Low Stakes Sit N Go Strategy – Tournament Strategy
How to Crush Small Buy-In Sit N Goes Online
A common complaint about poker strategy articles and videos is that the ideas put forward by pro players don’t work at the smallest buy-ins. The differences in how your opponents approach hands can be very different at the micros, especially in Sit N Goes. This page sets the record straight. Below you will find strategy specifically designed for low stakes Sit N Go tournaments.
Of course, regular poker strategy still applies. This format will look at the key approaches to each stage of a Sit N Go (based on the most common 1 table, 9 players and 3 prizes format), then add in adjustments for low stakes opponents.
Here is what you will find below:
- Overview of Sit N Go Strategy: What drives your approach for every game
- Early Stages: Your objectives, and how to adjust your bet sizes and bluff frequencies for bad opponents
- Middle Stages: Stealing blinds and growing your stack when you don’t have much post-flop flexibility.
- Later Stages / Bubble: Adjusting your push-fold strategy to cope with opponents that do not understand the concept of prize pool equity.
- In the Money / Heads-Up: Controlled aggression, plus putting novice opponents on ranges
Overview for Low Stages Sit N Go Strategy
The standard approach to 1-table tournaments at all buy-in levels is the same. You need to play with an aim of betting to the bubble – when one player needs to bust before the prize money – with enough chips to have some fold equity.
There are good reasons for this approach, which are dictated by the maths behind how the prize money is distributed. Without going into too much detail on prize pool equity and the Independent Chip Model, the idea is this:
- Chips you gain have a decreasing value. While you have to risk all of your ‘equity’ in the prize pool by going all-in, you do not double your equity by doubling up during the later stages.
- To understand why, look at the prizes. 50% of the money goes to the first placed player. At the end of the tournament, every chip is ‘worth’ exactly half of what it was at the start.
The idea of chip conservation means you should be more conservative with the hands you play, and especially when calling big bets. You do need to accumulate chips, as these will be your primary weapon at the bubble. At the lowest stakes, your opponents will make so many mathematical mistakes (based on prize pool equity) that your edge will be huge. Simply by getting there, and playing a solid game, you will win money in low stakes Sit N Goes over time.
Early Stage Sit N Go Strategy
In the low buy-in games you will meet a lot of crazy opponents. Bet sizes will be big, many players will limp into pots (almost always with speculative hands) and people will call too many bets after the flop.
You should be selective in your hand selection – and avoid playing anything that can be easily dominated from early position. Hands like Ace-Nine and under are simply unplayable in this situation. The main objective is to give yourself a shot at doubling up, without risking too many chips. Calling bets and then folding the flop is simply too expensive.
Here are the early stage adjustments I recommend for the low stakes Sit N Goes:
- Stay tight, and when you do get a playable hand, bet bigger. Bad opponents make calling mistakes, and you should look to maximise these. Raise bigger than you would, with 3x and 4x opens, and 3x reraises compared to the size of the open. Don’t slow-play, and don’t check for deception.
- Bluff less often. Continuation bets are fine, with players limping in and then playing ‘fit or fold’ on the flop, these will have a high success rate. If you do bluff, make sure you have a hand that can still win the pot (for example a flush draw). While firing multiple barrels can work in cases where opponents miss draws, you’ll be called too often by 1 pair hands to make this profitable.
- Stick to hands with high implied odds value. Small pairs and suited aces are playable from position, and can hit monsters on the flop. When you do hit one, build a pot!
- Avoid multi-way pots: At the low stakes, pots will often be 4 (or more) way. Finding a profitable situation will be difficult in these spots. Fold speculative hands, even when it is cheap to see the flop. Instead, raise with your best hand – thinning the field to 1 or 2 opponents.
Middle Stage Low Stakes Sit N Go Tournament Strategy
When the blinds start going up and the number of players start to go down, you can go from tight to selectively aggressive. By the middle stages, you will have an idea of who the wild players are in your game, and who are the loose-passive ‘calling station’ types.
