SNG Strategy in Poker

SNG Strategy

If you don’t have the time to play a cash game, or a multitable tournament, there is one option available to you – Sit and Go’s. These exciting poker tournaments are different from MTTs since the blinds increase rapidly, and there are a set number of runners. As soon as the seats have been filled, it’s all systems go. There are no scheduled starting times as there are with MTTs.

Without a doubt, the most popular form of Sit & Go’s are the single table formats, known as STTs. It’s easy to understand why these are so popular – they are the quickest way to make a buck.

What Are the Main Components of a Sit & Go Strategy?

This comprehensive SNG strategy guide will introduce you to 5 essential components of a winning S&G game plan. Be advised that there is little wiggle room for mistakes, because Sit & Go’s play out quickly. Before you know it, you may be sidelined to the rail, or short-stacked at the table.

We have highlighted 5 essential areas that are important for Sit & Go gameplay:

  1. Your opening hands
  2. Bet sizing
  3. Playing in stages
  4. Playing aggressively in position
  5. Sit & Go MTT strategy

Be advised that there are many additional Sit & Go strategies to consider other than the 5 tips listed above. This strategic information forms a solid basis for you to build upon. To succeed with SNGs, you need to have a good understanding of these 5 strategic tips.

Without further ado, let’s get started with opening hands.

Opening Hands/Starting Hands – Your Guide to Strategic Play

The first thing you should know about starting hands is that they can change dramatically based on a number of factors. These include the stage of the tournament, your table position, and your chip stack size.

If you have a starting hand such as American Airlines (Ace-Ace), or a pair of Jacks, you can pretty much play these hands with full confidence at any stage of the game. Remember, you can’t simply wait to play a premium pair of hands in an SNG. The blinds increase rapidly in Sit & Go’s, particularly when compared to multitable tournaments. So, your survival takes center stage.

How do Sit & Go’s Compare to Cash Games Vis-À-Vis Hand Ranges?

Here’s the thing about SNGs: when you bust, you’re out. In cash games, you can rebuy, but with SNGs, there is no way for you to avenge that weak 7-2 poker hand that knocked your Kings out of the game.

You should also consider blind levels in Sit & Go’s. As the tournament progresses, your chip stack will get whittled away, meaning that your starting hand range must change to accommodate the changing nature of the game.

During a cash game, you don’t need to worry about playing tight, or playing loose with your starting hand range. Thanks to the fact that blinds stay the same from inception to the end, cash games are much easier to plan for.

In a cash game, you will never ‘blind out’. Remember – if you bust out, you can easily re-buy and pick up where you left off.

Sit & Go Tournaments Early-Stage Hand Ranges

If you’re playing in a 9-max game Sit & Go tourney, with a $5 buy-in, the starting stack could be 1,500 chips. At this point, everyone is on an even keel. Let’s assume that it’s now the third hand, and you are dealt a pair of sevens on the small blind. If there is a raise of 2.5 times the big blind from under the gun +1, and there’s just one caller, what is your ideal poker play?

During the pre-flop stage, when you’re heads up against a random poker hand, 7s are favored approximately 66% of the time. Bear in mind that this is now the third hand in an SNG. Your gameplay will be out of position, and you’ll be competing against 2 opponents. This will dramatically impact the likelihood of winning for you.

If there are any overs on the flop, your 7s probably won’t do very well. If you decide to 3-bet, you may find yourself staring down the barrel and going all in. This is clearly not the position you want to play from during the early stages of a sit & go tournament. Putting all your chips into the middle of the table is foolhardy.

As you advance to the latter stages of a Sit & Go, a pair of 7s could serve you well as an all-in poker hand. Of course, it depends on how many players remain in the game, and the stack sizes. You may soon find yourself 3-betting with that poker hand.

