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Sit-n-Go Poker Strategy

Sit-n-go tournaments provide an alternative style of tournament play, great for new and low-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-n-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.

When devising your sit-n-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 push forward with your stronger hands to maximize your advantage when it falls. Broadly, you should think about varying strategy as you move through tournament phases — from its opening, through the middle, and in the final three.

Opening Phase

Whatever the tournament, you want to be playing tight in the opening phases. In sit-n-go play, ramp this up a notch, to the point where you’re folding most hands and only playing through on those that are actually worth getting behind. Even in a short tournament, there’s a long way to go from the opening phase to the conclusion, so it’s often most sensible to let others take the lead while you sit back and observe.

Obviously when you strike the nuts or an otherwise good hand, you should stay involved, but generally, you will make your money by surviving these early stages and moving on to the middle phase of the tournament, once weaker players have been eliminated and the game can start to loosen up a little.

Playing Through The Middle

The middle phase of any tournament is usually the longest — the time between getting things underway with those first tentative hands, and winding up with the final three who are ready to compete for the cash prizes on offer. At this stage in the game, assessing the relative strength of your other players in chip terms becomes critical.

As things heat up approaching the bubble, you want to make sure you’re not in the weakest position at the table. Stay away from big bets and riskier moves, in favour of finding more sensible opportunities here. If you’re in with a chance of moving through to the final three, you want to be certain you’re doing so with the best possible stack, so it’s often not worth exceptional risk here. Move from looser at the start to becoming tighter as it moves to the bubble when you’re behind, or use any advantage you do have to squeeze your opponents with smaller stacks. This should do your odds of progressing to the final three some favours.

Down To The Final 3

In most sit-n-go format tournaments, the final three players are already guaranteed a share of the money. Most allocate 50 percent to the winner, with 30 percent to second place, leaving the first of the last three eliminated on a 20 percent share. In these circumstances, you already know you’re in for 20 percent, and vying for second only adds another 10 percentage points to your prize fund. So when it’s down to the final three, you’re in the position where you actually need to be more aggressive — there’s nothing to lose, but everything to gain by eliminating the other players and coming out on top.

That’s where good hands become great hands. With fewer people at the table, there is more of an incentive to go all-in on stronger hands, putting pressure on your opponents and giving you a chance of the 50 percent share. Of course, the strategy is a little different if you’re the chip leader, but you can still use this to your advantage to bully smaller chip players off the table and secure your win.