Sit and Go Poker Strategy – Tips to Live By
Tournament poker has seen a real revolution since online poker sites were introduced, with a variety of new tournament styles and formats introduced.
None has become as popular as Sit and Go poker tournaments. These tournaments kick off the moment enough players have registered, making them available around the clock.
Sit and Go tournaments were invented to give players a chance to play on their own schedule without having to wait for specific times to play.
This has caused many serious players playing poker for a living to choose them as their preferred game. It gave them a chance to put in more volume and turn a bigger profit in return.
Sit and Go tournaments are quite a bit different than big field scheduled MTTs.
You will have to adjust your Sit and Go strategy if you want to win in the long run and have fun playing these games.
I have prepared a list of 10 Sit n Go strategy tips I believe you should introduce into your game and learn by heart before you can become an SNG crusher.
Each of the tips I give here can be expanded on greatly. I suggest taking these basics and learning all you can on each one of them to have the best possible understanding of SNG poker you can.
1. Consider Your Bankroll
There is probably no skill more important in SNG poker than bankroll management. Playing with an improper bankroll will cause you to go broke fast and lose any chance of beating the games.
Of course, you could also get lucky and go on a massive heater early on, but approaching the game with a proper bankroll management strategy will guarantee you success.
Bankroll management is just the first step in the process of beating Sit and Go poker games. That said, it is a critical one without which you will not stand a chance.
So how many buyins do you need to win at SNGs? It really depends on the blinds' structure, the number of players, and the general softness of the field.
In either case, I would never recommend playing any type of Sit n Go without at least 100 buyins in your balance. Higher amounts than that are probably even more reasonable.
In fact, if you want to play Sit and Goes professionally, playing with 500 buyins ready to put into action is probably a good idea. Some insane swings have been known to happen at SNG tables.
2. Tight is Right in Early Stages
SNGs start with relatively deep stacks and not too much incentive to go after pots. There is no ante in play, the blinds are tiny compared to the stacks, and bad players are ready to give away a hundred blinds with a relatively weak holding.
What this means for you, in turn, is that you should approach this phase of the tournament very conservatively and should not be looking to gamble much at all.
Instead, the best Sit n GO strategy is to play tight from all positions, tightening up the average ranges you would use in an MTT or SNG.
Playing tight and aggressively with big poker hands will get you paid handsomely in these games in the early levels.
The main reason to play tight is the fact that recreational and novice players won't know how to adapt their sit and go strategy early on.
They will play too many hands, chase weak draws, and generally not play nearly aggressively enough against you.
To best exploit all of these tendencies, you should look to enter pots with the best hand whenever possible and make sure to isolate just one player. They’ll often be happy to give you their whole stack when they hit the top pair.
3. Mind Your Position
The position is key in any form of poker, and SNG tournaments are no different. You should be very mindful of your position and adjust your opening, 3-betting, and other ranges to the position you are sitting in.
As always, playing tighter from early positions and wider from the button and cutoff will be the basic plan, which should be adjusted as the tournament progresses.
Playing extra careful in the early poker positions when the table is full will be extra important. Opening too wide in the early positions will put you in many bad spots.
As the blinds go up and players bust out, you will have more chances to steal dead chips, but playing only the late positions very aggressively will be enough to turn a handsome profit.
You should not start going after the blinds much from early positions even when they do seem lucrative, as too many players will be behind you to punish you for opening too much.
4. Learn About Gap Theory
The gap theory is the concept that tells us we should be calling raises with hands that are stronger than the opening range we would apply in the same position if the pot were not opened in front of us.
Ignoring gap theory is a common sit and go strategy mistake I see with weaker players.
They tend to call opens in middle and late positions with hands like QJ, AT, A9, or 87. These hands should be folded when the pot is already opened.
Calling raises with these types of hands puts you at a massive disadvantage, especially against early position openers, who will often have you dominated from the start of the hand.
Against later position openers who can have more hands in their ranges, re-raising or going all-in (depending on your stack depth) is a strategy that will work better than calling with these types of marginal poker hands.
If you are calling too much before the flop, even in position, you are allowing your opponents to put pressure on you after the flop. They’ll make you fold your cards too often, even when you do have the best hand.
