THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2007-02-25, by OzoneOnline poker rooms have become increasingly creative with their sit-'n'-go (SNG) tournament offerings. A sit-'n'-go tournament is bound by no start time. Quite simply, the tournament begins when a certain number of players have registered. Not more than a couple of years ago, the only popular type of SNG available were full single-table (nine or ten player) games that paid the top three finishers. Today, there are so many different SNG options you could get a headache trying to sift through them.
One of the most popular types of online SNGs are heads-up (one-on-one) tournaments. This type of tournament originated online. Most brick-and-mortar casinos cannot afford to spread tables with just two players. However, thanks to the popularity of online heads-up tournaments, live tournament organizers are adding these events to their tournament schedules anyways. This year, for the first time ever, the World Series of Poker will hold a heads-up bracelet event.
In addition to heads-up tournaments, online poker rooms are now offering shorthanded SNGs where three to six entrants battle for a top-heavy payout. Some multi-table SNGs are popular enough to fill up their fifty seats anytime of the day. Here is a look at four popular online poker rooms with some commentary on what makes their SNGs unique.
SNGs Offered: Single-Table (4, 5, 6, and 10 Player) $1-$200, Multi-Table (Two Tables) $2-$10, Heads-Up $1-$200, Jackpot SNGs $2-$50
Titan's player base is fairly large, which results in fast-filling SNGs. While ten-player tournaments are offered on this site, they are overshadowed by the more popular six-player tournaments. Small-stakes players at Titan Poker flock to the "Turbo" SNGs where the blinds increase every four minutes. That type of a structure increases the role of luck in the outcome. Strong players will find that their edge is reduced significantly at Titan, simply because most of the popular SNGs are played with "turbo" structure.
Titan's SNGs are unique thanks to their "Jackpot" tournaments. For a higher entry fee, players can enter these tournaments that reward huge prizes for consecutive victories. For example, anyone who wins the $50+$9 six-player tournament six times in a row scores a jackpot of $50,000. It should be noted that it is virtually impossible to win six of these in a row. Anyone paying an additional $4 entry fee thinking they might win six in a row is bleeding money unnecessarily.
When these jackpot SNGs were first launched, the entry fees were a little lower and the jackpots were bigger. Even with those conditions, they were still a negative expectation bet for most players. Since realizing they can get away with it, it might be likely that Titan decided to tax the players even further by raising the entry fees and lowering the jackpots. To illustrate how big of a change Titan Poker made, the $50+$9 tournaments that feed into a $50,000 jackpot used to be $50+$7 tournaments with a $100,000 jackpot. Regardless, the Jackpot SNGs are still extremely popular.
SNGs Offered: Single-Table (6 and 10 Player) $3-$530, Multi-Table (2, 3, and 5 Tables) $6-$55, Steps (One Table and Two Table) $6-$2,150, Speed Tournaments (10 Player) $3-$530, Heads-Up $6-$55
Years ago, the only SNGs Party Poker offered were of the ten-player single-table variety. They didn't really need to offer anything else. Those tournaments were so popular that often it would take less than five seconds for all ten seats to be taken up when a new tournament launched. Gradually those tournaments have become less and less popular, so Party Poker has diversified their offerings to keep SNG players at their site.
One of the trademarks of Party Poker's SNG section is their "Steps" tournaments. The objective of "Steps" is to give players of all bankroll level a chance to play in a high buy-in SNG. There are five steps to climb, but only the top step awards significant cash prizes. The prize in the bottom four steps is just an advancement to the next step. While the concept behind "Steps" is creative, players ultimately wind up paying too much in entry fees if they attempt to climb from the bottom step. Today at Party Poker, it is not surprising to see only a small handful of "Steps" tournaments in action. This wasn't the case when they first launched these tournaments.
As long as Party Poker is still one of the largest online cardrooms, their SNGs should be among the best. SNG tournaments are more appealing when they fill up fast. Party Poker's large network of players facilitates short wait times before the cards are in the air.
SNGs Offered: Single-Table (Six and Ten Players) $0.05-$530, Multi-Table None, Heads-Up $0.50-$105
Everest Poker is a good choice for players who want to build an online poker bankroll from a small deposit. They offer SNGs as affordable as $0.04+$0.01. It might be wise to avoid paying such a high percentage in entry fee and skip to the $0.10+$0.01 or $0.25+$0.02 SNGs. Needless to say, these tournaments are incredibly soft. This makes Everest Poker an attractive site for new players to hone their SNG skills with minimal monetary risk.
The SNGs at Everest Poker are fairly popular up to the $20+$2 buy-in. Beyond that, expect some waiting for the higher buy-in tournaments to fill. This site loses points lacking creativity in their SNG offerings. In relation to most other major poker rooms, Everest Poker's SNGs are quite boring. There are no multi-table SNGs and no high-stakes heads-up sit-'n'-go's. Players looking for SNGs will find this site to be of little value unless they are playing tournaments of $20+$2 or less.
SNGs Offered: Single-Table (3, 5, 6, and 10 Players) $0.60-$785, Multi Table (2, 3, and 5 Tables) $0.70-$33, Heads-Up $0.60-$420
Pacific Poker is the perfect example of how the SNG world has shifted away from ten-player single-table tournaments. Today, the ten-player tournaments at 888 Poker are outnumbered as much as 10:1 by the shorthanded and heads-up games. In general, this site has always been noted for having very easy competition. The shorthanded SNGs at Pacific Poker are great value for strong players. This is mostly because shorthanded games require more decisions. The average player at Pacific Poker is probably under-prepared to be a strong force in shorthanded tournaments.
Unique to this site, "Triple Up" SNGs feature three players with a winner-take-all prize pool. A strong player could probably expect to win these tournaments half of the time they play. 888 Poker charges a reduced entry fee for the "Triple Up" tournaments, making them even better value.
Pacific's SNGs lose a few points on the structure rating for keeping a tight squeeze on the amount of time players are allowed to make decisions. Also, the starting stacks and blind levels are slightly worse than many other sites. Still, the weak competition and interesting tournament offerings make this an attractive site for sit-'n'-go players.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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