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Sit & Go Poker Strategy

Sit & 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 “goes” when enough players “sit” to make it happen. 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.

The Early Game

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.

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.

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.

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 opening phase of a Sit & Go.

The Mid-Game

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.

It’s around this point of the tournament where 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.

It’s important to 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.

A much better strategy is to 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.

A common beginner mistake is to wait until you have a premium hand 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.

Meanwhile 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. This is a good time to put into 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.

Whatever you do, 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.

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.

Heads-Up

It all comes down to this.

Heads-up poker is very differently than any other kind of poker and you’ll effectively 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.

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.

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.

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 opening stages of a Sit & Go but it’s now time for those hands to shine.

Finally you should 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.