Sit n Go Poker

If you want the fun and excitement of tournament poker but don’t want to wait hours and hours to reach the final table, then Sit n Go Poker is the game for you. Rather than playing against hundreds of players to reach the final table, you get to start at the final table and play down to a winner.

While Sit n Gos are considered a great way to hone your tournament skills more efficiently, they have strategies of their own that you should apply when playing them. Many talented players have either made their start in Sit n Gos or had long, profitable careers as dedicated Sit n Go players, so there’s money to be made if you can play them well.

Stacks of multicoloured chips next to a poker hand showing a royal flush in diamonds

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What is a Sit n Go?

A Sit n Go is a form of tournament poker that is limited in the number of players that can join. Most Sit n Gos are limited to one table, meaning that the maximum number of players that can play is nine. Once all the players have registered, the tournament begins, and each player is sat at the table with a set number of tournament chips.

The blinds and antes start at a low amount relative to the starting stack but will increase as the tournament progresses. The aim of the game is to be the last player standing with all the chips, although prizes are awarded to the top 33% of the field in a 6-handed or 9-handed Sit n Go. One by one, players are eliminated, but as the number of participants is limited, these players aren’t replaced. The original group of players will play down to a winner. Once the last player has been eliminated, the tournament is over, and the last player remaining wins 1st place money.

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What Makes Sit n Go Poker Different?

While Sit n Gos are similar to MTTs, there are some differences that set it apart from any other form of poker. Let’s take a look at what those are.

Limited Players

The limited number of players sets Sit n Go poker apart from any other form of poker. Only a small number of players can register for a Sit n Go, which gives you a tournament-style structure without the large fields that come with MTTs. The smaller nature of Sit n Gos heightens the differences between players, and poor tournament players are often found out very quickly. You can’t rely on picking up chips from the dozens of weaker players like you can in an MTT; you have to fight to win your chips and make your way into the money.

The limited number of players also means that you have to get used to playing with different numbers of players at your table. If you play a 9-handed SNG, because that’s where you feel your edge is biggest, the table will be 4-handed by the time you reach the bubble. If you don’t know how to play short-handed, you’ll quickly find yourself out of your depth when you approach the most important part of the tournament. A good Sit n Go player will be just as comfortable playing heads up as they are 9-handed.

More Places Paid

Another area that sets Sit n Gos apart from regular MTTs is the proportion of the prize pool that gets paid. In an MTT, 10-15% of the field will get paid, whereas in a Sit n Go, it’s often around 33%. This increase means you should cash in around 1 in 3 SNGs you play, but the variance of Sit and Gos means that just because you’ve lost the last two, you’re far from certain to cash your third.

We talked about variance in our online poker tournament strategy article, and Sit n Gos can potentially match MTTs in variance, particularly if you play short-handed turbo tournaments. This means that you must be prepared to lose a lot when you play SNGs. The quick-fire nature of these tournaments means that you can quickly lose a sizeable portion of your bankroll if you go on tilt, so it’s important to remain in control of your emotions while you play.

Choosing Your Tournament Size

One of the things you have to do when playing Sit n Gos is to choose your tournament size. The most common forms of SNG poker are 9-handed, 6-handed, and heads-up. Players who like to play a conservative style will feel most at home at a 9-handed Sit and Go, as the number of players at the table lends itself to a tighter style of play. 

The 6-handed game will feel familiar for online cash game players, though the adjustment to the tournament structure will take a bit of getting used to. The heads-up tournaments are for the action junkies, the players who hate folding and want to play as many hands as possible.

Each tournament size has its appeal, but you have to determine which will work for you based on your playing style.

9 Handed SNG Strategy

A 9-handed SNG will feel familiar if you play online MTTs, as many of those also play 9-handed. These Sit n Gos afford you the most time to build a stack, as there is a full table of other players to win chips from. You don’t need to go crazy playing a wide range of hands; you can afford to sit back and pick up the punts from the recreational players in the early stages.

EARLY STAGE

This means that you should be playing a tight-aggressive opening style from when the game starts to when it reaches 6-handed, and try to pick up as many chips as possible from the weaker players. Hands that play well at this stage include small pairs, suited connectors, and suited aces – as well as strong hands like aces and kings. These hands have the potential to make a monster hand but won’t lose you a big pot if you only make a pair.

MIDDLE STAGE

Once you’ve reached the SNG’s middle stage,, it’s time to open up your range. You’ll find at this point that the blinds are a much bigger proportion of your stack than they were at the start, so the incentive for stealing them is much higher. This is an important stage of the tournament, as you want to put yourself into a strong position for the bubble. Playing with a big stack on the bubble of an SNG is fantastic as you can constantly apply pressure to your opponents and pick up chips that strengthen your stack for when you reach the money.

When you get 5 or 6-handed, start stealing the blinds more often, particularly from late position. High card hands like Kx suited and Qx suited go up in value compared to small pocket pairs, as you’re more likely to flop a strong hand with a hand like KJ compared to 33. 

BUBBLE

How you play the bubble will depend on your stack size. The dynamics of an MTT bubble are heightened in a Sit n Go due to the limited number of players. You can’t sit on a short stack and wait for a player on another table to bust; someone from the table is going to have to go broke.

This means that the bubble will often last longer in an SNG than in an MTT, which means the pressure the big stack can apply to the medium stacks is much greater. However, the short stacks are more incentivized to take risks and go all in because they don’t have the option of sitting around and waiting for a shorter stack to bust.

If you’ve got a big stack on the bubble, you’ll want to play a lot of hands to apply pressure to the medium stacks and steal the blinds and antes often. If you have a medium stack, there’s not a lot you can do other than wait for a good hand to shove with or for the short stack to go bust. However, if the big stack isn’t being aggressive, you must steal the blinds whenever you can, as you don’t want to become the short stack yourself. If you have a short stack, you just have to find a spot for a profitable shove, take it, and hope for the best.

LATE STAGES

Once the bubble has burst, the play will be three-handed, meaning you need to play a lot of hands to survive the blinds and antes. You’ll be in the blinds 2 out of every 3 hands, so you can’t afford to sit around and wait for a big hand. By this point, the blinds have likely increased to such a level that your stack is 10bb or less. This means that you should be doing a lot more shoving than raising when you play a hand. By shoving, you get to realize 100% equity if you’re ever called, and you also don’t have to make a decision with a marginal hand when facing a shove.

The hand strength required for shoving is much lower than most people think, especially when playing 3-handed. In fact, many of the marginal hands that most players think can’t be shoved can be shoved profitably. Even a hand as weak as T7s can be profitable shoved from the BTN with 13bb! When stacks are this short, you need to take every opportunity to accumulate chips, so knowing the correct push/fold strategy is important. As long as you’re shoving correctly, there’s not a lot you can do other than hope that you win your all-ins!

6 Handed SNG Strategy

A 6-handed Sit n Go is essentially a condensed version of a 9-handed Sit n Go. It will go through each stage that we mentioned above, but it will reach them much quicker, as it only starts with 6 players. The most significant difference is that the early stage is over a lot quicker. This means you must go from chip conservation to accumulation much more quickly; you don’t have the same amount of time to wait around for good hands.

As there are fewer players, ranges get wider, giving you more opportunities for re-stealing. It’s important to try and notice the players who are raising too aggressively, as you can win a lot of money from these players with some well-timed 3bets. Another exploit you can make, thanks to the wider ranges, is that you can be more aggressive postflop. When your opponent’s ranges are wider, it becomes harder to defend optimally to flop cbets, meaning that you can expect your c-bet to work more often than it should – depending on board texture, of course!

A pair of aces and a flop of AAK

Another key difference between 9-handed SNGs and 6-handed SNGs is the bubble play. The bubble takes place 3-handed rather than 4-handed, which may not seem like a big difference, but it has an impact on the dynamic of the bubble. When there are three players, there’s a defined short stack, medium stack, and big stack. Depending on how close the short stack is to the medium stack in terms of chips, the medium stack has to play a lot more hands just to survive the blinds, meaning that the big stack cannot apply pressure in the same way.

You’re in the blinds 2 out of 3 hands when you’re playing 3-handed, which means you’re more incentivized to play aggressively to try to steal them. If you don’t, you’ll quickly be blinded out and will have no chance of making the money. 

This means that you need to be playing very aggressively as the short stack; if you don’t, you’ll see your stack get shorter and shorter with each passing hand. The medium stack needs to also play aggressively so they don’t meet the same fate. In fact, every player at the table is incentivized to steal the blinds whenever they can due to how quickly the blinds come around. You can’t afford to fold your way into the money in this game.

Heads-Up Sit n Go Strategy

You can’t afford to take any hands off when you play heads-up poker. You need to be playing your best for every single hand, or else you’ll start to see your stack quickly disappear in front of your eyes. You’re in the blinds every single hand, so you need to raise a wide range from the button and defend a wide range when playing from the big blind. A good player will raise around 80% of hands from the button and will defend around 60% of hands from the big blind.

Heads up Sit n Gos are very similar to other forms of heads-up poker, but the increasing blind levels mean you need to adapt to your strategy depending on your stack size. It’s all well and good using a 3x opening raise when you’re 100bb deep, but when you’re 15bb deep, you’re risking a significant portion of your stack.

The most important thing to remember when you’re playing heads up is that your opponent is going to have a very wide range from both the button and the big blind. It’s easy to see monsters under the bed when you’re facing a lot of action, but many players find it hard to balance the correct number of bluffs and value bets when ranges are this wide, so it’s very likely that the average player is way over-bluffing.

Choosing Your Tournament Speed

Another thing you must consider when playing SNGs is the tournament speed. There are three different speeds you can choose; standard, turbo, and hyper turbo. Standard Sit n Gos are the slowest, meaning that you get to stay deep stacked longer and exert your edge over the field, but they take longer to complete. 

