Poker Sit & Go’s
Sit & Go poker games are a popular and easy way to play tournament poker. You’ll find so many kinds of Sit & Go's that it's easy to get confused.
Sit & Go poker tourneys are a popular and convenient way to play tournament poker. You'll find so many different kinds of Sit & Go poker tournaments on every major poker site that it's easy to get confused.
So what exactly are Sit & Go's - and what strategies will make you the most money playing them?
What is a Sit & Go?
A Sit & Go is a poker tournament that doesn't have a fixed starting time but instead begins once a certain number of players have registered. Everyone must "sit" and fill all the tournament seats before the tournament will "go". Once the Sit & Go has started nobody else can join.
Compare this to traditional poker tournaments, which have a set starting time - and usually have late registration periods after the official start time.
Sit & Go's began as single table tournaments with 9 or 10 players. Traditional tournaments, on the other hand, have so many players they have multiple tables running at once (hence the name "MTT" for multi-table tournaments).
However, nowadays you can find multi-table Sit & Go's - as well as heads-up, 6-max, and short-handed games - and there are a whole lot of other varieties and structures out there. Players can also do multi-tabling where they have more than one game open at the same time through an online poker site.
Sit & Go Structures
Every major poker network has its own unique range of Sit & Go tournaments. Some have more options than others but you won't find every variety on every site. You'll have to shop around if you want to experience every kind of Sit & Go out there - and there are a lot!
One thing to remember is that there's no central poker authority setting a universal standard - so you will different sites having the same tournament in terms of structure but giving it different names - or vice versa. This is just a general guide to help you get your bearings.
A regular Sit & Go poker tournament will be two, six, nine, or ten-handed, with starting stacks of around 75bb and blind levels of 10-15 minutes. A full-ring regular Sit & Go might take about 60 to 90 minutes to complete.
These are no longer the most common variety of Sit & Go because they make the poker sites less money in rake than the faster varieties - and are also less fun to play.
Turbo Sit & Go's are now the most common type you'll find on most sites. They feature faster blind levels - around 5 minutes between increases - and sometimes shorter starting stacks as well. A full ring Turbo might take 45-60 minutes from start to finish.
The faster the tournament, the more variance you will experience - but the more tournaments you can play per hour. This means that you can make more money per hour even though your return-on-investment (ROI) is lower. ROI is calculated by your total profit divided by your total buy-ins and is the standard measure of tournament win rate.
However, your hourly rate is more important if you're trying to build a bankroll!
And let's face it - sometimes we only have an hour to get some poker in.
Hyper-Turbo Sit & Go's are even faster than Turbo Sit & Go's - with 2 minute blind levels - and with shorter stacks. These degenerate into shove-fests pretty quickly, so brush up on your Nash charts!
As you might imagine, variance is even higher than Turbos, but the upside is they are super quick (around 20-30 minutes), so you can get in even more volume.
Super Turbo SNG
If Hyper Turbos aren't quite quick enough for you, then look for Super Turbos, which have even shorter starting stacks - usually only 10bb.
With stacks that small, everyone has to play push/fold right off the bat. Anybody trying to make a regular raise will usually get shoved on. So in practice, these are very similar to All-in or Fold Sit & Go's.
Deep stacked Sit & Go poker tournaments involve deep starting stacks of 150bb or more and long blind levels of around 15 minutes. You can actually play some poker! However, they are pretty rare as they mean less profit for the poker site. If you do find them, the rake will be higher.
Coin-flip All-in tournaments are Sit & Go's where every player is forced to go all-in every hand. In other words, it's a complete gamble - much like a coin flip.
Because of the rake, you cannot beat Coin-flip All-in Sit & Go's over the long run. However, they can be fun if you just fancy gambling it up once in a while to let off some steam.
All-in or Fold
All-in or Fold Sit & Go's involve slightly more skill than Coin-Flip All-In Sit & Go's - at least here you have a choice whether to go all in or fold. Assuming everyone is using Nash charts, then the only winner over the long run will be the rake. However, these games tend to attract recreational players who just want to gamble and so it's usually possible to gain an edge.
Flipout Sit & Go's combine a multi-table Coinflip Sit & Go with a regular single table Sit & Go. Everyone is forced to go all-in until few enough players are left to fill one final table. Then the final table plays a regular Sit & Go. The entry fee is usually very low compared to the prize pool - if it feels like a lottery whether you make the final table when playing regular MTTs then why not give these a try instead and save some time!
Lottery Sit & Go's are also known as "Spins" and are short-handed (usually 3 seats) hyper-turbo Sit & Go's that are known by various names depending on the poker site offering them - PokerStars has "Spin & Go", Party Poker has "Spins", ACR has "Jackpot Poker" and GGPoker has "Spin & Gold". 888's version ("Blast") features a forced all-in after a set period of time.
