SNG Basic Strategy
Basic sit and go strategy isn't very difficult to understand. Even the most amateur of players could learn how to win at sit and go poker with relative ease. The important thing to remember about sng strategy is that it varies greatly from game to game. You aren't going to be able to effectively use the same strategy in a 6-max turbo game as you would in a full ring game with normal blind levels.
Being able to adjust to the circumstances at hand is one of the primary skills that any aspiring sng player will need to learn. With all of that being said, strategy is still quite simplistic through and through. In fact, sit and gos have become so streamlined that many spots can be answered with a mathematical equation. Difficult decisions aren't nearly as frequent and commonplace in sit and gos as they are in cash games or even tournaments.
Sit and go strategy is most similar to that of tournaments. The reason for this is that there are a handful of different "sections" in each event. You will first need to accumulate chips, and then you'll need to continue building that stack before ultimately playing for eliminations. Your approach and end game plan for the game is vital. There are some players that simply try to make the money, but this is most definitely going to cut down on long term profits.
If you are playing to barely slide into the money, you are going to be sabotaging your chances of winning or even getting second place. Sure, sometimes you might bust when you could have played safely and made the money, but you are much better off going for first. There are some exceptions to this rule, like when you are in a satellite tournament and every position pays out the same amount, but they are far and few between. Just as you would in any other poker game, focus on winning. This isn't to say that you should be playing recklessly in an attempt to win or bust, but a passive strategy isn't going to net you the most money possible.
For the most part, the early stages of sit and go play will provide you with the opportunity to hand select and pick your spots carefully. Unless you are in a turbo game, you should have enough relative big blinds that you can muck hands for a little while. It's adjusting and avoiding complacency that's crucial. You can't sit around waiting for pocket aces forever, as eventually the blinds are going to catch up with you.
Switching gears is very much the name of the game in sit and go style poker. It would be impossible to definitively say when you should be re-working your approach, but it will eventually become second nature. It might take you some time to develop the instincts that will tell you when to push the action, but remaining aware and agile is often times the difference between winning and losing.
The middle stages of sit and go tournaments will be when you are trying to gauge where you fit into the grand scheme of things. If you are working with a short stack, you'll know that you need to find the best opportunity to go all in and hope that you can double up. On the other hand, a big stack will give you a chance to push your opponents around in an attempt to build an even bigger lead. As an average sized stack, you are going to be most interested in finding profitable spots. This could mean shoving the button into short stacks, calling shoves in late position, and so on and so forth.
You won't have enough chips that you can get fancy or start to control the game so to speak, but you can stay active. An average sized chip stack can easily go in either direction, towards the chip lead or elimination. Generally, you are going to experience the biggest swings with this size stack. You have to take a chance at accumulating a significant amount of chips, but often times this will result in busting out of the event.
The easiest way to look at strategy for the middle stages of sit and gos is by analyzing your stack size. You are going to need to adjust your strategy to meet what you have available to work with. Small stacks are on a mission to survive, while big stacks want to increase their lead. Know your place in the grand scheme of things and use this position to format a game plan for a deep run. Is this advice wildly general and broad, yes, for sure, but it's entirely applicable.
In The Money
Once you are near the money, it's time to start figuring out how you are going to win. By this point in time you should be well aware of the playing styles of your opponents. This information will then allow you to construct a plan for the accumulation of all chips in play. Have you determined that one player is exceptionally tight? Raise their blinds and take the dead money. Does it seem like one player is being over aggressive? Wait for a decent hand and shove over them. There's going to be more variance at this stage of the game than anywhere else because you have the least number of big blinds to play with. You need to make your best moves and hope for the best. So long as you are making the most profitable plays on a repeated basis, you are going to be in great shape over the long run.
As alluded to previously in this article, you need to be willing to play for the gold. Simply aiming for the money is going to cost you an awful lot of money over time. If you are playing in sit and gos and are thrilled with a min cash but are very upset about missing the money, you should probably consider moving down in limits. Like tournaments, profitability in sit n gos relies on those (however infrequent) maximum wins from time to time. One first place can easily net you more than two third place finishes, so why settle? Be aggressive, be smart, and remain precise in your approach. Consistency is the ultimate key to success in sit and go poker.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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