The same concept of maximizing profits for your big hands apply. At the $10 and under buy-in levels people will not notice that you have been tight early – and will often pay you off with all kinds of 2nd best hands.
Here are the adjustments I would make in the middle stages at the lower buy-ins:
- Steal more than your fair share of the blinds (and antes). At the same time, don’t call from the blinds. You will be out of position and will not have the initiative in the hand. This is never a good combination and a common leak of chips.
- Play premium hands strongly. Raise and reraise when you have good hands, there is no need to invite extra players into the pot, or to get tricky. Most mistakes made at the lower stakes involve calling too often – give your opponents the opportunity to make those mistakes.
- Attack Limpers / Loose Raisers: Players who limp too often at the lower stakes, or who raise 2x (for example) every other hand are asking for trouble. You can attack these spots with hands that have some showdown value, though are not good enough to play as a premium. This can be an excellent way of chipping up for the all-important bubble.
Later Stages / Bubble Low Stakes Sit N Go Tournament Strategy
During the late stages of a typical Sit N Go, the blinds are so big that post-flop play is not possible. You have only one choice to make – to go all in or fold. Standard strategy at this point is based on prize pool equity – not chip equity. Players will push all-in with a wide range of hands. This is a positive expectation play, since, mathematically, opponents need a very strong hand to call.
The critical skill at this stage is to put opponents on a range of hands – and to know what you can properly call with according to the maths. There are special tools called ICM Calculators, which help you work on these ranges away from the tables.
With many opponents not understanding this strategy, it is important to work out who knows about it and who does not as you go through the game. Big mistakes are made at this point – and you can benefit from them by making some adjustments.
Here are the later stage Sit N Go strategy adjustments for the later stages:
- Opponents who do not understand ICM will often push all-in with a smaller range than the math suggests. Make sure you adjust your calling range to account for this.
- They will often call too light too. If an opponent makes a call with Ace-Ten (for example) and is pleased to have ‘caught your bluff’, they will be often be making a disastrous play in terms of long-term profits. You need to adjust your own all-in range to account for this.
- Wild opponents will often bust each other in the lowest stakes. In a higher stakes game, you need to push-fold well to survive. At the micros, opponents will often bust each other – gifting you extra equity. When you see active opponents, default to a more cautious approach to take advantage.
- Some players will not get the push-fold strategy at all. They will attempt to play hands by limping or even raising and then folding to a push. Look out for these types, who can provide you with a steady source of chips.
- Look out for unusual behaviour. If an opponent that pushes all-in a lot suddenly min-raises, they may have a monster. This is player-specific, if you take notes when you see it, you can use these to decide your action in future games.
In the Money Strategy in Low Stakes Sit N Go Tournaments
After the bubble bursts, you need to go for 1st place. The pay jumps are levelled out now, and prize pool equity strategy has a smaller effect. Players that were nursing small stacks will go all-in with a huge range at this point. This gives you opportunities to get your chips in with an advantage.
Heads up you will find a mix of players at the smallest stakes. Some will be wild, simply pushing all-in with any 2 cards. Others are way too passive, completing their small blind and folding often to aggression. Again, you will need to put players on a range, and decide whether you beat it (taking into account the huge blinds). Look out for limps from players that usually raise, and min-raises. Players with super-strong hands often fail to go all-in. When you see this, it lets you know that their shoves do not include those premium hands.
Here are the adjustments to win when in the money in the smallest stakes games:
- Get your chips in with any ace, suited king, pair or high-card hands. The huge blinds will quickly decimate your stack if you do not stay aggressive.
- Assign ranges for opponents pushing all in. You need to be ahead of this range, though not to the same extent that you do at the bubble. You can also profit by assigning calling ranges, the same hands people called small raises with early in the game is a great starting point.
- Heads-up you need to be super-aggressive. If you want to have an edge against any typical calling strategy at this point, look up ‘Nash Equilibrium’ or the SAGE system.