The Basic Strategy for Sit n Go Tournaments

One thing that I learned as a sit n go player and coach is that the basics go a long ways. Speaking from personal experience, I started off a breakeven player. Then I got a coach, and once he showed me the basic strategy for sit n go tournaments, I started to win consistently. It wasn’t too long before I moved up from the $3 18-mans to the $6s and then the $16s.

And truth be told, all the tools, software, coaching programs and advanced plays aren’t worth squat without some sort of foundation — some sit n go fundamental to fall back on.

Sit n Go Roadmap – A Guide to Each Stage

Ok, so below you’ll find a roadmap that will take you through each stage of a sit n go tournament. Keep in mind that this strategy can, and should, change at any time, depending on the game and variation you’re playing, your opponents and the specific situation. This is merely a starting point.

With that said, let’s get started.

Early Stages of a Sit n Go – 10/20 to 25/50

The early stages of a sit n go are very important. What you do (or don’t do) here will affect you in the later stages.

First and foremost, during these stages it’s very important that you open few hands. Too many beginners get involved in too many hands in the early stages. They have the mindset that they should try to build a stack while it’s cheap, while the blinds are small.

There are several reasons why this is a bad strategy:

  • Purely from an ICM standpoint, when you gain 20 or 40 chips at the 10/20 stage, you are still no more likely to win the tournament than the guy you won the chips from (ok, maybe a little — but it’s miniscule).
  • Winning 40 or 60 chips when you have a 1,500 starting stack means you’re only increasing your stack by 2-4% at most. That’s hardly worth the risk, especially since you can most certainly lose more than that any time you get involved in a hand.
  • You create a loose table image, which will decrease the amount of fold equity you have in the middle to later stages. Fold equity is crucial in a sit n go, because you have to resort to a push/fold strategy so often.
  • You’ll bust the sit n go more often in the early stages, decreasing your ROI and increasing your variance.

So with this being said, it begs the question, what hands should I play?

To be honest, I don’t like giving out starting hand requirements, because I think they stunt players’ growth. However, if I had to give you an answer, you can’t go wrong playing your pairs, AQ+ and KQ+. In the lower stakes I would limp 22s through 10s, raise JJs+ and KQ/AQ+. And when you raise, you can usually get away with 3-5x depending on your table. At the smaller to medium stakes, I personally raise everything I open and raise 2-3x during the early stages.

And that’s my approach to the early stages. Using this basic strategy you should find yourself in the middle to late stages more often than not.

Middle Stages of a Sit n Go – 50/100  to 200/400/25

The middle stages of a sit n go can be tricky for players. That’s because during these stages is when players are usually short stacked, if they didn’t have the chance to chip up in the earlier rounds.

When this happens the natural reaction is to continue to play tight, waiting for the best hand to go all in with so that you can try to double up. It’s a reasonable idea, for sure, but let me let you in on a little secret:

This strategy doesn’t work.

The problem with this strategy is that the right hand just doesn’t come around often enough. What often happens is that you blind down to the point to where you have no fold equity left, and often have to race for your tournament life.

But see, the reason why we’re so tight in the early stages is so that we can take advantage of our image and shove when we’re short.

How short?

The rule of thumb is about 10 big blinds, although you can usually shove a little deeper in a 45-360 man sit n go. The hands you shove will depend on your position, stack size, players left to act and their stack sizes. Sometimes you’ll shove something like JTs or QTo, and other times you’ll need to shove 65s. It just depends. SNG Wizard is a good tool to help you with the basics of push/fold strategy.

You’ll find, too, that once you shove a couple of times in a row, especially in a level with antes, that you build your stack up very quickly. Often times you can become the chip leader at your table, enabling you to steal and abuse the table to build your stack even more.

Ok, that sounds good. But what do I do if I’m not short enough to shove?

In that case what I would suggest doing is trying to build your stack for the bubble and final table. Try to steal a hand or two every orbit. This will depend on who’s on your left and their stack size though. Similar to shoving, you can add a significant amount of chips to your stack by stealing the occasional blinds and/or c-betting the flop when you’re called. It adds up quick.

Late Stages of a Sit n Go – 300/600+

The late stages of a sit n go will be about from the 300/600 level until the game is completed. This almost always includes the bubble, and then of course the final table.

This stage can also be awkward for players, mostly because of ICM. ICM matters more than ever now because each chip is worth a significant amount. Moreover, the chips you have now are worth more than what you stand to gain.

So you kind of don’t want to screw up here.

One of the best things you can do is play with SNG Wizard using the later stages of your sit n go hand histories to figure out what spots are profitable to get involved in, and which are not. As a rule of thumb you usually want to be the guy who’s going all in first, or the player to make the first raise, then the guy who calls off his stack on the bubble. That often includes calling off on the bubble with hands like AK or AQ. Bad players do it all the time, but it actually costs you (and the other players at the table) money every time someone does it.

Anyway, the standard approach to the bubble is to play tight. That’s one of the reasons why we shoved in the middle stages (other than to stay in the game), or tried to build a stack — to be able to sit back and choose our spots carefully.

In the scenario that you’re a short stack, you definitely don’t want to be afraid of bubbling. Lots of players blind down to where they’re forced to go all in, and then they race on the bubble. Definitely don’t do this. Try to pick your spots well, but don’t wait so long to where you don’t have fold equity anymore.

Once the bubble is over, playing in the money will depend on stack sizes. The shorter you are, the wider you should be to try to chip up and move up in pay spots. The deeper you are, the tighter you should be so that you don’t bust prematurely. Of course, this all depends on stack sizes, your opponents and where they are in relation to you.

Then just play to win.

Basic Sit n Go Strategy Summary

I didn’t spell it out in the beginning, but this is what your basic strategy should look like:

  • Stay tight early on to build a tight image.
  • Start playing hands in the middle round. Shove to keep from being short, and if you’re not short, then play hands and steal blinds to build a bubble/final table stack.
  • Tighten up slightly on the bubble and in the money depending on stack sizes.

As you can see, you really play to your image. By being tight early on, you throw your opponents off when you start being active. Then you tighten up again later on. This forces your opponents to adjust, and by the time they do, you’ve already switched gears again.

And that’s it for the basic strategy for sit n go tournaments. Again, this isn’t a end all guide, but if you’re new to sit n gos and/or unprofitable, this guide could very well take you into the black.