Sit and Go Poker Strategy

Mario Alfonsi by Mario Alfonsi  |  Published on May 23, 2017  |  Updated on May 23, 2017

Sit n Go Tournaments are a great option at online poker sites for players that don’t have an entire day to commit to a regular multi-table tournament. Players who don’t have the time play in longer tournaments can instead play in Sit and Go tournaments.These tournaments are generally available as short 1-table tournament events, or as multi-table events with as many as 200 people in them. If you stop to think about that, that’s more people than play in many land-based tournaments at local tribal casinos.Sit and Go Poker

Basic Sit & Go Strategies.

There are sit and go tournaments that you can get into for less than $1 and tournaments available for up to thousands of dollars. The limit at most sites will start as low as $1 all the way up to a few hundred dollars for each Sit and Go you participate in. Playing in Sit and Goes is very different to other poker games; hence a different Sit and Go Poker Strategy should be used. Today we’re going to be concentrating on 1-table sit n go’s.There are basically four phases in a typical Texas Holdem sit and go, which include: The early phase when blinds are low and most tables are full. The middle phase happens when the blinds start to get a bit higher, a couple players have been knocked out, and if you’re playing at a 1 table sit n go, 5 or 6 players remain, and then the final stage, where just the 3 cashing players remain.It’s vital to your strategy that you make it to the money, which is generally paid to the last three players in a 1-table sit and go event. There are players that will say that you can’t be afraid to go out in the first hand if you want to win the tournament. Well those players are idiots, and not long term earners, Phil Helmuth.If you are tracking your finishes and keeping track of how much you make playing poker versus how much you spend, I guarantee you will stay in the green if you always stay in the money.So we’ve established that the key to a Sit and Go is making it to the final three, where you will earn a part of the prize pool. You can’t be too rash when you’re playing Sit and Go’s just because you have seen one of the pros on TV going all in on a stone cold bluff. I recommend playing a tight and relatively aggressive game, adjusted for the phase you are in.

Sit n Go Tournament Strategy – The Early Phase

In the early phase of a Sit n Go you should play tight, but not as tight as in later phases. The reason is that the blinds and betting minimums are low enough to take a few chances on less than optimum hands, particularly lower suited-connectors. If the blinds are just 2 chips of the smallest denomination chips, and you have 78-suited, or ten-jack suited, something along those lines… and… no one has been raising, or you’re in late position (one of the last people to call) go ahead and see a flop.Stay conscious of how many chips you have, don’t bleed off a quarter of your stack seeing cheap flops, but if you have a good drawing hand, and you can get in there for cheap, it’s ok to do that. Remember, if you play 7/8 and you hit the 7 on the flop, do not go crazy! You only have a pair of 7’s.Look for reasons to fold. If you think there’s a chance you’re beat, do not go after a small pot for any reason without the nuts. You cannot win the event if you cannot stay alive throughout the first stages.Playing your small blind in the early stages of a tournament is entirely up to you. Poker studies have shown that a small blind bad had still generally loses and calling the small blind, even though you’ve already got some money in is really just another way to bleed off chips. If there’s no raise though, it’s also shown to be fairly harmless. You’re not a robot or a computer, and if you want to see cheap flops, this isn’t a bad spot to do it in. Again remember that making one small pair is dangerous.

Playing Sit n Go’s – Middle Stage Strategy

In the middle phase of Sit N Goes you’re going to need to tighten everything up. The shortest stacks are going to make some moves and likely find themselves getting called by some not-so-hot action players that perhaps built larger stacks during the initial phase of the event. They’ll fight it out for a bit, some players won’t make it, and some of those monster stacks will either chip up better players, or they’ll get even bigger stacks. Keep your eye on them, watch how they play, watch what they play, how they play it, when the flop comes and you’re not in the hand, and watch their faces, if you’re playing live. If you’re playing online, take note of how much they bet, and what they have if they go to showdowns.These guys are going to be your ticket to the money shortly. This middle stage is all about patience. Don’t play any hands you don’t have to. To put this in perspective for you, a 180 person tournament at PokerStars can be won by playing no more than 4 hands throughout the entire event. You’re going to be folding here, it might seem frustrating, but you’ll get the hang of it.When you are strong, play strong. Get as much cash in the pot preflop as you think you can. Same on every card that comes after, if you’re not beat, get as much cash as you can into the pot. If you find out later that you’re beat you fold.