Remember, in a Sit and Go poker tournament, you are almost always better off winning the pot before the flop and picking up some dead poker chips than going to the flop and trying to outplay your opponents on later streets.
5. Steal the Blinds and Antes Often
A crucial concept in your Sit and Go poker strategy will be to steal the blinds and antes as often as you can once the antes kick in.
The average stack in an SNG tournament will not be very big compared to the blinds once the later levels start. Stealing the blinds and the antes will often increase your stack by 10% or more.
This makes stealing the blinds an extremely effective strategy in SNG poker, especially if you are playing against soft opposition waiting for strong hands to call your shoves or raises.
As the fields in average Sit and Go poker tournaments are getting tougher, you will need to learn more about the steal and re-steal ranges to get good results with your steal attempts. However, playing without stealing the blinds often will not be an option.
In fact, I could argue that after the first few levels of an SNG tournament, the entire play will come down to players stealing the blinds and others defending them until the tournament gets down to heads up play.
6. Abuse the Bubble
In Sit and Go tournaments, no one is going to become rich by just winning one game, nor will anyone go broke in a single tournament.
Since there are no big payouts at the top, most casual players will be looking to make the money and won’t worry too much if they finish first, second or third if three places are paid.
For them, making the money will be the prime objective.
This kind of mentality should be abused heavily as you approach the bubble, and only one player is left to bust before others make the money.
In this scenario, especially if you have some chips to spare, you should go heavily after the blinds and antes of all the players who risk busting out if they call your all-in.
Going all-in with nearly all cards from the button and small blind in these kinds of scenarios can be an extremely profitable sit and go strategy.
Many players will fold hands as strong as AJ or KQ simply to try and outlast one of the other shorter stacks.
Using your stack and the fast everyone is trying to squeeze into the money will give you a massive advantage and plenty of extra chips.
7. Beware of the ICM
The independent chip model (ICM) is another concept that Sit and Go poker players must learn and master before they can become true crushers in the games.
Being aware of how much your chip stack is worth compared to the other stacks will help you make the correct calls and folds and apply pressure on other ICM-aware players.
I did say that you should be shoving wide on your opponents on the bubble and once you are in the money. However, that does not mean you should be calling shoves light at all.
In fact, in many cases, you should only be calling with the absolute top of your range while folding hands that are marginally +CEV and waiting for +$EV situations depending on your stack size.
Tools like ICMizer and others can help you learn about ICM and practice the ranges in different SNG scenarios and in different positions so you can apply them in a real game when they come around.
8. Go After the Win
While ICM implications will play a part in your decisions to call or fold in certain spots, you should definitely be thinking about winning as often as possible when you get down to short-handed play.
What that means is that you should be looking for situations in which you can increase your stack, preferably without a showdown. This will allow you to go into heads-up play as the chip favorite.
Using ICM pressure against others is one way you can grow your stack and put yourself in a good spot as the heads-up play approaches.
What's more, you should never be afraid to bust out. Even if the ICM is working against you, you may want to sometimes make more marginal calls against players who are clearly abusing the ICM and shoving into you with extremely wide ranges.
9. Never Get Blinded Out
I often see players in Sit and Go poker games get blinded out and blame “bad cards,” which didn't give them a chance to play for their stack sooner.
The truth is that you will get some opportunities to gamble once you get short.
Trying to double up as soon as possible is always better than waiting until you are forced to be all in.
The reason, of course, is that even if you do double up from your last big blind, you will still need to do it once more before you are actually back in action.
I would rather take a marginal spot where I am likely to be a bit behind with 3-4 big blinds than wait to be down to my last big blind and go all-in with AK any day of the week. Simply put, the former scenario gives me a better chance to win the tournament if the hand goes my way.
10. Learn to Play Heads-Up Poker
In SNG poker tournaments, you will get down to heads-up play quite a bit, and a lot of the overall prize pool will depend on how you finish in your HU battles.
If you can’t play heads-up quite well, you are highly unlikely to be a profitable SNG player, as HU play is a big part of the overall Sit and Go strategy.
Since the stacks will always be quite shallow as you enter the last stage of the SNG, you won’t need to get too fancy with your HU play. However, knowing the correct shove and call ranges is an absolute must.
Fortunately for you, all of this can be learned in a relatively short timeframe, and you can always have some charts on hand for the early period of your SNG playing career.