Poker ‘Sit n’ Go’ tournaments – what they are and how to beat them!

Lots of poker players who have been quite successful in cash poker games decide the next step is to enter some Sit n’ Go (SNG) tournaments, only to find that the strategies that served them well in the cash games seem to be failing in the tournaments. Read on to find out the mistakes they’re probably making, and what’s different about SNGs.

How SNG poker tournaments work

Hold‘em players are used to the game’s stages – hole cards, flop, turn, river, final betting rounds. SNGs have a series of stages too – but these describe how close you are to winning any money. The stages are:

  • Early stage – the tournament begins when the table is full. In the early stage of play, a few competitors will get eliminated.
  • Mid stage – the blinds now start to get larger, compared to the stacks.
  • The bubble – this is the last point at which someone can get eliminated without winning any of the tournament prize money.
  • In the money – after the bubble has burst, everyone is in the money – that is everyone stands to win from this point.
  • Heads up – as with cash games, this is the play-off between the last two at the table and results in a tournament winner and second place player.

Sng poker bankroll management

The key difference between SNG poker tournaments and cash games lies in the way you manage your bankroll, varying your stack strategy to match each of the SNG stages. A crucial term to bear in mind is “fold equity” – this means having enough chips in your stack to go all-in if you need to, or to raise sufficiently to get other players to fold.

The blinds increase every so often in SNG tournaments, and you also have to provide a “buy-in”. If you’re playing for enjoyment, try to maintain a bankroll of twenty times the average buy-in, to ensure you can keep playing through the inevitable dips. For more serious players, up to fifty times the buy-in is advisable. If you don’t have the right size of bankroll it can adversely affect your play, making you too cautious when you should be raising aggressively, or causing you to fold simply to conserve cash.

The most effective sit n’ go poker strategy when it comes to the tournament rounds, is to play tightly early on, so that you get through to the next rounds with a big enough stack to be effective. Right up to the bubble stage, you should be reasonably conservative.

But once you are in the money, then it’s time to unleash your most aggressive play. The reasons involve matching the strength of winning hands to the betting strategy for each stage. Let’s see how.

Sit n go poker tips for the early and mid stages

In an SNG, a premium hand before the flop would be an ace accompanied by another high card, or a high pair in the pocket (face down). After the flop, you have to judge the hand by the number of players still in the game. The more players, the higher the hands. Be cautious because at this stage, with so many hands being played, if someone calls, they are quite likely to have better cards.

However, if there are only two or three players, you can back a top pair with a high kicker (Ace to 10), more aggressively.

Sng poker tips – strategy for the later stages

The number of players will be smaller and the blinds bigger. You’re likely have between two and four rounds of play at this stage, so it’s getting expensive. Now it’s time to get tough. You can even raise aggressively to push players out so that you can “steal” the blinds.

The bubble stage tends to set the scene for the most aggressive play of all. Stack size is vital to how you play. A large stack makes you the most likely winner of this stage because other players will be wary of your power to eliminate them.

After this, the “in the money” stage often sees two of the three players locked in combat. You’re hoping one may become fatally weakened with a short stack because at the heads-up stage, the player with the biggest stack is most likely to win.

This shows why managing your bankroll from the start is so important in SNGs – if you still want to be sitting there at the end of the tournament.