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Sit and Go Poker Tournament Strategy

Sit and Go poker tournaments, also known as single-table tournaments, have become extremely popular in the last couple of years. Though this type of play was quite popular in land based casinos as well, it usually served as a satellite tournament to larger multi-table tournaments. With onlie poker tournaments this has changed considerably.

Sit and Go tournaments are very popular for a number of several reasons.
First and most importantly – they are quite fun. Sit and Go tournaments last on average about an hour or two, sometimes even less. Hence, you will be a lot less frustrated if you end up busting out before getting to the money and you will be able to get into a new tournament almost instantly especially if its an online poker tournament you are looking for. These kind of tournaments also involve a substantial amount of betting and bluffing . All-ins tend to happen quite frequently as well. Sit and Go tournaments also offer much smaller variance for successful players. The money you stake is exactly the amount of the buy-in. It not only reduces some of the frustration and risk with bad beats and unlucky streaks but also drives bad players to lose more.
A Sit and Go tournament is more similar to a regular ring game than to a multi-table tournament. You pay the buy-in, seat down to the table and wait for the tournament to begin. The minute the table is full each of the players receives an equal amount of chips. The play continues until one player has all the chips and all other have been busted out. The most common structure for such a tournament is paying off only to the top three players. The prize formation is usually half of the prize pot to the first place, 30% to the second place and 20% to the third.

Choose the best tournament stakes for yourself. Feel comfortable with what you are risking. Yet, maintain the focus that the prize is worth the effort and time you are putting into it. Pay close attention to the other players on the table, even more than in your regular ring game. As these tournaments have an incredible amount of bluffing involved try to get the best out of it. Learn to recognize the kind of people you are playing with early in the tournament and pay special attention to their betting patterns. Although many Sit and Go players tend to be tempted to play several tables at ones, this might be a bad idea. Playing several tables in parallel may be easy with ring games but it will definitely take a toll from your observation ability. It is also highly recommended to keep a detailed record of your tournament play. Learn to spot the best stakes for you and the flaws in your play. A good record can help you spot problems and destructive patterns in your play in the late stages (are you playing too tight? Are you playing too aggressive?). Now let's get to the details of the game itself:

Early tournament Strategy

Experts somehow disagree on the right form to play early in the tournament. On one hand Sit and Go tournaments progress rapidly and you want to have a decent stack in the middle of the tournament. On the other hand there are more than a few fish on this point and you want them to pay you off. Try not bluffing to much on this point as the blinds are still low and you are very likely to be called. Play only solid hands but occasionally limp to see the flop even with low pairs or suited, connected face cards (sometimes even a J10). Let the fish but out on their own but take advantage when you can. You can loosen your hand requirements to some degree if you are in a late position and have no one to raise you. After seeing the flop play tight as possible, do not risk your chips. Look for the easiest opportunity to make a small profit but generally try to play solid.

Middle tournament Strategy

This is when you start playing more reasonably and more similar to your regular play. Don't get sucked in to making any beginners mistakes. Still aim to see a few flops but start aiming towards the blinds. This is the time to start stealing the blinds. In this part of the tournament it is much easier to be the first to raise the pot and much more difficult to call or re-raise. Stealing blinds will be quite affective and relatively easy at this point. If someone already raised or called the pot you should be cautious as it might mean he has a real hand. Try to create situations and play aggressively from time to time, although be careful and choose when to act aggressively with caution.

End tournament Strategy

If you have gotten so far there are three possible scenarios: you are either short stacked, medium or large. When you are short stacked aggression is necessary, there is no point to wait for other players to knock each other out as you will be busted out solely by blinds before you notice. Going all in with reasonable card before the flop might get you in the money. Stealing blinds is essential as you do not want to squander half of your stack only to fold postflop. An ace and anything down to eight is more than reasonable. Low pairs can be very useful as well. As this stage your ability to money manage well is crucial.

If you hold a medium size stack play with caution and try to gain advantage slowly, chip by chip. Do not get caught up in big conflicts if you are not sure you are more than likely to end up on top.

If you have a large or more than average stack than you should use it as leverage to pressure the others. Do not play too aggressively and respect large raises. Attack the wicker players and try to bully them for their blinds. Most players will try to sneak their way to the money.

When it comes down to a simple Heads Up, aggression is your only way to win. If you will break down the hands statistically you will see that almost each of the hands is very marginal. You simply can not win by waiting for better cards, so bluffing is inescapable. Aim for the first place but keep in mind that you are already in the money. Heavy bluffing is your only way to win this position so do not be afraid to use it. Some experts claim that you should raise about %90 of the hands you play. This might be somehow exaggerated but it points out the general direction.

Article submitted by Alex Chamberlain, 12/12/2005

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