How To Play (And Beat) A 90-Man Knockout

When I played the 90-mans on Full Tilt Poker they were SUPER juicy.

These games were so soft. It didn’t matter if you played the $3.30s or played the $48s – with the right strategy and a bit of luck, you could take these down for massive profits.

I’m talking 30-50% ROIs.

But despite how easy these games are, some players still manage to screw them up. Somehow they lose money.

So I thought I’d share a couple of tips for how to beat these games. Follow these tips and I’m sure you’ll agree with me – playing 90-man knockouts are like shooting fish in a barrel.

First Thing: Stop Being A Fish

The first step to playing and beating a 90-man knockout is to stop being a fish.

What do I mean by that?

Simple – you need to stop chasing knockouts.

The thing is, chasing knockouts is ‘fun.’ It’s the selling point – the reason why many people play them.

The problem is that you often risk your tournament life (or a huge amount of tournament equity) for a small bounty.

You know what’s cooler? Collecting just shy of $600 for taking down a $24 KO SNG. I’ll take that any day of the week over a handful of $2 bounties.

And the thing is – by the time you’ve finished a tournament you’ve picked up a half dozen or dozen bounties anyway. You can make $10 or $20 without really trying. Most players don’t realize this.

The bottom line is that your goal should be to win. The saying, take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves – DOES NOT APPLY. Instead, focus on winning these tournaments and along the way you’ll collect more than your fair share of bounties.

Basic Approach: Stay Tight Early On, Explode Later

If you read my 18-man guide to building stacks you’ll see that I have a strategy of staying tight early and exploding later on.

I take the same approach to any SNG I play.

The whole idea is to manipulate everyone’s opinion of your table image.

By staying tight early on you give everyone the impression that you’re a nit. That way you can explode when the pots get bigger so that you can steal the blinds and build your stack with less effort.

There are exceptions.

I still play my pocket pairs. I’m willing to stack off with AK and even AQ against weaker, looser players. And I still play pocket pairs – these are great for set mining with 3k starting stacks.

But in general the strategy you want to take is to stay tight – at least until antes kick in.

Time To Explode: Build A Stack With Antes

You want to open up when antes kick in – usually around the 100/200 or 120/240 mark.

At this point you want to start getting aggressive because the pots will now be 500-600+ chips and you’ll have 2-3,000 in your stack on average.

If you’re short you’ll want to start shoving. Don’t wait for a miracle hand. In fact, these are so much like regular tournaments (than SNGs) that I start shoving at 15 big blinds (instead of waiting for 10). I see no reason to wait.

During this time you also want to start reshoving on players. In doing so you can pick up pots equivalent to 15-25% of your stack. This is a fast way to build your stack and prepare for the money/final table bubble.

Other than that you just need a lot of patience. I recommend paying attention to your opponents too – it’ll help in the next stage.

The Money / Final Table Bubble

This is where I get uber-aggressive.

If I have a deep stack I’m punishing the other players. If someone opens I shove my stack down their throat.

This is standard for any good SNG player. And think about why – who wants to play for 1-1.5 hours, get to this point with a workable stack, only to bust?

No one does – that’s why abusing them is so effective.

You do want to be aware of who might be willing to call you light. Try to avoid them if you can. Also give the table a breather every few hands. Someone WILL call you out of spite otherwise.

If you follow this strategy you can often hit the final table with 50,000-100,000 chips – nearly 1/3 or more of the chips in play.

That’s the ideal situation. If you can collect 1/3 the chips in play before you hit the final table, you’re all but guaranteed the win. You have to get unlucky NOT to win.

But you won’t always get to this point with a large stack. Sometimes you’ll be short.

But my strategy doesn’t change too much – I’m still crazy aggressive with a short stack.

The reason is simple. I don’t want to barely make the final table and walk away with a min-cash. If I remember right the min-cash is just a bit more than double or triple the buy-in. It’s nothing compared to taking a top-3 payout.

And besides, when you start freaking out and shoving all in with a short stack people start to back off. Just remember this – when you do decide to go all in, target stacks that would nearly bust if they lost to you. These are the guys you’ll have the most fold equity against.

That’s about it. From here, depending on how things go, you should be on the final table.

I’m not going to cover what to do here. Just follow ICM, your gut and stats (if you use them). There’s just too much to cove from stack sizes, stack distribution, blinds and so on.

But if you follow my tips and stay tight early on so you can explode during the late stages, you’ll find that you make more than your fair share of final tables. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to come up with your own final table strategy.