ICM and Maintaining Fold Equity

Maintaining fold equity is critical in Sit 'n Gos. It should be one of the most important factors you consider when making decisions in the endgame of an SNG.

If you're using an ICM tool to analyze your endgame play, it is important to know that the tool doesn't always properly take account of this factor. That means you sometimes have to make decisions that go against the advice the tool gives you.

The following hand is a perfect example of that.


In this $15 6-max hyper turbo I'm Under The Gun with 67o:

The blinds are 60/120 and I have 492 chips left, i.e. around 4 Big Blinds. At first sight, this looks like a clear fold.

I'm shoving into the big stack in the Big Blind. If the Button and Small Blind both fold, he is getting around 2:1 odds on a call if I shove (he would have to call 372 for a pot of 720). Those are decent odds. My 7-high doesn't seem strong enough to shove into three players here.

Let's not click the fold button just yet, however. The Small Blind and the Big Blind are actually playing very tight and have been folding a lot to shoves. Especially the Big Blind is playing very conservatively even though he is the big stack at the table.

Let's look at this hand in SitNGo Wizard and see what it tells us. After adjusting our opponents' calling ranges to what seems reasonable based on my reads, we get the following scenario.

SitNGo Wizard says it's a fold. BUT, there's one factor that the software doesn't take into account and that is that we're hitting the Big Blind the very next hand.

Maintaining Fold Equity

If we fold here, we have to go through the blinds. There's a considerable chance that our opponents are going to shove the next two hands, so unless we're lucky enough to pick up a strong hand we're often going to have to fold our blinds.

That puts us in a tough spot. If we have to fold the next two hands, that will cost 180 for the blinds and 24 in antes for a total of 204 chips. We have 492 chips left (note that the above image of SnG Wiz also shows the antes we posted). So if we go through the blinds, we will have 492 - 204 = 288 chips left. 

If we have 288 chips left we can shove into the big stack in the Big Blind again, but this time he only has to call 168 for a pot of 516, getting around 3:1 odds. With these odds he's never going to fold. So if we go through the blinds we have lost all our fold equity. We're effectively blinded out.

That puts things in an entirely different perspective. In this spot, we still have some fold equity if we shove. However, if we decide to fold and go through the blinds, there's a high chance that we're going to blind out and lose all our fold equity.

Losing your fold equity in an SNG is something you always have to avoid. If you can't make your opponents fold anymore, it's out of your hands and you're on your way to blind out.

Taking all of this in consideration, this doesn't seem such a clear fold after all:

  • The Small Blind and Big Blind are playing very tight to shoves, so we still have a decent amount of fold equity here.
  • If we fold, we have to go through the blinds. There's a significant chance that we're going to have to fold our blinds in which case we will lose all our fold equity with a stack of only 288 chips, i.e. a little over 2 Big Blinds.
  • Even though we only have 7-high, 76o is actually a decent hand to shove here. It's connected so it has some straight potential. Also, our opponents' calling ranges largely consist of high cards, meaning our hand will often be live and not dominated.

I decided to shove here and make use of the little fold equity that I still had. Everyone folded and I picked up a much needed pot, growing my stack from 492 to 720 chips. This gave me some more room to play and eventually I got second place in this SNG, whereas if I had folded I most likely would have blinded out.

Maintaining fold equity is critical in Sit 'n Gos. If you lose the ability to make your opponents fold, you're on your way to get blinded out.

If you have to go through the blinds the next hands, always consider what that will do for your fold equity. It's better to shove a weak hand while you still have some fold equity, than to lose all your fold equity and be forced to gamble.

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