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Last Thursday, Tripjax posted a link to a post I made a little while back entitled SAGE: The Sit and Go Endgame System. It's good to know a few people have finally read a post that I feel can be very advantageous to any tournament or sit-and-go player.

Joxum had a couple questions regarding the SAGE system:

  1. How do you identify a SAGE player?
  2. How do you take his money?

Identifying a SAGE player can be a little difficult. Most players tend to fall into one of two categories when the blinds get high in a heads-up situation: Ultra-LAG or Loose-Passive.

Ultra-LAG players will raise almost every hand and try to take control of the game. They want to control the pace and dictate how and when all the chips are going into the middle of the table.

The Loose-Passive players will attempt to see many flops cheaply and hope to hit top-pair (or a middle pair with an Ace or King kicker). These players don't like to play to large pre-flop raises and would rather see the flop before making any decisions.

Of these two player types, SAGE players are very similar to Ultra-LAGs. This becomes even more true as the blinds climb quite high and the blind-to-stack ratios get smaller and smaller. How do you tell if the crazy player before you is the wise SAGE player or the maniac?

My advice is to look at their play leading up to the heads-up portion of the SNG or MTT.

  • If your opponent seemed reserved and calculating before getting heads-up, I'd definitely lean towards a SAGE player.
  • If your opponent's only move is to push all-in pre-flop or fold (or check in the BB, I guess), I'd also think that he/she is using SAGE.
  • If you opponent shows down hands that fall within the SAGE range for pushing and calling all-in, then you've got your answer.

This brings us to the next question: how do you take SAGE players' money? As I mentioned in my SAGE post, the SAGE system is unexploitable. I could tell my opponent that I'll be using the SAGE system and there's not a single thing that my opponent could do to improve his chances of winning. In order to beat a SAGE player, you'll need to do a few things:

  1. If you find yourself heads-up against SAGE, take advantage of the time when the blinds are low. SAGE works well when the blind-to-stack ratio is 7 or less. If both you and the SAGE player have stacks of t7500 with the blinds at 100/200, do your best to get your opponent to overcommit to a pot when the blinds are small. If he starts pushing all-in too early, punish him by waiting for a premium hand. And if your opponent SAGE seems unable to handle the intricacies of big-stack heads-up play, do your best to whittle him down with some small-ball poker.

  2. If you're able to successfully complete the step above, your stack should be larger than the SAGE player's stack once the blind-to-stack ratio hits 7. At this point, your opponent may need to double up two or three times to even things up. Use this fact to your advantage by playing aggressively and gambling with your chips. The best way to take advantage of this situation is to use SAGE yourself.

  3. If you find yourself trailing heads-up and your stack has only 7 or fewer big blinds left, then you must resort to using SAGE. Although you don't gain any advantage by using SAGE against another SAGE player, you also won't suffer from any disadvantages. The time to gamble is now: embrace the variance, cross your fingers, and push those chips in every chance you get!

I'd like to make one final note before closing things up. The SAGE system is a way for weaker players to cancel the edge that better heads-up players might have over them. SAGE works best against tight or passive players who are unwilling to risk their tournament or SNG lives on the results of one hand. It's very hard to call of your tournament life with a T3s when your opponent has just jammed pre-flop. SAGE places your opponents in these types of situations constantly, forcing them to fold hand after hand until it's too late and you've won.

However - if you are the better player and you find yourself heads-up, you may do better by playing your normal "A" game rather than resorting to SAGE. Skilled heads-up players are few and far between so you should push your edge any chance you get. SAGE will effectively take all skill out of the game meaning that you should be selective as to the situations and opponents against whom you use it. But please remember that SAGE damned near-perfect and you'd better be pretty damned good at heads-up poker if you decide to play to the beat of your own drum.

Joxum - I hope this post helps answer your questions.

And if any of you would like to try your hand against SAGE (Jordan, for example), e-mail me and we can arrange some low-stakes ($5 or less) heads-up games on PokerStars or Full Tilt. Judging from my newest son's screaming this past weekend, I expect that I'll be unable to play poker for at least another month or so. But we'll see what we can work out...

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