This type of tournament's unique selling point is that the prize pool is randomly determined once everyone has registered - usually 2x or 3x the buy-in, but rarely it can be a massive jackpot. With small prize pools, it is winner takes all; with the enormous jackpots, everybody gets a piece.
Knockout Sit & Go tournaments have one specific twist: part of each player's buy-in becomes their "bounty", and each time you knock someone out you can immediately claim the bounty as cash (whether you make the tournament money places or not).
Progressive knockout Sit & Go's give you half the cash while the other half increases your bounty - meaning that if you knock someone out who's knocked out a bunch of players you can make a nice sum!
Double-or-Nothings Sit & Go's have a flat prize structure where the top half of the field wins the same amount (double the buy-in less the rake) and the bottom half gets nothing. This means the name of the game is survival rather than nabbing first place - and this changes the optimal strategy quite a bit. It can be correct to fold pocket Aces preflop!
PokerStars' version has a slight twist - you win for surviving but also get a bonus based on how many chips you have left.
Sit & Go Types
Single-Table Sit & Go
By far the most common type of Sit & Go tournament you will find is the single table variety. These are quick to start and quick to complete. The downside is that the prize pool is never that big, as there just aren't many entrants compared to multi-table tournaments.
You will find full-ring (9 or 10 players), 6-max, and heads-up single table Sit & Gos on all the major poker sites.
Multi-Table Sit & Go
Multi-table Sit & Go's are rarer than the single table variety - but you can still find them on bigger poker sites. PokerStars even has a 990 player multi-table Sit & Go!
The prize pools are much bigger, but the tournaments last a long time. Another downside is that unless you're one of the last to register then you usually have to wait a while to get started - which kind of removes one of the best features of Sit & Go's!
Satellite Sit & Go
Satellite Sit & Go's offer tournament tickets instead of prize money (although sometimes it's a mix of both depending on finishing position). They are perfect if you've ever dreamed of playing a big tournament that your bankroll just can't afford.
In 2003, an accountant called Chris Moneymaker famously turned a $39 satellite Sit & Go into a WSOP Main Event win - netting him a cool $2.5 million and kickstarting a poker boom.
Fast Fold Sit & Go
Fast-Fold Sit & Go poker tournaments are a type of multi-table Sit & Go where you don't stay on the same table after each hand. You are able to "fast-fold" before the action gets to you and be transported to a new table with other players who have either fast-folded themselves or just finished a hand.
This speeds things up, at least in the early rounds - but makes it harder to get reads on your opponents.
Profitable Sit & Go Strategies
Now you know what a Sit & Go is - but what Sit & Go strategies will allow you to dominate your competition? Let's take a look at the basics.
Sit & Go Stages Strategies
You can divide up a Sit & Go tourney into four main stages:
Let's look at the Sit & Go strategies that work best for each stage.
At the start of a Sit & Go, the blinds will be low relative to the stack sizes and you should take a cautious, tight-aggressive approach.
There is no point risking early elimination by playing for big pots with marginal hands. Gaining lots of chips is nice, but outlasting your opponents while maintaining a decent stack is better. Every player who gets eliminated brings you closer to the money. And the more chips you have, the less each additional chip is worth in terms of tournament equity.
Because of the low blinds, you can afford to wait around for monsters like AA, KK, QQ, and AK - although you need to be ready to get away from AK if you whiff the flop, or if your opponents want to play for stacks preflop. Later on, AK is the perfect shoving candidate, but early doors you'll massively reduce variance if you don't put your tournament life on the line with it when there's no pressure to do so.
Don't be tempted to call preflop raises with trouble hands like KJo and ATo, where you can end up making top pair only to lose a big chunk of your stack to someone with a better kicker.
Speculative hands like suited connectors, suited Aces, and pocket pairs are worth playing during this stage, so long as the price is right. The goal is to see a cheap flop and make a set, straight or flush that will win you enough to set you up for the rest of the tournament.
As the blinds increase relative to the stack sizes, you will need to become more active - without going crazy. The main goal here is to steal the blinds to keep yourself afloat while the other players get themselves into trouble - or you get a monster starting hand.
Speculative hands aren't really worth playing, because the stacks aren't big enough to give the necessary implied odds. In other words, the rare times you do make your hand, you won't earn enough to make up for all the times you don't. This leads to a slow bleed of chips.
That's not to say you should never play speculative hands in the middle stages - if a player before you limps and you're in late position with a decent size stack, you may as well get involved.
But if you are acting first with a small stack, even limping in is risky as you may get raised - and the smaller your stack, the more valuable each chip is, so you really cannot waste a single one!
The bubble is where things get really interesting. This is the period where there is one more player left in the tournament than there are paid places. Whoever goes out now will get nothing, while any player who can hang in there will get some sort of prize. This makes many players very cautious, as losing a big pot here would be catastrophic.
