How to Build a Stack in 18-Man SNGs

The key to consistently winning an 18-man SNG is building a stack.

Having a larger stack helps you to avoid coin flips later on.

You also create more leverage. You can push other stacks around, abuse the bubble and withstand droughts of bad cards that can sometimes mean the difference between busting or cashing, let alone winning the tournament.

So the question is – how the heck do you build a stack?

I’m going to explain how I do it. The best way is to split an 18-man up in different phases.

The Best Way To Build During The Lower Levels

You should pass on the lower levels altogether… almost.

The thing is the pots aren’t big enough to justify getting crazy for. Think about it like this… the pots during the 10/20 level are 30 chips. With a 1500 stack each pot makes up 2 percent of your stack.

That’s not worth putting your stack at risk.

This also affects your table image (for the worse) which will later affect your ability to build a stack. We want to stay tight early on so that we can exploit our tight image later on.

Note: If you take anything away from this article make sure it’s that last point.

The ONLY WAY to build your stack in an 18 man during the lower levels is with big hands – make and play them fast.

  • Pocket Pairs – Raise these up and bet the flop, turn and river. The exception is if there is 1-2 over cards and your opponent has raised or re-raised.
  • AK / AQ / KQ / Etc – Same as above. Raise them and play them hard if you hit the flop.
  • Baby Pairs – Limp or get in cheap preflop. When you hit your set on the flop you want to bet, bet, bet.

I oversimplified all this. But the point is that your range should be small – and that when you do hit your hand you don’t mess around. Build your stack early on so that each of the following stages will be that much easier to play.

The Final Table Bubble

I don’t start getting active until the final table bubble. This is when there are 10-13 players left and is usually during the 50/100 to 100/200 stage.

Where most players fail here is their mindset – they’re still stuck in ‘full table mode.’ There are only 5-6 players, but they’re playing hands as if they were still playing with 9 – too tight.

So what you can do here is just raise up more hands. Every time you’re in the hi-jack, cutoff and button you should consider raising it up.

The benefit to this approach is that if you have some tight players to your left you can pick up lots of pots at 300 chips each.

And if there are antes you’ll be picking up 525+ chip pots. This is huge when stack sizes are between 2,000 and 4,000 chips. It won’t take but a couple of pots before you have a 4-6k stack – more than enough to work with on the final table.

It’s also important to note that you’re taking advantage of your image at this stage. You were quiet earlier on so that you can ‘explode’ now. So the first few hands you get away with your opponents will just figure you picked up some hands.

Once this stage is done you’ll move to the final table where 9 of you will be left. Unless you pick up any hands you’ll want to quiet down again and ‘reset’ your image.

Pre-Money Bubble

This is a made up term by me. This is the point between getting to the final table and getting to the bubble. There should be 6 of you left.

It’s time to take advantage of your quiet image again.

Here I like to try to steal the blinds and reshove on deeper players.

You’re probably going to want to be more selective at these stages since –usually—stacks aren’t even distributed. So you’ll want to pick your spots carefully to avoid having to go all in or risk your stack unnecessarily.

That’s all there is to it. Assuming things go well you’ll find yourself on the bubble with at least an average, workable stack. But if things go great, you picked up pots effortlessly and won your races, you’ll have a massive stack you can use to push everyone around with.

One thing you’ll notice though – very little of building your stack was built around using a particular tactic or trick. It’s all about leveraging your image – how your opponents see you.

Just remember this – stay tight early on, then explode, stay tight again, then explode around the money bubble.

Follow this basic strategy and I guarantee you’ll find that building stacks in 18-mans that much easier.