180 Man SNG Strategy Guide – Middle Stages

Welcome to part 2 of our 180 man series. In our previous article about SNG Strategy for the 180 we discussed how important it was to develop a unique strategy in these specific tournaments. With such a top heavy pay out structure it’s crucial that you go for the gold and never let up.

To re-cap the early stages, we are going to be playing a very aggressive, but selective style of play. You should only be playing certain hands that have big pay off potential. With our biggest of hands, jamming all-in pre-flop is one of the more unique moves that will help build your stack. It’s basically an all or nothing style of play that will be rewarded highly.

The Middle Stages

This article will focus around the middle stages of the 180 mans. There will be 2 specific scenarios that you will find yourself in most of the time. You will either have a big stack or a small stack. If you’re playing the style we advocate, you should have gathered a pile of chips by playing big hands aggressive, or you will have a smallish stack due to being selective and not getting the types of hands you should be playing.

For this article, were going to focus on the short stack as it will involve a very specific skillset and type of play.

The Threshold

There is a point that you never want to get to when playing these games and should be the focus of your play when you have a short stack. The point to never be at is under 10 big blinds. I prefer to not let my stack get under 13 blinds especially when the antes kick in.

You will see many players let their stack dwindle down and try to hold on to that min cash for dear life. Playing this style will guarantee failure. The main reason for not letting yourself get under 13 blinds is due to the fact that you will have little to no fold equity.

Fold equity simply means that the amount of chips your opponents will have to call will likely not make them fold most hands. The middle stages will rely heavily on stealing pots pre-flop and picking up a lot of little pots uncontested. Without a stack that will strike fear in your opponents, this strategy will not work.

How to stay out of the threshold

The first step to keeping out of the danger zone is to recognize when you are inching towards this point. Always keep a close eye on your stack and the blinds. It only takes simple math to understand when you are getting close to the 13 to 10 blind threshold. If you have 1,500 chips and the big blind is $150, you will have exactly 10 blinds left.

Once you reach this point or get close, you need to shift your strategy and mind set to looking for a spot to go all in. Your hand range selection should get much wider and much of your decision will rely on the situation instead of the cards.

The button steal

The obvious spot to go all in at this point is when it’s folded to you on the button. Often times its best to go all in with any 2 cards. You will get a fold almost always and this is the perfect spot to take a stand try to pick up a few chips. Even if you get called when you have 72 off suit, you will be no worse than a 2-1 underdog against a random hand.


There will be some cases when shoving form the button would be a mistake. If you have a big stack in the blind who is calling with a wide range, you should be a little selective with what hands you choose to go with. You shouldn’t be shoving any 2, but your range should still be wider than normal.

Another exception is when the player in the blind has a very small stack. They will likely call with any 2 cards and you will theoretically have no fold equity no matter how many chip0s you have.

You could make an argument that a player with few chips will call with such a wide range, that your range could very well be good most of the time, but you should still limit the number of hands your willing to go with in this spot.

Hand ranges

Most players who are inexperienced playing the short stack will continue to use the same hands to play as if they were playing a normal stack relative to the blinds. You should be making your range almost limitless and not worry about what you are holding. If you are worried about having a bad hand, you should understand that any 2 cards up against a random holding from your opponent are no worse than a 2-1 underdog.

You should also understand that the other players can’t see your cards and only see an all-in. This alone has a powerful effect and will make someone think twice before calling. At the limits you will be playing, the people there will not be thinking about what you could have. They will only see a raise and interpret that as a sign of strength. There will be some good players who can understand what you are doing, but well get to that in a second.

The hands I like to go with are of course your premiums that you would normally, but my range will be much wider than this.

  • Suited big cards- Kx suited, Ax suited, Qx suited etc….
  • Suited connectors
  • Connectors- 45-89-78-9 Ten etc….

This is a nice range to start with and should be one that you can use form any position for the most part.

The Under the gun shove

There will be times that you won’t find a good spot to go all in with due to not getting any hands, players raising before you and so on. At this point, you should make your mind up that you will go with any 2 cards when you are under the gun.

If you hit the blinds the next hand by folding, you will decrease your tack even more and have even less fold equity, making your chances of winning almost impossible.

Before we continue, I want to mention that calling an all-in with the ranges I mentioned is usually a big mistake. By just calling, you are only giving yourself one way to win, that’s by winning at showdown. By going all in and being the aggressor, you are giving yourself 2 ways. One by getting them to fold and one by making a hand. Obviously 2 ways to win is better than 1.

Back to the under the gun shove.

If you reach this point, you should be going with any 2 cards and go all in. This move has decent success because in the eyes of your opponents, you are showing great strength by raising from under the gun. Generally, an under the gun raise is perceived as a big hand.

Calling an all in

I know I just said that you shouldn’t be calling an all-in, but there will be times that you have a very small stack due to losing a big hand or some other mishap. At this point, calling an all-in will be your best option. Since you have no fold equity, you should let someone else use their fold equity to help you out.

If a player raises in front of you and you have any type of reasonable hand when you have a very short stack, its best to call and hope that their raise limits the amount of players to call.


Most of what has been discussed here is a general strategy that works well from my experience of playing over a thousand of these 180 mans. However, poker is a game of situations and we should always be adjusting to the table and other factors at hand. You should never get stuck in a robotic mode and do exactly as you are told or listen to what you read and follow it to a T.