But if you are too cautious, the blinds will rise and you will get blinded out, which is a far more pathetic fate than getting knocked out by playing a hand.
Aggressive players tend to do better here, by taking advantage of their opponents' timidness. Just making the money should never be your goal. You are playing to win - and you won't do that if you scrape into the paid places with a tiny little stack.
The exceptions to this general Sit & Go bubble strategy are Satellite and Double-or-Nothing tournaments that have a flat prize structure.
Once the bubble has passed and everyone is in the money you will be playing shorthanded. Weaker players tend to relax once they have made the money places, telling themselves "I've made the money so anything more is just a bonus."
This is a terrible attitude! It's loser talk, and the reason most players do not make money at poker. First place earns so much more than third that it will make a massive difference to your win rate.
Once you get to heads-up, you will often find your opponents are even more at sea. Even otherwise solid players may resort to shoving every hand, as they simply do not know how to play heads-up poker, and consider it a lottery. Weak opponents will have no idea what they are doing, as they rarely reach the final two and that is the only time they ever play heads-up poker.
If you want to succeed at tournaments, you must get comfortable with playing heads-up. You don't need to become a master of it - you only need to become better than players who have never bothered to study or practice it at all. Play some heads-up Sit & Go's and you will soon see the benefits in bigger tournaments. Your base strategy should be to play in position, and play aggressively - but really the goal is to get into your opponent's head!
Sit & Go Stacks Strategies
Stack size is a crucial consideration in poker, and especially in poker tournaments. In Sit & Go's, you can classify your stack size into four main categories:
- Very Short Stack - less than 10bb (the Red Zone)
- Short Stack - between 10bb and 20bb (The Orange Zone)
- Medium Stack - between 20 and 40bb (The Yellow Zone)
- Large Stack - over 40bb (The Green Zone)
Short stack strategy in Sit & Go tournaments is simple: avoid being blinded out at all costs. If you are in the Red Zone (less than 10bb), your only rational choice is to go all-in or fold.
This is because you will be pot committed by a regular raise and a shove generates fold equity - that is, it means you will win the pot more than you would if you saw all five cards. You will generate a lot more fold equity if you are the first person to enter the pot - if you shove over a raise or even a limp you are more likely to be called.
With a super short stack, you can't afford to be picky with your hand selection either. Don't wait around for a monster, as it may be too late by the time it comes - doubling up from 2bb to 4bb won't help you, whereas maintaining a stack at around 10bb by stealing blinds definitely will.
Big stacks and other short stacks are the most likely to call you, so the best target to bully is the medium stacks.
In the Orange Zone (10-20bb), you have a bit more maneuverability. But still, you should try to be first in the pot - avoid calling and limping, as this will slowly bleed you dry. Avoid speculative hands as you don't have the implied odds to make them profitable - look to make big pairs and then get all the money in ASAP.
When you have a medium stack between 20 and 40bb (Yellow Zone), you are actually in quite a tough position. You aren't in terrible shape in terms of chip count - but you can't afford to nit it up, as the blinds and antes will soon drag you into the Orange Zone.
Worse still, as a medium stack, you need to be wary of both short and big stacks. Big stacks have enough chips to make your life tough, whereas the short stacks have nothing to lose by shoving on you.
Although you may just about have the implied odds to play speculative hands, the fact is actually making your hand will be so rare that it's a risky business. Chasing draws will cripple you.
When you have a large stack relative to your opponents in a Sit & Go tournament, you have much more freedom to play poker. But one misstep and you could slip down into the Yellow Zone, so don't go overboard.
Some players become the table bully, getting involved in every hand playing a loose aggressive style - while others go too far the other way and try to fold their way into the money. The best practice is somewhere in between the two, but closer to the bully than the nit.
You should look to steal blinds and small pots wherever you can - but don't play big pots unless you have a very strong hand. Remember that unlike in cash games, tournament chips are worth less the more you have. It's not worth the risk of becoming a short stack just to gain an extra 20bb, because those 20bb you can win is worth a lot less than the 20bb you could lose.
Tips on Winning Sit & Go Tournaments
If you want to become a winner playing Sit & Go's, follow these poker strategy tips:
Play Tight Sit & Go Ranges Early
Early on, many players are tempted to play almost any two cards in the hope they make a monster hand and double up.
But the fact is you won't make a monster hand most of the time with trash hands, and you'll just bleed chips - or worse still, you will make a marginal hand and end up losing a big pot because you can't get away from it.
You aren't under any pressure during the early rounds, so save your desperation plays for when you actually are desperate.
Stick to a tight-aggressive style, and don't get over-attached to one pair hands - especially with a weak kicker.
