Sit & Go Strategy
To be a successful Sit & Go player you need a solid strategy. The strategy below are guidelines that have worked for me at low level Sit & Go at a couple of different online poker rooms. For me a strategy is not a fixed set of rules. Its a basic way of thinking that you need to adjust to your own personality and your opponents skill and type of play. What level you play at would of course also affect your game.
Below you will find a different aspects of our Sit & Go Expert strategy. We start out whit a discussion about odds, because you will need to have that in mind while reading the other parts. You have already studied our starting hands at the page for that so after the odds we go into what we like to call our "never"-rules. That is important to understand! After that a bit about position and gap concept and last the 4 different stages of Sit & Go tournaments.
Sit & GO Boring!?
You might say after studying our guidelines that this seems boring, but if you want to make money out of tournament poker you need to be very patient. Its all about surviving and not about making fancy plays. Of course you will get your chances to make a beautiful play every now and then, but your main goal is to struggle, play good hands in a simple way and make it really hard for your opponents. You don't need to take anyone out. Great if you do, but just as great if someone else breaks one of your opponents. You only want to get ITM and if not playing a single hand takes you there: Great!
When you play poker you should always consider the odds you have. The next chapter tells you never to get broke, but of course that’s easier said than done. But if you stay away from close gambles and tough decisions you have a greater chance to achieve your goals. I do not believe in chasing too much. To chase a flush or a straight because your odds tells you that the play is marginal profitable (shows a small positive expected value), could be very costly when you play tournament poker.
If the pot-odds are just about enough you have to seriously think about what happens if you play and win. Do you have high-implied odds? That means will your opponent pay you of if you hit your out? Do they have enough chips left? But what is even more important, what happen to your stack if you take the close gamble and loose? Will you still have enough chips to play after you have taken your chances and missed?
I will not bore you with outs, odds or other things in this matter. You can always visit internet pages to check outs and use odds-calculators. One page you will find here Beginner Poker Odds.
Example 4 You are holding a 6,7 suited and you got to see the flop pretty cheap. There is two of your suit on the board and one of them is the ace, you also hit the bottom pair with your six. The pot was 400 and now the first player to act puts in a 300 bet and get called by one player and its only you to act. There is now a 1000 in the pot and you need to put in a 300 to see the next card.
What to do? I don’t believe this information is enough to answer. The sizes of the players stacks would say a lot about it. If you think that both of the other players have one pair each and that they both holds one ace you might consider al your outs to be winning, except the seven if someone are holding a seven they would bet your topair. That gives you 9 (suit) + 2 (sixes). And it’s a very close gamble in terms of pot-odds.
Say you have 3000 in chips and the blinds are only 100. I might see the next card and see what happens. Then you will still have 2700 left and big possibilities to play even if you do not hit. But if you stack was small, maybe only 800 left and you need to put in 300 to see the next card. That leaves you with only 500 left and you will be committed to put in the rest of your chips on the turn even if you don’t hit.
Then this hand is something that could break you. Pass and hope that you will get a better hand before the blinds eats you alive. Adding one more twist to it. If your chips are so low and you are really behind the other players, this hand could be something to take a shot with. Maybe even reraise them all-in and hope that they fold, and if they call you have 11 outs.
Confused? These judgments are what poker is al about. Taking the right decision at the right time. And al I have said about this specific hand could be terrible wrong depending on what players you are up against and the structure of the tournament. I suggest that you study odds, board reading, calculation and other things. At Beginner Poker books you can read about what books to study and also get some free poker books. Because this subject is Hugh and it will go to far for this webpage to explain it all.
Never get broke
If you get broke you are out of the tournament and your investment is lost. Normally you can’t rebuy. So you have to find another tournament and pay up the starting fee again. You should of course avoid getting broke. That is easy to say, but harder to do. If you from the begging of the tournament pick good starting hands and play normally with them the chance you get broke fast is smaller.
You will eventually run in to bad beats and sometimes you will find someone holding KK when you have QQ. But you can’t be afraid of that. But if you slowplay a high pair at a full table you are asking for someone to hit a nice hand and take your money. You give them the chance and the odds to do so. Therefore the first things to do to avoid getting broke are to throw away your marginal and week hands and try to stick to the better ones. Position is important and later position usually allows you to play more hands.