Sit & Go Tournaments Late Stage Hand Ranges

Let’s say that you are now in the final stages of a Sit & Go tournament, one off the money. You may have the second-highest chip stack, and you awaken on the small blind with a pair of pocket 7s. It’s déjà vu all over again.

Now, a player under the gun +1 with one third of your chip stack decides to raise 2 x the big blind. Let’s say that another player with about the same size chip stack is under the gun +1 decides to flat call this raise and as a result, the button folds.

This is the ideal time for you to 3-bet. Just because you don’t have position on the other 2 players at the table, doesn’t mean you mustn’t do this – remember you have plenty more chips in your bankroll. You also don’t want the big blind to limp in for a cheap flop.

Most of the time, a healthy 3-bet with a pair of 7s will scoop the pot for you. In this case however, you have a big stack, and you’re facing a pair of players who are more likely to fold their hand than to go up against you.

Playing Starting Hands Based on Position

Position is the most important factor to consider when determining which poker hands to play. This guide includes the playable Sit & Go 9-Max opening hands based on position. They are determined for the pre-flop stage of play:

Sit & Go Beginners Table for the Early Stages


Limp for Multiway Pots


Early Position 88+ Ace-Jack + Ace-Queen(o) +


Queen-Queen + Ace-Kings(s)

Middle Position 66+ Ace-10+


Jack-Jack + Ace-King

Late Position to 2+, Ace-7s+, Queen-10+

22+, Ace-2s, S10(o) +

Jack-Jack + Ace-King


Bet Sizing

Bet sizing is a major strategic area for Sit & Go’s. Since these are shortened versions of multitable tournaments, you need to bet correctly. You will be facing up to 8 opponents during a 9-Max Sit & Go, and this will impact your bet sizing.

Bet Sizing during the Pre-Flop Stage

The table dynamics will determine your pre-flop raising. If the bet sizing consists of 3 x big blinds, then go with it.

In a Sit & Go contest, pre-flop raising takes place frequently, and is much more aggressive than with multitable tournaments. During full ring SNGs, your average starting stack begins at 1,500 chips. With multitable tournaments, that tends to be double at around 3,000 chips. When the blinds are starting at 10/20, you’re already up against it in SNGs, meaning that you’ve got to hustle to get those chips as quickly as possible.

During the early stages of an MTT, pre-flop raises tend to be about 3 times the big blind. They also tend to drop to 2.5 times the big blind during the later stages. Why? Because the blinds increase rapidly in tournaments. As a novice player in a Sit & Go, you should always raise consistently throughout your game. If you raise too much, and you over commit yourself during a hand, you may not be able to get out as if there were longer blinds.

Bet Sizing in the Post-Flop Stage

In an SNG, post-flop gameplay is also more aggressive than in a multitable tournament. The pressure is on to build your chip stack with smaller starting stacks and shorter blinds. With small blinds, you can invariably C-bet (continuation bet) on every flop.

An example will help clarify: If you’re playing in a $10 Sit & Go tournament, and it’s the very early stages, say the fourth hand, and you are the cut off with an Ace of diamonds and a Jack of spades. Everyone around you folds and you decide to raise 3 times the big blind. Let’s say you get called by the big blind. This heads up encounter on the flop may reveal Ace of spades, Queen of hearts, and Jack of diamonds on the flop. If the big blind decides to check, and you place a continuation bet which is equal to 50% of the pot size, you may get the fold.

Now, if you are determined to advance to the latter stages of a Sit & Go, the typical continuation bet is 50% – 70% and that’s not a recommended option. You could be up against an all-in scenario, or you may be raised all-in. With increasing blinds, and decreasing chip stacks, your continuation bets should actually be decreasing. Smaller continuation bets of around 30% are equally effective, and certainly a whole lot less risky. You’ll typically get the desired outcome – the fold – without risking your entire stack.