For instance, let’s say you have KK, and you bet 5x the big blind, when most people have been betting 3x. You made a strong bet; only someone with a strong hand should call. However, much to your dismay, all of the other players call. An ace flops, and someone goes all in. Do not hesitate. Do not take a long last look at your kings, simply muck them and move on. It hurts, especially if the blinds are going up and it’s time to be making moves, but you’re going to have to move on and wait for another strong hand.In all honesty, in the hand above, the guy that went all in probably wouldn’t have an ace, that’s a bad place for the guy with an ace to go all in. He might have trips, but he’s probably just bluffing, so let’s say you call him to find out if he’s bluffing. Well there are two things that can go wrong here.

  1. He wasn’t bluffing.
  2. He was bluffing, but the next guy to act has an ace.

Playing Short Stacked

If at any time during the earlier stages of the sit and go you find yourself short stacked (Which usually means you have less than 10 big blinds remaining, sometimes in tournaments with unfavorable blind structures, it can mean as few as 5 big blinds) you’re going to be playing a whole other game. You’re going to lower your standards a bit, and you’re going to shove with KQ suited, or any Ace-ten or better.That means as soon as you see those cards, if no one has forced you all in, you’re going to go all in. There’s no betting, no calling, no moves to make at all during your time as a shortstacked player but all in. This remains true unless… you’re almost in the money.The rules change then. If you’re almost in the money, and you’re on a short stack, and you can feasibly wait for someone else to go out of the tournament before you, so that you can make the money, then do that.

Playing the end stage of the Sit and Go Tournament

Toward the end of the event, the blinds are getting bigger, the short stacks are getting squeezed out and the big stacks are getting bigger. Hopefully, you have a comparable stack to the rest of the table, that means you’ve gotten some decent hands. If not, don’t worry, keep a cool head, don’t play crazy, let other players do that.In some cases, once players have made the money, they’ll loosen up, go a little crazy and start taking each other out. Just sit back and let them do this. Do not sit and wait for your shot against the crazy guy, that almost always backfires.In a normal crazy-person-free game, you’re going to loosen up some. In fact, if there are just three players, and the raises are reasonable, you can honestly call every hand here. Seriously. In fact, you might even be able to out-play the other two players in a three person game after most flops.If your opponents seem especially weak, then you might try a re-re-raise or two pre-flop. Not too often, but the blinds are pretty big by now, and every move that you can get away with builds your stack, and weakens theirs. When you do have a hand, play it very aggressively. When it seems like your opponent wants the pot more than you, and you’re not strong, let him have it. You can recover small amounts of chips on the next hand.

Playing the shortstack in the final phases

If you’re the short stacked player in the final phases of the event, you’re going to play it much more aggressively than you did before. You’re in the money. You have a lock on last place. There’s nowhere to go from there but up, you’re all in.Plain and simple, you can’t afford to lose a big blind, you can’t afford to pussyfoot or even pay an ante, you’re all in the second you get cards. If it’s 2/3 offsuit and you just cannot bear to pull the trigger, figure out how many big blinds you will have, and if you can afford to stay alive, and still have enough chips to bother doubling up the next round.Ideally though, you want to be all in as soon as possible, because the more chips you have, the more likely no one else will call. If you let your stack dwindle, you’re undoubtedly getting called.Once you have chips again, and are feeling safe. Stay lose, and remain aggressive, refer to the above. Steal when you can, re-raise when it might work, and do what you can to cripple your opponents. Every chip here counts.