Sit 'n Go Strategy: SNG Poker Tournament Tips

Sit and Go tournaments provide an alternative style of tournament play, great for new and small-bankroll players. The cost of entry is usually minimal, and the tournament starts when enough players buy entry to make it happen. Along with cash games and tournaments, sit-and-go tournaments are one of the three major styles of play in online poker. 

Best Sit and Go Poker Sites for US Players

There are several online poker sites specifically for Sit and Go events in the US. Each provide a slightly different experience but they all follow the same premise. We suggest doing your research to find the best poker site for you before you settle on a site to play at. The best part about sit and go tournaments is that they're a pretty short time commitment and usually low-stakes. That means even if you find you don't like a particular site's style, you can easily find another without having wasted a lot of time or money. 

What is a Sit and Go Tournament?

Sit and Go tournaments are a type of online poker tournament with a preset number of players. Bigger tournaments with a set starting time and huge field are a huge commitment of time and energy, so Sit and Go events were invented for online players with a busy schedule. While SNGs vary in size, prizes, and buy-in sizes, all of them start as soon as the event fills up. 

Sit and Go Tournament Structure

Originally, SNGs were 9 player tournaments with blind levels that increased every 10 minutes. Over the years, Sit and Go's have evolved. For instance, 6 Max Turbo events and Hyper Turbo events are now among the most popular SNGs online. 2-man Sit'n Go events now exist, so players get the feel of heads-up play they would get at the end of a big freezeout event. 

As a general rule, prizes are handed out to the top three players in a 9-handed tournament and the top two players in a 6-handed event. The share of the prize pool varies according to poker sites and events, but a 50/30/20 split of the prize pool is common in 9-player SNG events. Our Sit and Go strategy advice will focus mostly on the traditional SNG tournaments, since they require more skill and strategy and therefore are better for skilled card players. 

Why You Should Play Sit and Go Events

Newcomers might wonder why players prefer Sit and Go tournaments to scheduled tournaments. Here are the main three reasons. 

  • Fast-Paced Poker Tournaments: Sit and Go events are over much quicker than bigger tournaments, so they're convenient. It has a limited number of players and the blinds increase every 10 minutes, driving action.
  • Entertaining Poker: Sit'n Go's are fun, because they simulate the final table of a big poker event. The chip stacks are high, every hand is urgent, and the end goal is near. SNGs are more immediate. 
  • Easy to Beat and Profitable: For skillful players who get a quick read on their opponents, SNG events can be profitable. 

What are Turbo and Hyper Turbo Events?

Turbo events are just what the name implies -- designed to be happen faster than standard Sit and Go events. The blind structure increases faster than normal. This forces the action by forcing players to take bigger risks and make quicker decisions. 

Hyper turbo events are SNGs where the blinds change even faster. Blind levels change as a fast as every 3 minutes in some hyper turbo events. Once again, these games are designed for fast-and-furious play. While many players prefer turbo and hyper turbo events, shorter events takes some of the skill away from the game. With fewer hands, luck plays a bigger factor than otherwise. 

Sit and Go Poker Strategy

Because the timeline of Sit & Go tournaments is much shorter than regular tournament play, players have to adjust their strategies accordingly. The whole thing can be done and dusted in an hour or so, so it pays to have a clear plan in mind before you get things underway. In many Sit & Go’s play out like a micro version of a regular multi-table tournament but there are some important distinctions.

When devising your Sit & Go tactics, it’s worth remembering that the main focus is playing a smart game. That means being tight for the most part — tighter than you would be in a more open format — but also being prepared to get aggressive as the tournament progresses. Broadly, you should think about varying strategy as you move through tournament phases — from the early game, the mid-game and the endgame.

It’s also worth mentioning that Sit & Go tournaments have a lot of different names. They are sometimes referred to as single-table tournaments or sit-n-go tournaments or just STTs or SnGs.

Early Game SNG Strategy

Tight is right when it comes to the early stages of a Sit & Go. If you’re playing a regular nine-handed Sit & Go with a decent amount of chips then you’ve really got to batten down the hatches and only come out to play if you’ve got a veritable monster starting hand.

  • Be Cautious at First: You don’t want to be the player who gets knocked out with middle pair or some trash in the early stages of a Sit & Go. A better strategy is to sit back and let your opponents battle unless you’ve got an extremely strong hand.
  • Analyze Your Opponents: This is an excellent time to observe your opponents and get a general read on how they play. Things like whether they are tight or loose. You might be able to spot players that call too much or players that simply play too many hands.
  • Don't Be the First to Bust Out: Remember you can’t win a Sit & Go on the first hand but you can certainly lose. Pick your spots very, very carefully in the Sportsbook phase of a Sit & Go.

Mid-Game Sit and Go Strategy

The mid-game is one of the most important stages of a Sit & Go — it helps decide how gets paid and who doesn’t — and it can go on for quite some time. At this point, there have been a couple eliminations and players are starting to get serious.

The money bubble is on the horizon during this point of the Sit & Go and it will also help dictate how people are going to play. The big stack will generally try to exert some pressure on the smaller stacks who can’t afford to play marginal hands.

  • How Big Is Your Chip Stack?: Pay Stay calm during this stage of the SnG but pay close attention to your stack relative to the blinds. You want to avoid “blinding out” of the tournament, which means being forced all-in by the blinds without getting to choose your hand.
  • At Least 15 Big Blinds: Start playing aggressively when your chip stack is worth less than 15 big blinds. You’ll be looking for any decent hand, which might include weak aces and smaller pairs.
  • Lower Your Standards: It's a common mistake to play only premium hands like pocket kings or pocket aces but you only have a few big blinds left. The problem in that situation is that doubling up isn’t going to do much for you. You’ll still only have a handful of big blinds and you’ll be forced all-in regardless.
  • Double Up with a Decent Stack: If you can double up with A-T or some mediocre hand while you have 15 big blinds then you’re suddenly in good shape with over 30 bbs. You might even get your opponents to fold, which will have the same effect.
  • Targeted Aggression: Essentially this is your time to loosen up and start playing some marginal hands. Don’t be afraid to shove with very weak hands if you’re last to act and there are only two relatively tight players behind you.
  • Blinding Out Sometimes Happens: Try to avoid going out right on the money bubble but understand that it does happen from time to time. Just concentrate on playing solid poker and you should be able to avoid it.