Let’s backtrack a little with our $10 Sit & Go. Say there are just 5 players remaining in the middle stages of the contest, and you are dealt the following hand: Ace of diamonds-Jack of spades. If you’re in the cut off and everyone folds around you, with blinds of say 100/200, this may result in your raising 2 times the big blind. If the small blind folds, and the big blind decides to call the minimum raise amount, the flop could come down with 6 of diamonds-King of hearts-Jack of clubs. Now, things get interesting. The big blind may check, and at this point you decide to bet one third of the pot size. If the big blind calls, you may feel that they have a hand such as a King-Queen, perhaps even a King-10 suited. When the Turn comes around, it reveals a 6 of spades, and once again the big blind decides to check. You check behind. If the river – the fifth and final community card – is a Queen of clubs, the big blind may check again, and you decide to check as well. During the showdown, a King of spades-9 of spades is revealed. Your flop continuation bet didn’t get the fold, however by limiting it to one third of the flop, you control the size of the pot. Also, by betting, you guaranteed that the big blind player out of position didn’t dare to go up against you with a King, or a weak kicker card.

Lastly, an important component of Sit & Go’s is that you must choose your opening hands carefully. If it can serve as a buttress against raises, it can also withstand players going all-in against you. This is how you should be thinking, otherwise fold the hand immediately.

Stages of Play for Sit & Go Tournaments

There are effectively 3 unique stages of play for a Sit & Go tournament. Your strategy should be based upon the stage of play. For example, during the early stages, you will have plenty of opponents to go up against, and the blinds will be at their smallest. Conversely, during the late stages of the poker tournament, you will be faced with fewer opponents, and the blinds will be biggest.

Early-Stage Play

During the early stages of a tournament, we assume that 7-9 players will be competing with 20 big blinds to 75 big blinds on average, with blinds starting at 10/20 up to 30/60.

As a poker greenhorn in the early stages of an SNG, you may wish to adopt a tight and conservative game plan otherwise known as tight-aggressive or TAG as your preferred playing style.

The fewer risks you take during the early stages, the better your chances of making money. Maintaining this type of playing style will guarantee that you progress towards the middle stage, and the late stage of the S&G. On the flip side, if you continue to play this way throughout the poker tournament, you will invariably be short stacked. You won’t be able to finish in position #1, where the big money is waiting for you.

If your objective is to make bank in as many poker events as possible, the TAG game plan in the early stages is advised.

Early-Stage Gameplay – A10o

If you’re competing in a 9-Max SNG with a $10 buy-in, and you’re dealt Ace-10 off suit during the early stages, let’s see out things can pan out. Assuming you’re UTG (under the gun), how would you play this particular hand? Remember, this appears to be an easy fold, relatively easy in any event. Ace-10 out of position is a difficult hand that can cost you big league. If you get this hand wrong, you can even lose your Sit & Go tournament life.

The Middle Stages of an S&G

Let’s assume that at this stage there are 4-6 players, with 11 big blinds to 22.5 big blinds average stacks, and the blinds start at 50/100 – 100/200.

During the middle stage of a Sit & Go, several players have already been eliminated. On the flipside, the blinds have increased. You should be looking to shift gears at this stage of the game, especially if you’ve been playing a tight-aggressive game, now it’s time to crank things up.

Your game plan during the middle stage of an S&G determines whether you make it into the money. You will have to dispense with your risk-averse approach and adopt a more risk-seeking game plan. You will want to steal more blinds and knock over those players that are playing a tight game.

Middle Stage Gameplay – A10o

During the middle stage, you may be dealt Ace-10 off suit. Let’s say you’re UTG once again. How do you go about playing this hand? You have several options available, based on your stack size, and your opponents’ gameplay.

If your chip stack is bigger than average, standard raises could instantly win you the blinds. Remember in the early stage, there were 8 other players to beat, now you’ve just got to face off against maybe 6 opponents or less. You could even have the best starting hand.

Playing on the Bubble

Let’s say that there are just 4 players in the S&G, with 17 big blinds average stacks remaining, and the blinds are approximately 100/200.

