I am not a heads-up Sit-and-Go player. I’ve played them before, but they aren’t really my cup of tea (read: I’m awful at them), so I generally stay away.  I read something about them recently, however, that I thought was interesting.  In four-player heads-up Sit-and-Go’s (these consist of semi-finals and finals matches – think NCAA basketball Final Four), players might find themselves competing against teams.  “Teams in poker?” you might ask, “Tell me more.”
It’s a pretty simple concept, even though I had never really thought about it before.  Two or three players band together and buy-in to the same four-man heads-up Sit-and-Go.  Now, assuming everyone is equally skilled, each team member now has double or triple the chance of cashing (the prize pool is winner take all), as all team members split winnings equally.
The question that follows from this is, “Isn’t this cheating?  Poker is an individual game, not a team game.”
Well, not really.  But I must say, it does seem a little sketchy, doesn’t it?  The reason it is not cheating is because it takes place in a heads-up contest.  Because you are only playing against one other player, there is no way to collude with your teammates.  No hand signals, no chip dumping, no soft playing because there is nobody at the table to do any of that with.  Of course, there is a chance that teammates might go up against each other in the first round, but so be it.  There’s no way to cheat against each other.  It will look weird when the two just shove all-in every hand, but it really isn’t cheating.
What playing as a team does is reduce variance.  A team member’s winnings won’t be as great per tournament as they would be with the same winning percentage as an individual, but at the same time, each player will probably cash more often, as they have more horses in the race.  Smaller wins plus more frequent wins equals a smoother, prettier profit chart.
Like I said earlier, though, it doesn’t feel right.  In the tournaments where the teammates don’t face each other in the first round, they can gather information on their opponents.  Should one teammate lose his initial match and the other win (or when the other wins, if it’s a team of three), the losing teammate can provide a scouting report on the opponent.  The opponent would have no such information on the team member.  He would be going in cold, battling someone who has crib notes.
Plus, if two or three players have banded together, do we really think that they aren’t coaching each other in real time?  It would take some strong self-discipline to watch your teammate play in the second round and not try to help him out.  If two teammates end up squaring off in the first round, they could just try to let the stronger player move on to the finals.  I suppose the only problem with this, though, is that if one player knows he’s better than his teammate(s), he could decide to “go solo” and reap all the rewards of his play for himself.
I really think, when it comes down to it, if people were told they were about to compete against a team, most people would seek out a different contest.  It doesn’t mean that anyone is cheating.  It just means that it smells a little “off.”
For those interested in trying four-man heads-up tournaments, it looks like PokerStars is the place to be, as the site runs them around the clock.  After combing through the poker room lobbies, it does not appear that either Party Poker, Full Tilt Poker, or the Cereus Network has them.  Regular heads-up matches are there, of course, but not the four-man variety.  I, personally, would not want to play against a team and I would probably never join one, but if you do figure out you are playing against a team, don’t worry about it.  You are not being cheated, even if it does make you a little queasy.

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