Double or Nothing Poker Strategy

Double or Nothing Tournaments, also known as DON's, are a specific form of SNG poker tournaments. Instead of featuring payouts for the top places with the winner taking down close to half the total prize pool, these award a fixed payout to half the number of total entrants. If you would play a DON with 10 entrants, you would receive double the buy in amount if you were to reach final 5. So how are these tournaments so special and different from a normal SNG tournament? Well, for starters, the payout structure is different and instead of trying to win as many chips as possible, your goal is to reach the top 5. You won't get a larger payout regardless of whether you are 1st in chips or 5th, thus adjustments in strategy are required in order to be a profitable DON player.

Strategy in early stages

Early stages in Double Or Nothing Tournaments could be classified as those from the start of tournament until the stage where the only two options are pushing all in or folding. When the blinds are small, you should be playing very tight and only your strongest holdings. Blinds are still small compared to your stack size, so there isn't much of a need to steal them. Instead, concentrate on watching your opponents and adding notes on their play. This can hugely benefit you in the late stages, which are the most important.

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Push/Fold Stage

Most of the action starts when blinds are 75/150 and higher. This is where the average stack will be of between 10 and 15 big blinds, thus pre-flop decisions are relatively easy either go all in or fold. There are a couple of things you should know:
  • If you're the big stack, avoid playing pots with other large stacks. It's likely that you can make the money without playing huge pots at all. There's no reason to get into a coin flip for your tournament life.
  • If you have a small amount of chips, don't sit and wait for a big hand. Unless there are several players with tiny stacks and you are close to getting into the money, you'll have to be aggressive and add chips to your stack. Otherwise you'll end up with a single big blind and all the players at the table will obviously try to bust you.
  • Push light, but call tight. This is a golden rule for SNG's in general. You can go all in with a wide range of hands as there's a great chance your opponents will fold the so called fold equity. However, when you're in a spot of whether to call or fold there is no fold equity and you will always be at risk. Exactly because of this, you have to call with a very tight range of hands.

Working as a team

This title might seem like one where I'm trying to advise that you should be cheating. Absolutely not, but playing DON's are a lot like working in a team with other players. Usually when there's a player with a small stack at the table and he is going all in, all the players with reasonable stack size should be calling, as regardless of which player wins (except the short stack) everyone will get into the money.

MassTabling DON's

Due to the robotic gameplay in these tournaments, they are popular among grinders who play a lot of tables and earn money from bonuses, rake races and various promotions. I must add that some of them pay 5 and even 6 figures in rake every month and receive a return more than a half of that back. If you are just starting out, don't instantly jump into playing tens of tables. Try out 2 to start with, if you feel comfortable, add more.
Also make sure that you select the tables well. Due to the nature of this game, it might be hard to find ones with bad players. There's also a significant room for collusion, which is one of the reasons why many players are now avoiding playing them.