By Flickr user imagesbyferg
The type of close call you should always pass on, as there is just too much to lose. Poker is never like this, however (unless you're a complete bankroll maniac, in which case please get help). Playing within a comfortable bankroll, you should take a lot of showdowns where you think you're gonna win a few chips on average. If your reasoning is based on solid foundations - and PPP will make sure it is! - then you should let it ride!
It's common for people with some seven big blinds to fold AK, QQ or even AA in this sort of position, which would normally be preposterous. Of course, with Queens you have the expectation to win chips if you open-shove 7 BB, so why would you open-fold them? In such a satellite bubble, the answer is almost always this: you think someone else is going to bust first, maybe this very hand, and you are not the chip leader, so by folding you make sure you are not all-in this hand, and you may win your ticket by just waiting around. Since you are not going to keep playing down to a single winner, there is no more need for chip accumulation. If there is one player all-in in the big blind, then automatically the goal of every other player is to knock him out, simply because it would be the quickest, safest way for everybody (but him) to get what they want.
Normal, single-table sit-and-gos have that too, but to a smaller degree. If three are paid and there are four left and one guy is supershort, then the other two non-chip leaders often want to refrain from risky moves before they see if he doubles up or busts - thus guaranteeing the other players a cash.
But look! There is a major different between this SNG and the satellite, and that difference is that there will be an actual winner, meaning you should still take the occasional very profitable chance if it's not entirely obvious the shortest guy is gonna bust out in fourth. I mean, if he has a half big blind left and he's the big blind next hand, that is a clear situation where he has no choice but to be all-in in what is looking like a pretty terrible spot, but things are not so clear if you have 8 BB and he has 6 BB.
Many aggressive players (and even some passive ones, in a complete 180) will go absolutely crazy here. You should not. I mean, they have the chip lead with 4 left and one guy shorter than the other two, and they start shoving 100% of their hands. My friend, you should be aware that this is just almost never good. You either don't have such a big lead, and getting called by someone with your embarrassing 94o would cripple you terribly, or you do have a big lead, you're completely comfortable, you are gonna cash almost surely, and there is no need to spew chips like a retard! Even if the two medium stacks are cowards, remember that at least the shortest one is probably looking for a good spot to triple up, and you are handing it to him, just like that, and maybe turning a hopeless situation into a game where everyone has chances.
With Perfect Preflop Play you will be very well equipped to deal with the idiot push-every-hand chip leader. After five straight pushes you can easily put him on the "psycho" range (and that's if you wanna be cautious, because he may have the all-hands range), and by taking one second to type in your hand, you will be surprised at how many good calls you can make with stuff like 98s and K2s.
But there is one money bubble where chip values are not distorted, and that's the last one, when you're heads-up. Let's take the actual numbers from a 9-player, $15 knockout SNG on Pokerstars. Second place gets $30.45 and first gets $50.77, but since the winner will necessarily be knocking out the runner-up and not be knocked out himself, he also wins two bounties for his win, so we're gonna count first place as $56.41, so this is a $25.96 bubble between second and first.
A Perfect Preflop Play spreadsheet for heads-up. Usually in a tournament you're going to be playing with antes, so you'd want the rightmost column for the most accurate results. But, since the numbers are very close (as there are only two antes in play, so there isn't that much money added to the starting pot), you can use the other one if you want to make sure you're not being too optimistic. Note that heads-up mode shows all results in one screen, as there is effectively only one position to consider. But if you're multitabling and don't want to shift between normal and heads-up modes all the time, you can simply stick to normal mode and use the no-antes SB column there, which will give you the same results as the no-antes heads-up column. You cannot use the with-antes SB column for heads-up play, however, as that one assumes 8 antes, which would terribly distort the results for a heads-up game. And, of course, disregard all of this if you're so quick at math that you can translate pot odds into a number of big blinds in a second. In that case you only ever need the gold column, from which the red ones are calculated.
There is no more waiting around, of course, because there isn't a third player to knock out the other guy for you. We can, in fact, interpret the $30.45 as a thing of the past. You are both fighting just for that $25.96. This is now the same as a fixed-buy-in heads-up cash game that only ends when one player loses their buy-in. 13,500 chips is worth exactly (no relativity) $25.96; 0 chips is worth $0.
So before you two post for this hand you both have 6,750 chips, and since there is no distortion your expectation (disregarding skill disparity) is $12.98. The blinds are 300 / 600 with a 50 ante and you're the big blind. Your opponent is definitely capable of stealing, and he's been very active, and there is just no better spot to steal than heads-up with short stacks, so you're not gonna give him much respect for his raises - unless he starts folding the button several times. You pick up QJs and he goes all-in. From the description you should put your opponent on the "loose" or "psycho" range (you should seldom assume the all-hands range unless a player is ultrashort or in maniac mode; remember you are never being cautious if you assume 100% of hands - you're either right or you're optimistic).
Well, against the "loose" range PPP will tell you that you need 1.11 to 1 or greater to call, and that you can call up to around 20 big blinds. There are no more players that can bust if you fold, so this is just a plain positive-expectation call, so you call. Needing 1.11 to 1 means you are gonna win one time in 2.11, or 47.43% of the time. So your equity in this 13,500 pot is 6,403 chips, which, of course, is better than retaining your 6,100 by folding.
Since each chip has a fixed dollar value, it's obvious that 6,100 chips are worth $11.73 and that 6,403 chips are worth $12.09. So 36 cents is what you gain by calling here against the "loose" range. Doesn't sound like much, but this is meant as an example of a close call. Short-stack heads-up play can be very brutal in that every pot conceded increases your disadvantage by a lot, so you must be ready to take a stand against aggressive players soon, or not at all.