Example hand 5. You are at a table there is 8 players left, and everybody have between 800-1200 in chips and you are holding 1200. And you don’t know much about those players. You pick up a AK offsuit and raise to 150 (3 times the big blind) from second position. Two players and the big blinds calls you. The flop comes Q,9,8 with two hearts. Big blind checks, what do you do?
Well you could make a bet holding to high cards. But I wouldn’t recommend it, unless the table would be playing to tight. Because it’s a good chance that someone is holding cards that fit the flop or at least have a nice draw. So if you bet and get called and then hit a A or a K on the turn, what do you do then? I believe that if you do there is a good chance you put yourself in trouble and risking getting broke. Therefore check you’re Ace high hand and let it go if someone bets behind you. Maybe they are bluffing, but probably not.
Never give up
There is a saying in poker about al you need is a chip and a chair. And that saying is true! Even if it helps a lot to have some chips left you can always recover and try to sneak into the money. Remember that in a normal tournament with 10 players usually 3 will end up with some cash. How you get there is not important. But it’s important that you get there often enough to make a long-term profit. Almost every good poker player could give you a story about when he made this incredible comeback after been last only having chips to put in the blind and then got 3 poker pair in a row, doubled up 3 times and ending up winning the tournament.
Never wait to long
If you wait to long to make a move the blinds will eat you alive. And when you finally get a hand that you can play it doesn’t matter because even if you double up you are still last and need to double up soon again just to be in the tournament. Of course sometimes you will be in this position and then you just need to fight as good as you can. But before you get there you should try your best to avoid getting down to far. Its better to pick a marginal hand, when you feel that the blinds are getting a bit to big for your stack, and go with it. Then you give yourself a chance to recover and get ITM.
Try to get to know you opponents as fast as possible. Who are you up against? This one is a though one when playing online. But its still very important. Even if you just get the feeling of someone being loose or tight it could make the difference between what play you are picking. A tight player raising from early position is no fun to call. I believe that there is only reraise or fold to chose from. And reraise you will only do with your absolute top hands.
If you are playing at a pokerroom that allows you to attach notes to the players you should use this as much as possible. Because you never know when you play them again. And it’s a nice to sit down and find out that you have some information about your opponents already.
The professional poker players always says that position is one of the most important thing to understand in poker. And they are right! The power of position lays in the fact that the later in a betting round you act the more information do you have. You can allow yourself to play more hands from late position because after the flop you have more information than if you been in early position.
Remember this about position:
A) In late position you can see what your opponents do before you have to act!
B) In late position your opponents do not know what you will do before they have to act!
A lot of people have said that when they started to take a bigger notice about position they improved their Sit & Go results a lot. And I believe it’s important. But it depends how good you are in the post-flop play. You can steal blinds but what happen if someone defends them?
You need to be able to calculate your odds, don’t try to buy long shots. But if you get to gamble like this you are in late position and it might help you a lot if the player in early position (the blinds), check after the flop. If they are a non-imaginative player you can probably buy the pot by making a bet. I would suggest a bet about half the pot (maybe slightly more). If you get called I would slow down and not try again. The risk he has something is to good or he had you read and know you are bluffing.
Sklansky write about a Gap concept in his great book about tournament play. The Gap concept is a really good rule. Its state that you need a better hand to call a raise than you need to raise yourself if no one opened the pot before you! For instance if someone open the pot from early position with a raise for about 4 times the BB and you holding AJs in 8th position I would probably lay it down.
But no one have opened the pot when it gets to me in 8th position I would probably raise with the same AJs. The Value of starting hands are relative and the AA is the only one that is for sure a top hand. KK is also very good but after that you need to think twice before playing. I recommend that you read Sklansky's book about this topic!
An other thing that will effect your play is the stack sizes around the table. You should try to not gamble against people that could really hurt you (get you broke), without having a great hand. On the other hand look after the people that are desperate (short stacked with only a couple of blinds left). Don’t try to steal blind for big or small stacks. They can call you or reraise you with almost anything. Its probably better to try to steal from people doing ok, maybe a little over average. This is something you will learn with experience.
