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Single Table Sit-and-Go Strategy

Fortune Jack Poker

The single table Sit-n-Go (SNG) tournament is a highly popular poker game format, both online and offline. I guess its partly because it simulates the final table experience many of us watch on televised poker where the pros slug it out for millions of dollars of prize money.

In an SNG tournament, with the blinds doubling up every ten minutes or so, everyone is forced to bet sooner or later so there's lots of action, making it more fun to play than ring games.

Furthermore, unlike the multi-table poker tournaments where typically only the top 10% makes the money, the top 3 players get awarded prize money in a 10-man single table game.

As such, single table sit and go tournaments attract lots of fish and beginners and this is also why a skilled poker player can make money at these games.

Okay, let's take an indepth look at the strategy to win at this game.

Early Stage

During the early stages of the game, you should be playing very tight. You can afford to do so as the blinds are still low. Accumulate chips by contesting pots with strong hands. Don't give anything away.

At this stage, there's bound to be at least a couple of fish at the table. Let the fish and maniacs kill themselves first. Observe your opponents and take note of their playing style while you fold your hands.

"Invincibility depends on one's self; The enemy's vulnerability on him."
- Sun Tzu

Unless you have the nuts, do not attempt to slow play. A chip in hand is worth two in the pot. Don't be greedy.

Don't chase drawing hands. Playing by pot odds don't work in tournaments. For example, if you chase flush draws with all of your chips, then the odds are that you get to be chip leader 1 out of 4 times but gets eliminated 3 out of 4 times. Remember, its not the amount of chips you have but the stage at which you get eliminated that determines whether you make the money or not.

Risking survival for a few more chips should never be an option. Don't go all-in unless you have the nuts. I never understand why there are so many players willing to go all-in preflop during the first few hands of the game. So what if they have a 60% chance of doubling their chip count? Being the chip leader at this stage does not guarantee that you will win the tournament. However, losing your entire stack guarantees your elimination.

Don't attempt to bluff as there should still be a few fish and maniacs at this stage and they are notoriously difficult to bluff.

Middle Stage

This stage is defined as when there are about 4 to 5 players remaining in the game or when the blinds are starting to eat away at the stacks. By now, most of the fish should have been eliminated.

You should start to be more aggressive and start making a few bluffs. Aggression now has its own value. Take note of players who start to play tight at this stage, hoping to inch into the money. Don't let that happen to you. Against such players, attack them whenever you can since they will most likely fold but be prepared to retreat when they strike back.

"If the enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him.
If he is in superior strength, evade him."
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War        

Attack weakness, avoid strength. Try to take out the short stacks. With the blinds rising fast, short stacks are pressured to gamble or be blinded out. Don't be afraid to move all-in if you think you have the upper hand. At worst you get short stacked but you will not be eliminated as opposed to taking on and losing to the larger stacks. Besides, you need the chips to have a decent shot at making 1st place if you do make it into the top 3 spots. Being numero uno often is the only way to make any money in the single table Sit-and-Gos.

Late Stage

Now that you have made the money, its time to get really aggressive and take that number one spot.

Sometimes I like to play abit tighter initially and let the overzealous ones get eliminated first, preferably by me. However, once you notice that the other two players are thinking along the same line, you should start being aggressive.

Stealing the blinds should be an integral part of your overall strategy. You should steal with starting hands that still have a shot at winning a showdown (eg. suited connectors, high cards offsuit) since your opponent may call and you might flop something good. Moreover, being selective also gives the impression that you don't just steal with any hand and your opponents will in turn respect your raises and fold.

"Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat."
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Vary your play. Avoid being predictable. At this stage with only 2 to 3 players left, its very easy for your opponent to know what you are trying to do if you keep doing the same thing. Be like water. The player most likely to win will be the one who can adjust his tactics to counter his opponent's. If you opponent starts to play tight, loosen up and steal his blinds more often. If you opponent start to loosen up, play tight and look to trap him.

General Advice

Don't expect to win every game or else the pressure to win will get to you. Think long term. You will encounter bust outs due to bad beats because even strong hands have a chance of getting beat. A string of bad beats is not an impossible scenario. Luck still play a role in poker.

Stay away from poker when you encounter a series of losses. Do something else, preferably outdoors away from a casino. This is to prevent you from going on full tilt and lose everything you won from previous games. Once you have calmed down, reflect on your play and see whether any adjustment to your overall strategy is required or you have simply been suffering from bad beats.

Keep notes to track who are the solid players. Avoid them whenever possible. Don't let your ego get in the way of making money.


Start tight and play with strong premium hands initially. Let the fish and maniacs finish one another off first. Don't chase drawing hands and don't slow play unless you are holding the nuts. Use the time to study your opponents. Loosen up gradually and play aggressively towards the end game.

If you encounter a series of losses, stop playing and do something else. You don't want to go into full tilt and lose everything you won earlier on.

Monitor your progress. You should aim to finish in the money at least 50% of the time and making top placement at least 20% of the time. If you finish in the money 50% of the time but place 1st only 10% of the time, then chances are you are not aggressive enough during the end game stage.

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