Wading Through The "Sitout" Jungle
Last night saw the first BLUFFED Freeroll Tournament get underway at
Titan Poker. The event was unexpectedly full at 200 players, which created an interesting situation where there were a lot of
players sitting out at the start of the tournament. This can sometimes happen in freeroll
tournaments, where players sign up knowing that if they don't end up playing, it doesn't
cost them anything. So how do "sitouts" change your tournament strategy?
Taking advantage of "sitouts" is an important aspect of freeroll tournament play as it occurs
quite regularly. Last night many tables started with more than half of the table sitting out,
which meant that you had to adapt your play in the early stages of the tournament. A good way
to think about "sitouts" is that each table is effectively allocated seed money in
the form of the chips of the players sitting out. You need to make sure that you grab more
than your fair share of these free chips!
Having the "sitouts" seated to your left is to your advantage. This will enable you to see
what the "live" players do before it's your turn to act. If the live players fold to you,
and you only have "sitouts" behind you, then you should raise with any two cards, because you
know that the "sitouts" will fold and you can steal their blinds unchallenged. However
sometimes the "sitouts" won't be on your left, and sometimes there will be live players to
act after you, so you need to use your judgement of when to steal.
In the first few levels, stealing the blinds is not so crucial as they are only small. Just
pick your spots very wisely and try to stay out of trouble by playing a tight-aggressive game.
With half of the table or more sitting out, it generally isn't wise to clash too fiercely with
the other live players, unless you have a very strong holding. There is no real need to bluff
or play live players with marginal hands, as there is so much dead money sitting on the table
for you to build your stack. The risk of being eliminated by a live player is generally not
worth clashing with them. This doesn't mean you should be timid - aggression is your friend -
just choose your spots wisely when playing against live opponents while there is plenty of dead money
When the blinds reach 30/60, there are 90 chips out there to steal pre-flop. This is starting
to become a substantial amount. When the "sitouts" are in the blinds, you should try and make
a move to steal this dead money as often as you can in the hope of taking down the pot uncontested.
Remember the other live players probably don't want to clash with you either, so they will often
let the first raiser take the blinds uncontested. If you have position you should make this play
with any two cards. If the other live players call or re-raise you then re-evaluate your situation.
You will get away with the steal often enough for the play to be profitable, even if occasionally
you are called. As the blinds move up to 40/80, 50/100, 75/150 and higher, the need to steal the
blinds of the "sitouts" becomes even more critical. The more you can steal the blinds at these
higher levels, the better you will be placed once the dead money is gone.
So when there are lots of "sitouts", strong players will aim to slowly accumulate a healthy stack
by targeting the blinds of the "sitouts" and stealing at opportunistic moments, while avoiding
unnecessarily risky clashes with marginal holdings against live players. By the time the "sitouts"
are dropping away, strong players will be in good position to return to their normal game once
the table is full of live players. There will of course be other players who took chances early
on against other live players and will have amassed a big stack by this point of the tournament,
but the strong players will have reached the same point with very low risk and are now in good
shape to use their skill to reach the final table!