Single Table Tournament Strategy

Single Table Tournaments or "Sit n Go's" as they are commonly called are a wonderful and exciting opportunity for solid poker players. Practically every site has single table tournaments, and is generally one of their busiest sections. Becoming good at single table tournaments can pay off in the form of winning satellite tournaments to major poker tournament events. Both World Series of Poker winners in 2003 and 2004, earned their way in through satellite events at PokerStars.com. Other sites offer great sit n go promotions such as the Jackpot Sit n Go's at Titan Poker. The following is one single table tournament strategy that has worked well for me in the past. As with all strategies, it is not a magic bullet answer to every situation, and there are about as many successful strategies as there are successful players. However, if you follow this format, you can expect to see profit from your sit n go's in the long run.

Early Stages

During the first two rounds when the blinds are quite small, you should tend to play tight. How tight will be based on your starting chips and how quickly the blinds go up. Some sites start their sit n go players with 1500 chips, others start with as few as 800. There are major differences in the blind structures as well. Obviously the lower your starting chip count and the quicker the blinds go up, the less tight you will be able to be. Generally you are looking to limp with small to medium pairs and bet aggressively if the flop gives you a set. Do not tend to slow play premium pairs. There are almost always way too many players willing to limp in for your slow playing Aces to be a good decision. There are also plenty of players out there who are more than willing to call off half of their chip stack with horrible starting hands. Use this to your advantage, not your detriment. Trapping with sets and premium pairs will often only result in your looking for another table to join, while some schmuck gathers your chips after hitting a runner runner flush or inside straight that you allowed him free cards to draw to.

Play tight, give the fish a chance to bust out with marginal hands, and play your own premium hands in a straightforward fashion.

Middle Stages

I generally consider the 3rd or 4th round to be middle stages. Blinds are $25/$50 or higher and hopefully 1-3 players are already out. It is time to open up your game. Two things have hopefully developed by this point. First, the rest of the table sees you as a rock and will respect your bets, and there are one or two very short stacks below you. Change gears and play aggressively, especially pressuring those small stacks. In many cases they will go into auto fold mode, hoping that they will somehow blind their way into the money or get a pair of aces to double up with. Of course you will want to avoid confrontations with bigger stacks unless you have a quality hand, but you should have enough chips at this point to make a sizable bet preflop and on the flop even if you do not hit, and be able to win hands without a showdown. Now is also the time to trap. During the early stages you gained the reputation as someone who will fold to pressure, surrender your blinds without a fight, etc. Big stacks especially will continue to try to exploit this, and you can trap them for a huge payday in many cases. Play two big card hands and pairs aggressively, and tend to avoid draw hands unless you can limp in as the big or small blind or feel you can win with a bet on the flop.

If you were lucky enough to have a big stack from the early stages, you can really be aggressive and turn on the heat during this stage. Do not play a maniac style and double up the short stacks however. Take your shots at busting them out, but do so with good cards. If they raise your bluff with an all-in, fold unless calling the all-in is a very small portion of your chips. If on the other hand you took bad beats that left you short stacked during the early going, you must build here. Play loosely against the smaller stacks when at all possible, and do not be afraid to shove your chips in with the next decent hand, small pairs, TJs, two big cards, etc. You will need some luck to get back into it, and you won't give yourself a chance to get lucky if all you do is fold.

In the Money

Generally top 3 finishers pay, so when you are down to this point, you can relax even more knowing you have probably at least doubled your buy-in amount. Be super aggressive here any time you sense weakness. Raise or fold. Pressure limpers with raises, unless you have reason to believe they are slow playing premium pairs. If you are the #1 or #2 stack, do your best to not let the #3 stack ever keep his big blind. If he is the typical sit n go player, he will be avoiding confrontation, waiting on a huge hand and hoping that the top two stacks get into a battle and allow him to finish 2nd by default. Once you get heads up, raise relentlessly. Play loose aggressive, and do not be afraid to shove your chips in with any Ace, King or pair. Raises with Queen high, or even jack high is a solid play, though you may want to avoid an all in call. Look to trap with premium hands. Your opponent make take the reprieve as his own opportunity to steal and let you trap him for all of his chips.

In conclusion, while you will still suffer your share of bad beats and early exits, this strategy combined with good Texas Hold'em skills should help you consistently finish in the money and show a nice profit in your Sit n Go tournaments.




Like playing tournaments? Be sure to also check out our Multi-Table Tournament Strategy and Freeroll Tournament Strategy articles!