During a 9-Max Sit & Go, the bubble typically occurs when there are just 4 players remaining. This type of table indicates the strategic map of your poker game plan:


Big stack > 20 big blinds

Second big stack: 10-20 big blinds

2 short stacks <10 big blinds

Extremely short-stacked < 5 big blinds

Level of Aggression

Super-high aggression

Medium aggression

Medium aggression

Super-high aggression

Actions Taken

Pressure the short stacks

Avoid the big stack

Avoid the big stack and put pressure on the short-stacked player

Go all in with a potential double up


Money finish with more chips

Money finish with a healthy stack

Money finish with a second-place position

Double until you have a formidable size stack and finish in the money


As you can see, it’s all about stack size. If you are the big stack player on the bubble, this isn’t the time to sit around twiddling your thumbs. If you’re short stacked with the blinds at 100/200, you likely will not finish in the money by folding.

Tips for Playing the Bubble

  • Do not limp into this stage – as a short-stacked player, or a big-stacked player, this far into a tournament you should never be limping. There is too much money on the line, and you should always raise when you’re starting a hand, particularly on the button.
  • Maintain pressure – As a big stack player, you want to keep the screws turned. If there are 3-short-stack players competing against you, you should use their fear of busting out to your advantage. Maintain pressure by raising at every possible opportunity.
  • Commit yourself to winning – you may be required to call all-in when you raise. Make sensible raises and be sure that you can commit to them when you’re faced with aggressive opponents.
  • Don’t simply double up willy-nilly – if you over commit to a hand by doubling up, these loose raises and calls can grind your stack into the dirt. Be wary of simply committing yourself for the sake of it.

Strategy for Playing in the Late Stages

With 3 players or less, and 7.5 big blinds – 15 big blinds average stacks. The blinds are typically 150/300 up to 300/600.

During the late stage of a poker tournament, you may find yourself comfortably placed in the money, or on the cusp of it. In any event, you will need to increase your aggression and pressurize your opponents as much as possible. At this stage of the game, the blinds are rapidly increasing, and they are rolling in faster. If you don’t up the pace, you’ll soon find yourself short-stacked with limited time available. What you really want to focus on at this stage of the game is aggression.

How to Play A10o during the Late Stage of a Poker Tournament?

In the early stage and the middle stage of a poker tournament, you may easily have survived the Ace-10 off suit stage. Now, you may find yourself playing this hand again in the late stage. If you’re in a 3-way contest and you’re comfortably placed in second position, how do you go about playing this hand? Fortunately, this is a relatively easy raise and you can possibly even 3-bet, depending on your opponent’s playing tendencies.

With a 3-handed face-off, you’re probably in the best position, and the 10-kicker card is strong. In fact, this card is a tough beat against random Aces. You don’t want to bust, or double up the short stack, but Ace-10 is a pretty strong hand when it comes down to just 3 poker players. The short & sweet of it is the following: Play it aggressively.

When is Shoving Advised?

If you’re in a position where your stack is down to 10 big blinds – 12 big blinds, you should really be going all in pre-flop when you have a semi-decent hand. This isn’t the time for you to be picky about the hands that you play. Let’s consider the following:

  • Early-Stage Play – you can be somewhat selective about the blinds when they are smaller.
  • Middle-Stage Play – always try to push closer to the button, or when its been folded around.
  • Bubble-Stage Play – the goal is to survive into the money. Be selective, but don’t miss your opportunity to push and maybe even double up.
  • Late-Stage Play – now you’re creaming it off the top. You’re in the money, and you’re possibly even pushing with any 2 cards in hand.

Here’s a great tip about a short-stacked, pre-flop, all-in shove. Always be the first one to go all-in. If you have a short stack, and you raise, go all-in, or call, you are asserting yourself. You want to be the one that’s directing the action at the table, not the caller.

