG is a very aggressive game. The theory holds that you should raise most hands when in position, and that limping is -EV. An aggressive opponent will slow you down at once by making a x3/x4 raise, and you will not be able to continue if you have a marginal hand. Somewhere in VODs they recommend that you tread on limpers and wean them from playing weak hands, and so many aggressive opponents practice this. Most regular players raise 80 percent of hands in position, or play dead on the hand's strength (limp on middle hand, fold on a weak one, raise on a strong one). Everything seems reasonable and logical, but … what do these guys do?
They play starting hands in a totally different way. The fold absolute rags, but raise middle hands like J6 or 79, creating pressure on the opponent. Strong hands are limped at an early stage (AT, KJ, QT, AQ, pocket pairs), and they are mixed with a small amount of middle hands such as 34s or K2o, but the main emphasis is made on strong hands. This looks like nothing special, but it is just by this method that a fantastic +EV against strong opponents is achieved. At first I underestimated this style, but then I appreciated the amount of chips that such non-standard moves bring.
If two regular players meet each other, usually the first two HU SNG levels appear to give a dreary view: opponents ping-pong 100 to 150 chips in, unwilling to take risks. It's difficult to win more at the early stages – you need a trap, a hidden hand like a set or a cooler. The trap is a strong hand limped at an early stage, as you do not need to take advantage of folding equity. The blinds are too small to be of any interest, and we want to win a larger pot. This means that you should play intricately. You should just call to an aggressor who tries to make a large raise out of position with a broad range of hands already on pre-flop, and we will stay with a bloated pot and a good hand in position. By the way, you will look like a fish – x4 raise limp-call ... but your opponent who does not have a pre-history will not put a good hand and will contbet into us on almost any flop. In many cases, not even getting to the flop we call and take the pot, betting on the turn once our opponent gives up. In any case, he cannot adequately estimate the range of our hands, as he is in a bloated pot and out of position, so all this becomes a large -EV he has gotten himself into.
Less aggressive opponents who understand that it is not worth playing out of position would fold to a raise of a hand like Q6o or J4o on pre-flop. Checking is worthless and they are in the pot with a marginal hand. We value-bet them with top pair and they pay us all three streets with lower kicker hands. Also, we play “tricky” pocket pairs, not trying to raise/3-bet them, but strictly looking to hit a set. We do not need to win little – we need to develop the pressure on our opponent, and we want to create a situation where it is possible to win a large pot at an early stage.
At later stages, if opponents hold the advantage over us, they start playing strong hands aggressively, increasing the pressure on short-stake opponents and taking away at least the blinds that are already substantial in relation to the players' stakes. If they do not manage to take the advantage, and the raise-bot stage starts, they continue limping strong hands for the same reason. We do not want to get a weak +EV pushing strong hands. We do not need 55/45 or 50/50 coin-flips, we want a trap – and having trapped our opponent we play a hand with a lower kicker out of position and take a considerable part of the stake or the whole stake at once. Alternatively, we bring A-low and K-low type hands that we are not ready to play, on raising, and get them on A-x-high, K-x-high.
So, limping strong hands is a serious weapon in a meta-game full of aggressive players. Use these tricks, and you'll be lucky.