In the brief time I've been reading this site, I have seen a lot of people refer to "Optimal SNG Strategy", and post after post with comments like "How can he call that? According to ICM that is a clear fold!" and so forth.
I'd just like to share my opinion on this subject.
In low limit SNGs, the "Optimal Strategy" is to understand the game, understand the math, and understand the other PLAYERS and their motivations. This last point should really be the first point. Understanding your opposition is key to success, more so than attempting to construct and refine some cookie cutter blanket approach to SNGs. So in that sense, there really is no "Optimal Strategy" other than evaluating your opposition and adjusting to circumstances.
Yes, it is important to know the math. This will help to guide you in your quest to learn the nuances of the game in regards to what is profitable in the long run and what is not. But you should not base your entire strategy on this math and, more importantly, you should not expect your OPPONENTS to base their strategy on it, either.
People play poker for a lot of different reasons. Some people like to gamble, some like to blow off steam, some like to compete in the game they saw on TV. Then again, some play competetively and seek to improve and move up the ranks.
So when you sit down at your table, your first goal should be to identify who is in it and for what reasons. Seek to understand what motivates a person, rather than concentrating on what M level you have and if you should jam with T3o because "ICM says it is profitable." The fact of the matter is that truly recreational players go by their gut, they don't study, they don't seek to improve through discussion or analysis. And they will call your all in with A5o even though it was "clearly a fold based on ICM calculations".
What's the point of all this? I guess I'm just saying that while it's important and beneficial to understand the vagarities of SNG play (since the payout structure is unique to them and truly impacts profitability when stack sizes have a large skew between the upper and lower boundaries), it is FAR more important to understand what motivates your opponent before you put a play on them. That part is the only optimal strategy that I am aware of.
I agree with some of your points but with your T3o example I think you are missing the point.
A recreational player is not going to make this call with A5o every time. When he does fold, the amount of chips you are picking up is well worth the amount of times he: DOES call and DOES win the hand. He is only beating your T3 with his A5 65% of the time. This is why it is mathematically a correct play, regardless of the tendencies of the player, or how he views the game of poker.
I definitly agree with you that there are cases where ICM is overrated and pure instict and gut should be paid attention to.
oh snap - you are bringing back the gidders methodology. Long live gidders!
I agree with most of what you say. It sure is hard to completely understand a player and their motivations when they are completely anonymous to you except for actions they take on the table. I think this is why people want to create and follow winning methodologies online... because of the lack of information on player motivations. Regardless of this, I do agree with you that player reads should usually trump ICM calculations.
Actually I do understand the point; I have a very comprehensive understanding of ICM.
The point that I was making was that you can't expect everyone else to understand it, know of it, or care about it. Some people will call 100% of the time with that hand, and many others. They'll call with 22 because "I have a pair, you can't fold a pair when you are short" and so on.
You should know who those players are when deciding to push with a trash hand in an effort to bully the table. I just think people take it too far and ignore their opponents tendancies. Old adages, such as "you can't bluff a calling station" get ignored as people get so wrapped up in trying to execute a specific plan, and then they wonder why it failed.
That's all I'm trying to point out.
Here's the thing about ICM, it ALWAYS works, because the principles are always in play. Whether or not you understand it, for those that do, ICM will ALWAYS lead them to the correct decision based on the variables assigned to the scenario. In order for you to use ICM effectively, you must be able to accurately assign hand ranges to opponents. If you incorrectly assign an opponenet's calling/shoving hand range, then you will not get an accurate optimal line from ICM. ICM is only as good as your ability to put your opponents on ranges.
'And they will call your all in with A5o even though it was "clearly a fold based on ICM calculations". In this case you would have to assign your opponent a wider calling range, which will in turn narrow your pushing range, it all works together.
I am not a sng guru, nor do I profess to be one. I simply understand that the principles at work in ICM calculations do so regardless of my understanding or application. The key is to use your knowledge of your opponents style and tendancies to drive your application of the math. I hope this helps.
That's more or less the point I was trying to get at.
People misapply the math by superimposing the "correct " calling and folding ranges onto their opponents, rather than evaluating the real calling and folding ranges for their opponents and adjusting the range that they should push with.
Rather than approach it from the perspective of "he can only call with AA or KK here if I jam", one should approach it from the perspective of "well, this guy will probably call all in with any two paint, any pair, and any Ace, so what should I be pushing with to optimize my return?"
The math IS always in play, but the onus is on the player with the math skills to determine how to apply it correctly.
Steve, player reads are an intrinsic part of ICM calculations, that is the whole point we are trying to make.
your not saying anything that good SNG players don't already understand.
That's not who this is directed towards, obviously.