Early stages (7-10 players)
In early stages of a sit & go tournament I believe that you should play tight, almost ridiculously tight. I mean that you should wait and hope to pick up great starting hands. Category A in the starting hands chapter. If you are in late position and can get to see really cheap flops with suited connectors you could play those to. But that is tricky hands so be careful. And in early stages do not try to slow play.
You will only give your opponents a chance to play bad hands and get lucky. Make them make mistakes. So therefore raise with your great hands and make them pay to see your cards. It’s a lot better to win a small pot than loosing a big one. When you play your category A hands you want to isolate one player and play against him. If you get into multiway pots there are a great risk that you get hurt. So keep it tight.
Middle stages (5-6)
still believe that you should play tight. But now the table could have changed and it might bee 5 people left so you could lover your standards when it comes to starting hands. But not to much! There is still plenty of opponents and maybe some more people are opening up and playing more loose. If all the other players seem to play very tight you could open up and try to buy some pots. The blinds are now a bit bigger so if you can buy some of them; great!
If you haven’t been able to pick up a single hand before this point people will have noted that you are very tight. At least you hope for that. That is something you might be able to take advantage of. Use the gap concept and put in raises if no one else have, but you need a decent hand. If your stack is big enough I will just sit back and wait for good hands. If you don’t play you cant get broke!
Late stages (3-4 players)
When there is for people left you should have a decent picture of what kind of players you are up against. Make sure you don’t make any stupid moves that will make you finish fourth. Sometimes you will end up at fourth place, but that’s the worst one. If you can open up and steal some blinds: great! If you are shortstacked: move in with good hands before its to late! Against three players the value of high cards have gone up and you can play more face cards.
When you are in the money I think you should open up a lot. Your goal was to get ITM and now you are there so take a chance and start playing more cards and hope to pick up some blinds and take some close gambling decisions and try to get lucky. If you try to tighten up to move up you will probably just get very shortstacked and finish 3rd.
Heads up (2 players)
When you succeed and survive to the heads up its important that you don’t relax. When there are only two players left the a lot of players think its just a coin flip who is going to win. Well, they are partly right. A lot comes down to stack sizes. And a lot of players also feel uncomfortable with playing heads up. You shouldn’t! A lot of your long-term profit comes from the outcome from heads-up play. If you play a normal, 10 players, Sit&Go they payout structure usually gives the winner 50% and the second place only 30%. If you can push yourself to win a bit more than your share you will show a better long- term profit. So what can you do?
The first thing you need to do is to understand that you can’t be afraid. Initiative is usually good. Many players I played against online wait until they get a hand. But the blinds are to high so when they get a pair or two high cards you might have picked of enough to take the lead. And when they come in raising you know it’s just to lay your hand down and start over making the same steals again.
The second thing is to understand the odds. You do not know anything about your opponent’s hand when he posted the big blind and you the small blind. As far as you know his hand is a random hand. And against a random hand you always have the odds to call. I don’t say that you should call with 7,2 offsuit, but a lot of hands you can call. If you are facing a lot of raising preflop you have to change your tactics but if you can see the flops by just calling that’s the way to go.
The third thing is that you can play a lot more hands. Raising hands are usually any pair, any ace and also two high cards. You can’t be tight anymore. You need to get out and gamble.
As always you should try to figure out how your opponent think and play. Something I found out the hard way is that there is less bluffing than you might think. But at the same time some people move in after the flop with ace high. And that could make sense because the flop misses more than it hit. That is something you can use to your advantage. When you playing heads up top pair is usually a very good hand after the flop. Middle pair that could be so dangerous to play against more players could be a winner heads up.
Play heads up
You can train Heads up play by playing the special sit&go tournaments that are just two people playing heads up at once. If you are good at this it could be a great income. It could also be a good practice to be better prepared when you end up playing the final in a tournament.
Some advices about those special tournaments. The blinds are usually starting of low so you do not have to hurry. You should still be aggressive but you can pick your hands a little bit better. Don’t bluff to much. Some bluffs are necessary, but sense you can afford to play a lot of hands you do not need to bluff just to stay alive. You have some time to catch a nice hand. Slowplay could be a very interesting weapon when you playing heads up, both before and after the flop. Sense top pair usually is a good hand you can just call or make small raises with AA or KK. Of course, if you have any reasons to believe your opponent will call a somewhat bigger raise. Put it in and hope for the best.