Sit n Go – How to win Low Stakes SNG Poker Tournaments

  • Avatar for WSOP Winner Chris 'Fox' WallaceReviewed by  WSOP Winner Chris ‘Fox’ Wallace

Sit-n-go’s (SNGs) are single-table tournaments, usually with six or nine players. Unlike multi-table tournaments, re-buys and late entries are not allowed, and the tournaments won’t start until the table is full.

Sit-n-gos are particularly good for a couple of reasons:

  • The time commitment is not overwhelming; you’ll most likely be done in an hour, or less if it’s a turbo event.
  • If you enjoy multi-table tournaments, SNGs give you a taste of final table play.

Smaller Payouts, But (hopefully) More of Them

SNGs offer a fun way to build your bankroll. Your win rate should be considerably higher in a SNG vs. an MTT. Most SNGs pay out the top one-third of the field (top three in a nine-person SNG and top two in a 6-Max SNG), whereas in comparison MTTs generally pay out the top 10-15 percent.

The payouts, however, are considerably smaller for SNGs than MTTs. If SNGs are going to be your bread and butter, you should be cashing at least 40 percent of the time.

Let’s say you play a $3.30 nine-handed SNG. That provides a prize pool of $27, and the standard payouts are 50 percent ($13.50) to first place, 30 percent ($8.10) to second place and 20 percent ($5.40) to third place.

Now let’s say a $3.30 online MTT has 515 runners for a prize pool of $1,545. To do better than the $13.50 for winning the SNG, you would have had to finish in the top 15 – the top three percent of entries.

So How Should You Play In A Sit’N’Go?

The Early Stages

Open your range a little wider in the early stages. The typical online sit-n-go features a starting stack of 1,500 chips, an opening big blind of 20, and 8-12 minute levels (for normal play – turbo SNGs will usually have levels around 5-6 minutes long). In this set-up, each player starts with 75 BBs, so you can generally afford to play more speculative hands (e.g. suited connectors down to 7-8, low pocket pairs and any suited ace).

One thing to keep in mind is that, for the first few levels, most hands are going to see at least three or four players post-flop, so you’ll have to adjust your strategy. If you get a monster hand (e.g. AA, KK, QQ, AK or AQ), don’t be afraid to hit them hard with pre-flop raises of 4-5 BBs, as with those kinds of hands it is imperative to thin the field before the flop.

If you’ve got a hand at the bottom of your range and you’re in early position, don’t be afraid to limp and hope it goes through. Even if it doesn’t, you’ve only cost yourself one BB. If you do get raised, you can reassess when it gets back to you and decide if it’s worth the additional chips to call.

Take your position into consideration, as well as the size of the raise and the number of players in the pot. If you’re going to be first to act in a four-way pot with pocket 3s and it’s going to cost you four more BBs to make the call, then it may not be worth it; you know you’re going to have to hit a set to win this hand, and you’re going to be vulnerable to a re-raise if you try a bluff. Chances are too strong in a four-way pot that somebody else will connect with the flop.

In a nutshell:

  • Adopt a wider range
  • Play speculative hands if they’re cheap
  • Protect your premium hands

The Middle Stages

By the time you reach the third or fourth level, average stack sizes can be down to about 15-20 BBs, assuming one or two players have already been eliminated, and play tends to tighten considerably.

This is the time to begin implementing more of a short stack strategy. Eliminate many hands at the bottom of your range and forget about limping. Each chip is critical, and this is not the time to chase flushes or straights unless you can do so on the cheap. Blind stealing starts to become important, and position becomes critical.

As the field gets smaller, you must also adjust your opening ranges. In a full-ring game, starting hands like A8 are not really strong, but when the field is reduced to five or six players, an A8 – especially if it folds to you in late position – is a really strong opening hand.

This is when you also have to monitor the stack sizes of the rest of the table. The small stacks will shove as soon as they get something like a low pocket pair, any ace, etc. You have to be wary of them, especially if they are behind you or in the BB.

This is when you also need intelligence on your tablemates. Some players cannot make strategy adjustments and continue to play speculative hands regardless of their stack size or the stage of the SNG. Try to isolate those players and extract a payout when their flush or straight doesn’t come.

In a nutshell:

  • Stop bluffing and playing speculative hands
  • Pay attention to other stack sizes
  • Use late position to steal blinds where you can

The Late Stages

This is when the action really starts. At this stage you are likely down to the money bubble – three or four players.

Most hands will be decided with pre-flop aggression, meaning your blind-stealing game becomes critical. Very few hands will see a flop or go to showdown. And there’s nothing wrong with scooping pot after pot before the flop. This protects your stack and buys you more time to hit that monster hand.

With fewer players at the table, premium hands take on even greater value. An ace or even a king is very strong, especially in the big blind. If you have an ace in the BB and someone raises you pre-flop, don’t be afraid to counter with an all-in shove. Your opponent could be trying to take advantage of the tight play on the bubble, and you may have them dominated.

Pocket pairs can be also gold. The odds of being dealt a pocket pair are 17:1. That means that for every 17 hands dealt, there should be one pocket pair, so with nine players at the table one should show up roughly every other hand. With four players at the table, the odds of a pocket pair dwindle to approximately once every four hands dealt, so when you get one, make the most of it!

In a nutshell:

  • Push/fold becomes critical
  • Blind-stealing is essential
  • Make the most of pocket pairs, high cards and premium hands

After the Bubble

Once the money bubble has burst, players tend to open up again. Some players are just excited to have made the money and aren’t focused on winning, but first place money in a sit-n-go is generally 150% more than third-place money. Don’t leave that on the table just because you’re excited to get your buy-in back plus a little profit.

You need to also be aware of the table image you have established, and make some adjustments accordingly:

  • Did you win at showdown with a series of strong hands? Your opponents may think you only play big hands and become more likely to fold to your pre-flop aggression.
  • Did you win with a lot of bluffs? If so, your opponents may be on to you and will start calling – or worse, re-raising – your pre-flop raises.

SNGs are great fun, don’t take a huge time commitment, and can help build a bankroll. They can also prepare you for when you’re ready to step up to MTTs.

Improve your game by checking out even more poker strategy guides or bring it back to basics with the poker rules for all major poker variants.

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