Sit N Goes continue to increase in popularity and are perennial favorites among new poker players. These games give you the chance to build up a big poker bankroll, and offer a lot of play for your buy-in. Sit N Goes are also very easy to multi-table, meaning you can use them to access bonuses and loyalty rewards from your favorite poker site.
This article takes you through the standard strategy for single table tournaments with 9 or 10 players. There are many variations in betting, prizes and the number of seats that you can enjoy in addition to the 1-table games.
First I have outlined the key concept of where your profit comes from in this type of poker game. Next a stage-by-stage walk-through, highlighting different strategies along the way. Finally some notes on the math involved in ‘ICM’ and prize pool equity calculations – and how understanding this can help you win even more money,
In 1-table tournaments the biggest mistakes are made at the bubble. When there are 4 players left and 3 spots paid, the math clearly shows that calling ‘light’ is an expensive mistake. This is exactly what novice players do. In addition they are too tight with raises when first in, and do not properly account for stack size variations.
With so many math mistakes at the bubble, good Sit N Go players base their entire strategy on getting to this point in the game with enough chips to cause someone damage. They know the math and are able to take advantage of the mistakes of less experienced opponents. This causes good players to be super-tight early on in the game – their focus is bubble, bubble and bubble!
A debate which comes up fairly often is whether to play to win in Sit N Goes or play to cash first, and only then play to win. Both ideas are incorrect. In this form of poker you simply make a series of ‘good’ decisions based on your prize pool equity gains and losses. With more good decisions you will win more often anyway. Adjusting away from this balance will cost you both chips and money.
Early: When the blinds are small many players are tempted to play a few speculative hands, make a few bluffs and try and win a few pots. The best Sit N Go players do not turn down free chips, but they do not speculate either. Since the bubble is the key goal, chip preservation gets priority over accumulation early on. If you do play speculative hands, make sure your investment is tiny and that you have the advantage of position through the betting rounds to enable you to control the size of the pot.
Middle: Paramount here is to ensure your stack does not get diminished by the blinds. You need to steal at least your fair share of blinds and antes to keep ahead. If one or more of your opponents is stealing too often (which means it is likely with weaker hands), then a timely re-raise can win you a nice pot.
Bubble: By the time there are only 4 players left you will usually be short stacked, with an average of 10 times the big blind there is no room left for post-flop play. This means you should push all-in with any hand you intend to play. The reason is that raising will commit you to calling a re-raise, due to the big pot-odds on offer. Since you would usually prefer not to take a coin-flip at the bubble, shoving works to get rid of the hands that might have re-raised you but are too weak to call for a full stack. Learning the math will make you a lot of money at the bubble, and if you want to take this poker format seriously this is a must-know.
In-The-Money: Things often get wild once everyone left is guaranteed a payout. I recommend you observe the hands people are playing here and make a chart of those chosen by different players. You will soon see a pattern, and can adjust your own starting hand selections accordingly. Remember to stay positive and aggressive heads-up – many players are too passive in this situation.
The ‘Independent Chip Model’ underpins Sit N Go math. This accounts for the changing value of chips in these tournaments. Since the player who gets all the chips can only win 50% of the total prize pool, a single players stack can never be worth more than this – creating a non-linear relationship between the number of chips in your stack and your stake or ‘equity’ in the prize pool.
With the help of an ICM calculator, you can work out whether a particular bubble play increases or decreases your overall equity. By basing decisions on this you have mathematical advantage over your opponents which is very hard to beat.