SNG Strategy in The Endgame

Once you’ve made it into the money — generally the last 2-3 players — you’ll notice that play loosens up even more.

  • Pick Your Spots: If there’s one short-stacked player who’s just been barely holding on they’ll probably start shoving almost every hand. You’ll certainly have to get loose but you don’t have to shove every hand unless you’re extremely short stacked.
  • Use Your Knowledge: The endgame is when you use all the information you’ve gathered on your opponents as you attempt to close out the tournament and take home the lion’s share of the prize pool.
  • Be the Bully: If you’re the chip leader during this stage of the tournament you can put a considerable amount of pressure on your opponents by raising frequently.
  • But Be a Smart Bully: Don’t give your stack away for no good reason. Despite the fact you’ve made the money, it’s much more important to finish first. Generally finishing first in a Sit & Go is worth more than three third place finishes.

Heads-Up Strategy in Sit and Go Events

Heads-up poker is different than any other kind of poker and you’ll be making a decision every single hand. It’s worth learning heads-up poker strategy, there are plenty of resources dedicated to the subject, but the best advice is that you’ve got to loosen way up.

  • Trash Hands Galore: You should be playing almost every other hand, regardless of hand strength, as both you and your opponent will be getting dealt plenty of trash hands.
  • Fight Back If Pushed: You’ll notice that experienced players can run over brand-new players in heads-up play while hardly ever showing their hand. If you want to avoid getting run over then you’ve got to aggressively fight back, even when you have marginal hands. Don’t be afraid to put chips in the pot. You might even get caught by your opponent with a better hand but you can always get lucky.
  • Open the Range of Hands You Play: Most new players simply don’t bluff enough and you’ve got to open up the range of hands that you play. You would never play K-3, 2-2 or J-8 during the Sportsbook stages of a Sit & Go but it’s now time for those hands to shine.
  • Losses Teach Better Than Wins: Never get too down if you lose a Sit & Go. There is plenty of variance and you should be looking at larger sample sizes — we’re talking 20-50 Sit & Go’s — to assess your level of play.

What Is a Good ROI for Sit and Go Events?

Those new to the terminology should understand ROI is "return on investment", a borrowed term from investing. In poker terms, ROI takes into account the SNG buy-in and entry fee. If you pay $10 + $1 to enter a sit and go tournament and you make an average of $1.10 on each SNG you enter, then your ROI would be 10%. If you made $2.20, then your ROI would be 20%. 

Not every high-stakes player is skillful. That being said, many poker players take the advice to start at small blind limits and avoid increasing their limits until they consistently win. These players only move to a higher buy-in when their bankroll grows. That means there's a solid percentage of players at higher blind levels who are experienced and skillful. For that reason, average ROI for those games will be smaller. 

Less Than $6 20% ROI
$6 / $11 15% ROI
$22 10% ROI
$33 7% ROI
$55 5% ROI
$109 4% ROI
$215 3% ROI

Sit and Go Poker Tips

Players who've never gotten far in Sit and Go tournaments need advice on their late-game strategy. While it might not seem so at first glance, these Sit and Go tips all fit together. While you want to become more aggressive in the late stage of the event, have a purpose to your aggression. 

  • Endgame Strategy: Become More Aggressive: There are fewer players, so weak hands have better odds. You're already in the money, so go for it. 
  • Don't Lose Your Good Sense: But don't change your strategy too much. Be true to yourself and go with your strategy, instincts, and experience. 
  • Use Continuation Bets: If you made a pre-flop raise, then bet on the flop sometimes when your didn't flop your hand. Continuation bets reinforce a show of strength, so it's a good way to bluff.
  • Don't Call in the Midgame: Avoid calling from midgame to endgame. It's a weak play. If you don't feel comfortable raising, then fold. 
  • If Shortstacked, Pick Your Sports: If you have a short stack, then look for your best chance to go all-in. These are margin calls, more likely to lose than win, but you want to go out with the best chance possible of doubling up.
  • Steal the Blinds in Targeted Spot: Target the players who haven't been defending their blinds. At this point, you know who the maniacs are, so avoid the maniacs.
  • You Don't Have to Be the Table Bully: When you have the biggest chip stack, you don't necessarily have to become the table bully. While you'll win a lot of pots, it also gives your opponents an Sportsbook. Be smart about the spots you push people around with your chip stack.
  • Use Calculated Aggression: Calculated aggression wins Sit and Go tournaments. In the end, it comes back to using a combination of knowledge and instincts. Be aggressive, but also be calculating.

Sit'n Go Strategy FAQ

Can you make money playing sit and gos?

Yes, but players who want to win real money consistently should avoid turbo events and hyper-turbo events. These shorten the game, which introduces more luck into the equation. Playing standard SNG events required calculated aggression, but it still gives you the time to get a book on your opponents. The best Sit and Go players get a quick read on their opponents, then use that information to make aggressive plays in the right spots. 

What is SNG Turbo in poker?

An SNG turbo event is one where the blind levels increase at a faster pace than usual. This drives betting and shortens the tournament. Turbo events and hyper turbo events are loads of fun, but most skillful SNG players avoid them because the luck factor is huge.