Tournament Poker: Sit & Go
By Loki Luchs
When poker arrived on the internet, a whole new era of games began. One of the most popular of these formats were the “Sit-and-Go” tournaments. For those that have never played online, a sit and go tournament was originally a 10-person tournament (although it was later modified so 6-person and heads-up tournaments were also available.) This is an appealing format because you earn money by being one of the top three players in any given session. This, for good players, is no difficult task. In fact, this is easily accomplished for anyone who can play a tight-aggressive game at a lower limit table.
The blinds usually begin at 5/10, with a tournament stack of $1500 or $2,000 depending on the poker room. This is obviously a very deep initial stack. At the extremely low limits, players are usually horrible and are knocked out within the first two rounds. The obvious way to beat these tables is to only play tight-aggressive poker. Maniacs abound, but they are easily trapped when you come upon a real hand. For that matter, calling-stations are easily manipulated in the same way. Only bet when you have the strongest hand and you'll stand to make a fair amount of profit. If you've playing against an opponent who is a rock, wait until the blinds get to a substantial amount and crush them with raises.
I generally believe that the best way to play the lower limits is to stay rock tight until the table is short handed, usually 6 players or less. This tends to happen around level five, when blinds are somewhere in the range of 75/150 or 100/200. There will often be one or two big stacks (or one HUGE maniac stack) and the rest will be below average. At this point, blind stealing becomes the basic goal. If you begin raising any time you have position and/or a playable hand into the small stacks, you will finish in the top three most of the time. Be careful to back away from the re-raise, however. I usually raise 3 times the big blind, which usually won't leave me pot-committed when a player pushes on me.
At the higher level, there is more sophistication in the game. Most higher-level players play a pretty tight game, so it may behoove you to open up and play a lot of pots early on. See if you can take an early chip lead. These players paid more to play the game, so they DON'T want to be knocked out early. If you can force an early lead, it’s much easier to apply pressure to these players as they become short stacks in the later stages. These players will certainly be the ones to push when they get short stacked in later stages, so be less afraid of calling all-ins when you see that a player has been short stacked and stealing blinds to stay alive.
Many casinos have realized the potential for sit and go tournaments. To win at these tournaments, you need to play the opposite of your opponents. Many maniacs that come to Vegas have watched too much watered down ESPN and want to experience tournament play without spending large amounts of money. If you see a player who pushes all-in for $2,000 when there’s only a $150 in the pot, this is a player who can be taken advantage of. Play tight and wait for them to do the same silly move when you've got a hand and you'll make the money. Another thing you see in live play is that people are afraid to be knocked out early. If the whole table is tight and afraid of not getting enough “value” out of their tournament buy-in, it may be a good idea to play loose and raise them every chance you get early on. A deadly combination of style is to start off playing loose, only to tighten up when the other players get frustrated and begin to react to your maniac behavior. They will be getting short stacked and won't be giving you credit for a hand, which spells disaster when you actually have one.
Sit-and-go tournaments are an excellent addition to the tournament world. In addition to offering a quick tournament structure to players who don't have days on end to play, they offer excellent practice for final table play. If you're uncertain of the quality of your tournament end game, I highly suggest that you practice up at a sit and go. There’s no cheaper practice for the rewards of winning a final table!
Related: Turbo Texas Hold'em Sit and Go's
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