How to Beat 1-Table Sit N Go Tournaments
The term ‘Sit N Go’ refers to a small poker tournament with no set start time. These games start as soon as the required number of players sit down. They come in many sizes, from 2-players, all the way up to 180 over 20 tables. The most common form is a single table of 9 players.
Sit N Go tournaments require some unique strategy adjustments. You’ll still need to have the poker fundamentals in place (bet sizing, hand selection and position), with extra factors playing into your thinking.
This page gives you an overview of strategy for smaller stakes Sit N Go tournaments. The focus is on online games – though the ideas also apply to live games.
Here is what you will find in our Sit N Go strategy guide:
Experiences sit n go players open with fewer hands than in an equivalent buy-in multi-table tournament or cash game. Even when the blinds are low compared to your chip stack, wasting chips with speculative hands can be costly.
The early stages are a great opportunity to spot which players understand the fundamental concepts of Sit N Go strategy. Players who are loose (playing off-suit aces with small kickers or worse) will not understand the math behind these games. Players that frequently limp or call raises – only to fold when they miss the flop – are likewise not Sit N Go specialists.
When you do get big hands, play them aggressively. Your objective is to isolate bad players and win big pots with as little risk as possible. There may be opportunities to play small pairs, suited aces or suited connectors in the hope of hitting a monster flop. Make sure you do this from position and when it is cheap to get in. As you will see from the later stage strategy, chips you lose are a lot more valuable than additional chips you win at this point.
Compared to other formats, it is rarely worth defending your blinds during the early stages. If you are faced with a choice between standing up for yourself when out of position with a mediocre hand and folding, choose the fold!
As the blinds increase and a few players have busted, you need to start getting aggressive. Once again, chips you lose are more ‘expensive’ than additional chips you accumulate. If you have a premium hand, play strongly, there is little benefit to getting tricky and finding yourself in a tough spot. From the middle-stages and on you should be focused on reaching the ‘bubble’. When one or two players need to bust before the prize money spots, inexperienced players make huge mistakes. Getting there with enough chips to find folds with is the key driver of the middle stages.
With stacks of 20 big blinds, you are in a great position to steal and re-steal. If an opponent to your right opens too many pots, shoving over the top of them will often pick up cheap chips. You’ll need to defend your blinds sometimes, though a strategy of stealing them from others in position is far more effective.
During the middle stages, stacks will often be too shallow to play speculative hands like suited connectors or small pairs. High card strength alone can be plenty enough to resteal, depending on your assessment of your opponents.
With blinds getting big, you will often find the average stack at 10 to 15x the big blind when you are down to 4 or 5 players. This is known as ‘the bubble’. When the bubble bursts, the remaining players will all be in the money. In addition to the shallow stacks, there will often be a lot of different chip stack sizes in play. If one player has a huge stack, you play differently to a bubble with 3 mid-sized stacks and one tiny one.
Your reads from the early stages on which players have Sit N Go strategy knowledge and which do not come into play here. If 2 or more opponents do not understand the dynamics of the bubble, you are in a good (though risky) position. The advantage to this is that those players can get into big pots and knock each other out – gifting you a prize money spot.
When you are playing shallow stacks, there is little room for betting over multiple streets. The standard play involves going all-in or folding. It is not the strength of your hand which dictates which hands to shove or call with – it is your ‘equity’ in the prize pool. Generally speaking, you should shove all-in a lot wider than the range of hands you call with. Against experienced opponents, you can often find spots to shove any-two. Against recreational opponents, you need to estimate the hands they will (often incorrectly) call with and adjust your own all-ins to these.
If you find yourself with a big stack, and there are 2 mid-sized stacks and a tiny stack at the table, you should often shove with any-2. Those mid-sized stacks will be very reluctant to call all-ins while someone only has 2 or 3 big blinds – and you can steal chips with impunity.
All of the preceding strategy recommendations are driven by the math of how the prize pool is distributed. In a typical 9 player Sit N Go, the 1stplaced player gets 50% of the prize pool, with 30% and 20% for 2ndand 3rd.
Before the bubble, with equal chip stacks, each player has 25% equity over the long run. If you call an all-in, you are risking all of your 25% equity. If you win the hand, you will not always win 1stprize. This means your equity rises, though does not double. In fact, it goes up to around 37.5%. This means you risk 25% to win an extra 12.5%.
This is the reason that you need to call all-in’s far less than you think. You don’t only need a better hand, you need a hand good enough to risk $25 to win and extra $12.50 (assuming a $100 prize pool).
As you gain experience with Sit N Goes, it is worth looking into the math of the ‘Independent Chip Model’. This covers prize pool equity decisions – and shows how you can adjust your game against players who call light.
This math shows why your core strategy is to conserve chips – additional chips you win are worth less and less as the game progresses, tilting the risk / reward ratio differently to cash game poker.
When the bubble bursts, everyone gets a prize. Now is the chance to loosen up, and to go for the 1stprize. Stacks will be very shallow at this point – as low as 8 to 10 big blinds. There is no room for post-flop play here, with the strategy generally all-in or fold.
Equity-based strategy does still apply, though to a much smaller extent than at the bubble. You should shove liberally and call a little tighter – though not nearly as tight as you did on the bubble. Once again, the experience level and tendencies of your opponents has a large role to play.
Those same players you saw limping unsuited aces and calling bets frequently in the early stages will play a lot differently than ‘regulars’ during the later stages. These types of players have little concept of prize pool equity – and will call with some terrible hands. While they might celebrate when they catch your ‘bluff’, this is a losing play long-term. The main result is to gift extra equity to the players not in the hand. Make sure that you tag or make notes on this type during the early stages. Should they make it to the later part of the game, you can adjust to their wider calling ranges.
That same type of player will typically shove all-in with a smaller range than a regular. This is a suicidal strategy, as the blinds are big and will quickly decimate your stack. Adjust by tightening up you calling range here.
Regulars who multi-table Sit N Goes will play in the opposite way at the bubble. They will not call without a top 10% (or even 5%) hand in many spots. At the same time, they will shove all-in with any 2 cards, knowing that you will not be able to call.
When facing good regulars, remember that their perception of you will be factored in. If they think you understand the math, they will shove wider. If they think you are an inexperienced amateur, they will be playing a somewhat tighter range. If you have the time, you can play with these scenarios using an ICM calculator – and re-adjust your own ranges to suit.
There are many new formats under the general Sit N Go category. Here are some of the popular formats: