Texas Holdem Tournament Strategy - Sit and
Go Poker Tournaments
Welcome to the fourth in my Texas Holdem Strategy Series, focusing on
no limit Texas Holdem poker tournament play and associated strategies. In
this article, we�ll examine the "Sit and Go" tournament - the most popular
online poker tournament format today.
When I first started playing in Sit and Go tournaments, I was beginning
to think they called it "sit and go" because you sat down, played a
little, then it was time to go do something else since you'd just been
whacked and knocked out of the tournament! These tournaments can be really
tough, since they're effectively like being at the "final table" of a
The recent popularity of playing online Sit & Go tournaments
sometimes amazes me. On any given evening, you can try to jump into a Sit
and Go (SNG) table on Party Poker, for example, and easily find yourself
competing just to get into a seat before that table fills up, forcing you
to go find another table (especially on lower-entry fee tables). I've seen
times when it can take up to 10 attempts to get into a Sit and Go
tournament table during prime time. That's because there are literally
thousands of players across the world who are hungry to get into these
tournaments and hopefully win some money.
All of the major online poker rooms now offer Sit and Go format games
now, so you can find a place to play just about everywhere. You can think
of these games as being very similar to small "satellite" tournament games
that surround the bigger poker tournaments at traditional poker tournament
venues. They also somewhat resemble play at a final table in a regular
tournament, with one key exception - nobody at this table earned their way
to this tournament table - they simply paid their entry-fee to play there.
Because of this, the broad range of players and skill levels you're likely
to encounter varies wildly - one of many challenges you'll face in Sit and
Generally, there are two types of Sit and Go tournaments offered.
Single table and multi-table tournaments. Nowadays, there is also a faster
game, sometimes referred to as "Turbo" mode SNG tournaments. In these
games, the tempo of the tournament is much faster (blinds go up every 5
minutes instead of 15 minutes), with the blinds increasing much faster and
less time allowed to make your decisions. This is a very challenging game
format, but it does move along much faster than a traditional Sit and Go
You can also get into 4-player and heads-up (2 player) games, which
just effectively puts you into the poker tournament final table,
short-handed mode of operation immediately, so you can play the end-game
out from there. I don't really prefer these games, though, since there are
far fewer players and therefore the pool size available to win is much
smaller and not as worthwhile.
In general, two-table Sit and Go's are much more profitable, since they
begin with more players (18 to 20), making the prize pool larger and more
attractive. Once you know how to play and win in these Sit and Go
tournaments and can adjust your play appropriately, the number of tables
and players really doesn't matter as much, since you'll be able to adapt
your play quickly as the situation changes around you.
Some of my favorite places to play Sit & Go tournaments include
Party Poker, Poker Stars and PrimaPoker's Captain Cook's poker rooms.
There are many awesome poker rooms out there, with a wide range of players
frequenting each of them. They are all very similar.
There are a number of different entry-fee levels to choose from,
typically ranging from $5 up to $5,000. There is very little difference in
playing in the lower limit games in the $5 to $30 range. When you get
above the $30 threshold, the level of players you'll encounter improves
dramatically. The poker room site typically takes a "rake", a fee of
around 10% for hosting the tournament, and the balance of the funds go
into the prize pool. In single-table SNG tournaments, the payout goes to
the top 3 finishers. In two-table games, the top 4 places are generally
In higher entry-fee games, you'll be playing against some very good
players. In these high tier games, you'll encounter some of the best, most
dangerous players around. If you're interested in getting into these high
stakes games, one way is to win enough at the lower stake games so that
you earn, or leverage, your smaller entry-fees into the bigger games, a
traditional way that satellite games work and a good approach to take.
I play in a lot of Sit and Go tournaments and regular tournaments, both
online and in casinos and poker rooms. Throughout all of this, I have
finally learned how to win consistently at Sit and Go tournaments. There
are some key areas that you must focus on and shore up in order to
properly "shape" your play and end up in the money.
You'll need a well-rounded approach, though, to place in the money
consistently at Sit and Go tournaments, including:
* Playing Position Correctly - you'll need to know how to use position
in the Sit and Go tournament to your advantage, which hands to play in
which positions and how to keep from losing your chips from poor
positions. Earlier in the tournament, it's best to be more conservative
with your play by only playing the best hands from the best positions.
* Adjusting to Changing Conditions - the key to winning Sit and Go
tournaments is adjusting your play style and approach as the blinds and
number of players increases. Done correctly, you'll end up in the final 3
in the money up to half of the time (no approach you can take will allow
you to win all of the time). As the game progresses, you must adjust or
the blinds will eat you up.
* Winning Heads-up Play - arguably one of the most misunderstood, yet
most fun part of any tournament, is playing heads-up against another good
player. Learning to play winning heads-up poker means the difference
between being the Winner and 2nd Place - a huge difference in payout in
all tournaments goes to the winner, along with the recognition as the
champion, so you must learn to play great heads-up poker. In general, you
must play much more aggressively heads up than you would otherwise.
* Beating Aggressive Players - see my article on playing vs. aggressive
players, which will definitely make a difference for Sit and Go play, as
it explains how to take advantage of aggressive and wild players, without
losing all of your chips in the process.
* Online Tells - there are many different special tells that you can
use when playing online. Do you know them? Do you use them? If not,
chances are they're being used against you! For example, when players use
checkboxes online and make a lot of their decisions ahead of time, then
suddenly they're not using the checkbox (because they're taking longer),
that could be a tell that they're having to think things through more,
which could be a tell. If they use checkboxes and act instantly, chances
are they don't have a very good hand, so didn't even need to think about
it (just clicked the checkbox and now waiting on the next card).
* Successful Bluffing and Blind Stealing - one of the most important
moves in poker is bluffing the opponents, and in tournament play, you must
be capable of successfully bluffing in order to survive the blinds and
antes and to win heads-up. You can't bluff weak players, so don't even
try. You'll need to learn how determine the style or type of the players,
so you'll recognize who to bluff.
The next time you're thinking about playing a poker tournament, give
the Sit and Go a try. It's a fast-paced tournament, where you'll have the
opportunity to experience first hand what it's like to play at that Texas
Holdem poker tournament final table. You'll go through a sequence of fast
play and changing conditions, starting from a full table of 10 players,
progressing rapidly to only 5 to 6. Then, if you're a good enough player,
you'll find yourself in the most dangerous position of all - where you're
one of only 4 players remaining, so you're only one seat out of the money.
The key goal is surviving to the heads-up phase, so you get a shot at
being the tournament winner, who receives the bulk of the prize pool.
So, you can practice for bigger tournament events by playing in Sit and
Go tournaments and that way you'll be very comfortable when you do make it
that final table in a big Texas Holdem poker tournament, and you'll have a
lot of fun and gain some great Texas Holdem tournament poker experience
along the way.
Rick Braddy is an avid writer, Texas Holdem player and professional
software developer and marketer for over 25 years. His websites and Sit and
Go e-course helps people become better Texas Holdem poker players. If
you're a poker player, be sure to visit his Texas
Holdem websites today and learn how you can play better Texas Holdem,