Tips for Staying Aggressive While in Position

The following sections are a continuation of what we just talked about in Late Stage poker play. This time around, there’s a little twist on proceedings. Players who know how to play their position aggressively are different to typical Sit & Go players.

Poker experts will tell you straight off the bat that your position is more important than the cards you are holding.

All the leading poker players know exactly how to use position. As you get closer to the button, your level of aggression must increase. Sometimes, timely aggression in multi-way poker pots can substitute for being out of position.

In the video below, you will see how a leading poker expert – David Benyamine - uses his weak position at the table to aggressively outmuscle poker ace, Jamie Gold.

Stealing Blinds in Position

When you’re on the button a.k.a. in position, and the action is folded around to you. You have a much better chance of winning the pot. For starters, there are only 2 players to beat and they’re probably in the weakest positions at the table. These include the small blind and the big blind. Even if you’re getting to the action post-flop with the small blind or the big blind, or both, your chances are still favorable of being the last one to act. If the action gets folded around to you on the button and you want to steal those blinds, you can simply put in a standard raise and your opponents will likely fold.

Bear in mind that there’s a fine line to stealing the blinds. If you overdo this action, you could face an all-in scenario. If you don’t use it enough, you will miss out on valuable opportunities to scoop these orphaned blinds.

Sit & Go Multi-Tabling Strategy

One of the ways to make a lot more cash in Sit & Go tournaments is by playing at more tables. This strategy is known as multi-tabling. Simply put, multi-tabling is competing at more than one Sit & Go at a time.

You may wonder why multi-tabling strategy matters? In multi-table tournaments, there are much bigger prize pools with huge overlays. The total number of buy-ins doesn’t always cover the guaranteed winnings. In Sit & Go’s, the poker pots are based exclusively on the size of the buy-in and the number of players that are competing. If you’re talking about a 9-Max Sit & Go, with a buy-in of $5+ $0.50, you can rest assured that the poker pot is $45 – on the dot.

If you decide to increase the number of hours played by two, that could decrease your enjoyment of the game. A better solution to increasing your profits is to increase the number of tables that you play at. One of the best ways to start multi-tabling is to add another table to your game. For example, if you’re playing at 1 table now, increase it by 1 and play at 2 tables during your next session of play. When you’re comfortable playing 2 tables, increase it by another one and play at 3 tables etc.

How Do the Numbers Add up?

Let’s say that you are playing 4 Sit & Go’s during a single session of play. Maybe you’re crushing it at the tables and your win ratio results in a 15% return on investment at any $11 buy-in stake. At this rate, your typical profit for each Sit & Go session is around $6.60.

Here is the calculation:

You’re playing at 4 tables at a buy-in of $11 = $44 x 1.15 (15% win rate) = $44 + $6.60 profit

Let’s assume that you add an additional 4 tables for each session of play. Now you’re up to 8 tables, and plenty more hands. Your win rate may drop to 10% return on investment.

When you’re playing 8 tables at a buy-in of $11, that translates into $88 x 10% = $8.80 in profit.

Now, your win-rate has dropped by 5%, but because you’ve added 4 extra tables your profits has increased by 33%. Get this – you didn’t even have to take any extra time to play all these games.

One of the benefits of playing TAG (tight aggressive) poker at multiple tables is that you can consistently generate profits this way. The more S&G tables you play at, the more profitable you can be overall. Your experience level will increase as you compete as a tight aggressive player.

In Summary: Sit & Go Strategy in Action

Sit & Go’s are ideal for greenhorn and professional poker players. If you compete in 180-Max S&Gs, you will get a much better feel for multitable tournaments. When you play at a 9-Max table, you will enjoy maximum poker traction.

When it comes to Sit & Go strategy, you can trust this 888 Poker USA guide to get you where you need to go. If you’re a novice player, and you’re looking for a good way to sharpen your sit & go tournament playing skills, you have everything you need right here to get started!