Sit n Go Tournament Tips

Patient Strategy in Sit n' Go Poker Games

by Scott Buono


Sit n Go StrategyOver the past couple of years, playing Sit and Go tournaments online (SnG) has become widely popular,  and is even becoming more commonplace in live action as well (with casinos spreading them regularly). These quick events offer the same exciting tournament action as the much larger “MTTs” (multi-table tournaments), but require much less of a time investment to take home the top prizes. Nowadays, there are even hybrid SnG/MTTs by virtue of the 2, 3 and 5 table offerings and even the “Sit for a long time and Go” 180-player (or 20-table) events. Any of the variety of these quicker tournaments found under the “Sit & Go” tab on your favorite online poker site will be completed in much less time than even the smallest field, scheduled start time MTT, and that is one aspect that makes them very appealing.

While a typical rebuy MTT can last anywhere from 7-10 (or more) hours to complete (depending on the number of entries), the normal duration of (i.e.) a two-table SnG is only about 90 minutes. That’s a huge difference for players who want to feel the thrill of saying “all in”, but have to wait until the kids are asleep and can’t sit down to play until Letterman is about to read the day’s “Top 10 List”. The buy-ins range from as little as $1 up to $2,000 (but be prepared to “Sit” for quite a while before the $2,000 game “Goes”), so there are options for every bankroll. (For the remainder of this discussion, we will be considering the one-table, 9-player scenario.)

Many online players make a nice living playing only Sit and Go events. There is a good reason more and more players are focusing on this variation of tournament poker over cash games and/or the larger MTTs: With a little patience (and the normal amount of luck any poker player expects during any given session), the chances of making a profit are quite good. In fact, it is quite possible to earn more profit on a given day playing only SnGs than you can in a limit cash game, with less bankroll volatility. Given that a few players receive prizes (the top three in our one-table example) makes bankroll swings even less of a worry. Before the cards are even in the air, you are technically starting with a 33% chance of making money. Pretty good odds provided some basic strategic concepts are followed.

Keep in mind that in a lower buy-in SnG (anything under $30), you will find a great number of players that are just getting their “tournament feet” wet. A lot of these beginning players pay homage to the Gus Hansen-ish, edited final table antics they have seen on TV. They are basically emulating the pros they see jamming pots with J6 offsuit, because they are taught that aggression is the key to winning in No Limit Hold’em. They play far too many hands because they see (again, in only the key showdowns on TV tables) that any two cards can win with “the big bluff”.

So, right out of the gate, they are usually playing far too loose (with very marginal holdings) and willing to enter into those “exciting TV all-in confrontations”. The simplest answer to this “monkey see, monkey do” aggression is patience. Allow these players (and there are often a few wannabe “bullies” at any low buy-in SnG table) to butt heads with one another and roar like lions. Very often, one or more such players will go all in within the first few hands of a SnG event and pound their chest after the table folds back to them and they show QT. That “success” leads them to do it again the next hand. Perhaps they will go all in 3 or 4 hands in a row!

There is absolutely no need to be the “hero” who puts an end to such madness even with hands you feel are sure to be favorites against his perceived genius. Why gamble in the early stages (first two or three levels of blinds) with your pocket sixes against this type of player’s all in move? He has already demonstrated his willingness to eventually make a huge mistake against you when you are a clear favorite! Be patient, wait for those opportunities and remember your sit and go strategy. It will prove much more effective to punish their fatal mistakes and just let the smaller ones fill their heads with delusions of grandeur.

Don’t be afraid to watch these same players getting very lucky occasionally – as long as it’s not against you! Let the other opponents make the “coin flip” all in calls at the beginning of the event. It’s okay to watch one or two players accumulate huge stacks while they continually take unsound chances acquiring them. You can just sit back under the radar and soon find yourself in the money, just by maintaining your average stack. That should be your first consideration throughout the event – getting paid!

Once you get there (the “bubble” has burst), it’s time to take a completely different approach! Cashing in a SnG is obviously the ultimate objective (otherwise you are just playing for “fun”, which will prove detrimental to your bankroll very quickly). However, once you are in the money, the prize structure usually dictates that you start to gamble a lot more than you would have ever considered in the early stages.

In a one-table SnG, the prizes are 50% of the prize pool for first place, 30% for 2nd and 20% for third. If you just take third place, you’ve made a profit and should feel a sense of accomplishment. However, you can now win another 30% of the prize pool by winning, as opposed to only another 10% by finishing in second place. Thus, it now pays to switch gears and take more chances, especially since the blinds will be much higher by now.

Ironically, very often the same “bully” we saw throughout the early stages trying to win the tournament in the first round (with his incessant all in moves) that has managed to just make the money, will now “get cheap on himself” and worry too much about moving up just one spot rather than go for the win! Now, when it doesn’t pay – he tightens up! These are the type of players that will help to maximize your SnG profits at the end of the day. Take the opposite approach and you will surely see an improvement in your results.


Strategy Articles by Scott Buono:
Poker Advice
Poker Focus
Sit N Go Strategy
Multi-Tabling Online Poker
Taking Notes Online: I Remember You!



(c) Shirley Rosario

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