Turbo tournaments take a shorter amount of time but leave some room for deep-stacked play at the start. Hyper turbo tournaments start off short-stacked, and the blinds increase at blinding speeds. You will have a sub 10bb stack within a couple of levels if you don’t play a hand, so the game quickly turns into a shove/fold fest.

There is money to be made in all three of these formats – as long as you know the correct strategy.

  1. Standard Speed

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    Playing standard speed SNGs is the closest representation of MTT poker. The blinds increase at a slow rate, meaning that you spend more time deep stacked. In these kinds of games, you can afford to start off slowly – when you’re playing 10-minute levels and start 100bb deep, you don’t have to go crazy trying to pick up chips in the first couple of levels.

    Wait for your opponents to make mistakes and give you chips by playing a tight-aggressive preflop strategy. There’s also no need to go overboard when barreling off postflop; recognize when a board is better for your opponent’s range, and don’t be afraid to give up in these early stages. The early stages are for stack conservation to make sure you have enough ammo for the accumulation phase.

    Once around a third of the players have been eliminated, this is the time when you need to change your goal from conservation to accumulation. You can’t fold your way to a win, and the blinds will be coming around much more quickly, so you need to pick up chips by raising aggressively.

  2. Turbo

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    A turbo SNG will have less deep-stacked play than a standard tournament and transition to shove/fold poker much more quickly. This means that the variance is higher in these tournaments, but this is countered by the fact that you can get through a lot more of them in the same span of time.

    As the early stage doesn’t last as long, you can’t wait around for too long before you start trying to accumulate chips. After the first couple of levels, the blinds and antes will start to hurt, which is your cue to start stealing with a much wider range. At this stage, look for players who are defending too wide against your raises, as you can win extra chips from them by aggressively c-betting on the flop.

    There is a lot more emphasis on preflop play in turbo tournaments, so you need to be sharp on your shove/fold charts if you want to be a winning player. Another useful skill to have is to look out for players who are opening too aggressively, as you can 3bet shove a wide range of hands to pick up their raise, plus the blinds and antes. When your stack is around 15bb, this represents a 25% increase in your stack size!

    While being aggressive is important in turbo tournaments, you still need to be able to pick your spots well. If you go into it trying to shove every hand, you’ll end up busting a lot.

  3. Hyper Turbo

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    Playing hyper turbo SNGs is all about knowing your push/fold charts. There is very little postflop play, even in the first level, so your focus should be on playing preflop as optimally as possible. 

    A good rule of thumb for beginner Sit n Go players is that you should shove more often than you should and call more often than you should. A lot of players, particularly cash game players, are reluctant to shove without a strong hand. The truth is, you don’t need to have a strong hand to make a profitable shove. A hand like Q6s is a profitable shove from the button with as many as 12bb!

    When you play these games, you need to be accumulating as many chips as possible by making these profitable shoves. The number of chips you pick up by getting a shove through a couple of times could be the difference between you surviving an all-in or being eliminated. 

Sit n Go Poker Tips

We’ve covered a lot of different Sit n Go strategies in this article, and it can be difficult to remember which piece of advice applies to which variety of SNG. That’s why we’ve collected some useful Sit n Go strategy tips that can help you become a better Sit n Go player.

  • Know your push/fold charts – The late stages of Sit n Gos are where the money is, and those stages are often dominated by short-stack play. To be able to maximize your winnings when you get close to the money, you must have a strong understanding of push/fold ranges.
  • Get good at playing in all table configurations – One of the unique aspects of playing SNGs is the constantly changing table dynamics. While you may have started playing 9-handed, it won’t be long until you’re playing short-handed. Make sure that 
  • Recognize the turning points – Due to the dynamic table configurations, you need to become skilled at recognizing the point where your game plan must shift from conservative to aggressive. While playing tight is correct in the early stages, at a certain point, you must pivot and try to steal blinds more frequently to accumulate chips for the bubble phase. For 9-handed games, this will often be when the game gets 5-handed, and for 6-handed games, it’s often when the game gets 4-handed, though it’s different for each tournament.
  • Steal a lot in the late stages – Once you’ve reached the turning point of the SNG, where you go from conservation to accumulation, you need to start stealing blinds with a wide range. The blinds will come around quickly, so make sure that you’re aggressively raising preflop to build a stack. 
  • Look for aggressive players to resteal against– One of the best ways to accumulate chips is to resteal against a loose opener. If you can find these players at the table who are raising too often but don’t defend enough against 3bets, there’s a lot of money to be made. Picking up a couple of these resteal opportunities could be the difference between bubbling and making the money.

Summary

Sit n Gos are like a mini version of an MTT final table. You need to be just as adept at playing full ring as you are short-handed if you want to be a profitable player, and you also need to know how to play short-stacked and deep-stacked. There are a lot of aspects of SNG poker you need to learn, and after reading this article, you should have a better idea of what makes a good Sit n Go player.