Your early-stage Sit & Go ranges should focus on monster hands like AA, KK, QQ, and AK - and avoid trouble hands like KJo, ATo, etc where you are most likely to make top pair and lose a big pot to a better kicker. Don't worry about scaring your opponents away if you do get a monster starting hand and try to get trappy preflop - it's just fine to take down the pot rather than go to a flop multiway and risk your tournament life so early on when you don't need to.
You can also throw in some speculative hands so long as the price is right - hands like suited Aces and pocket pairs, not complete trash like any suited card or any connector (or worse). You're about 12% to flop a set with a pocket pair and about 11% to flop a flush draw. Don't cripple your stack early on chasing draws though! The chips you lose are worth more than the chips you could win.
Apart from keeping you out of trouble, another major advantage of keeping it tight early on is that you build a tight image - and this really helps later when you're shoving for your tournament life!
Be Wary of AK Hands Early
Ace-King is a monster hand - but that doesn't mean you should play it like Aces, Kings or even Queens. What makes Ace-King so fantastic is that if you hold it then it's much less likely your opponent has pocket Aces or pocket Kings, and this means you can play it aggressively preflop. It also performs pretty well all-in against every other hand - although it's often a coinflip.
And that's the thing. Even if you're ahead 60/40 you're still going to lose a lot of the time.
Unless you love variance, you probably don't want to be getting it all-in preflop with AK early on in a Sit & Go tournament.
Of course, later on - when the blinds are rising and you're getting desperate - AK is a fist-pump jam. But early on you just don't need to be risking your Sit & Go tournament life on coin-flips, especially if you have a skill edge over your opponents.
Lock Onto the Fish Right Away
There's a reason Phil Hellmuth has the most WSOP bracelets of all time - he knows how to fillet the fish so well they should call him The Fishmonger. He builds up a big stack by targeting the fishy players, and this sets him up for the rest of the tournament.
Pretty much every table will have one or two fish who are just itching to donate their chips to better players. A big part of your Sit & Go strategy should be to lock onto them and make sure you are the beneficiary.
Fish go broke pretty quick, so you can't wait around!
Pros & Cons
Sit & Go's have advantages and disadvantages over both traditional tournaments and cash games. Let's take a look at some of them.
- Sit & Go's are more convenient than traditional tournaments. You don't need to arrange your schedule around start times. You just sit and go. And if you get knocked out, you can just jump straight into another one. Or if you want, you can multi-table Sit & Go's, which you can't really do with traditional tournaments - unless you play different stakes at once.
- Single-table Sit & Go's are so much faster too - you don't need to spend 6 hours at your computer as with traditional large-field MTTs. This improves your hourly rate and smooths out variance - even the best MTT players may go months without a big score.
- Single-table Sit & Go's pay out a larger proportion of the field than traditional MTTs - usually the top 33% for Sit & Go's versus 15% for MTTs. This helps reduce variance too.
- And let's face it - Sit & Go's are just a whole lot more fun than cash poker, which is a grind most of the time.
- Sit & Go's have small prize pools relative to their buy-ins, meaning you aren't going to win a massive amount. Traditional tournaments make people rich, but Sit & Go's are a steadier kind of income.
- And because Sit & Go's are more convenient and are conducive to multi-tabling, they attract grinders. This makes them tougher than MTTs, which attract a lot of recreational players. So even though a higher percentage of the field gets paid in a Sit & Go, that doesn't necessarily make them more profitable.
- Sit & Go's generally have less variance than MTTs, but you will still have to win a bunch of all-ins if you want to win. This can be exhilarating when it goes your way, but absolutely soul-destroying when it doesn't. With cash games, this is much less of a problem as you won't be getting it all-in anywhere near as much - although you will still suffer coolers and bad beats. There is no escaping variance in poker!
Sit & Go: FAQ
We've collected and answered the most common questions surrounding Sit & Go poker.
What is Sit & Go poker?
Sit & Go poker is a kind of tournament that begins only when a certain number of players register - rather than at a specific time. The most common type is single table Sit & Go's, but you will find multi-table ones too.
What is the difference between sit & go STT and MTT?
A Sit & Go Single Table Tournament (SNG STT) is different from a regular multi-table tournament (MTT) in a few ways. An SNG STT is only on one table whereas the MTT is over multiple tables. SNGs also have a fixed prize pool and will begin once the maximum number of players have registered.
How are hyper turbo SNG different from super turbo SNG?
Hyper turbo Sit & Go's are fast tournaments with short blind levels (around 2 minutes) and small starting stacks (usually 25bb) - but a Super Turbo Sit & Go will have even smaller starting stacks of 10bb. This means a Super Turbo is all-in or fold straight away and will be over a lot quicker than a Hyper.
What happens during the bubble period in sit & go?
The bubble period in a Sit & Go occurs just before the players make the money. The best players take advantage of this by upping their aggression - while at the same time not risking getting knocked out by making marginal calls that might be correct at other tournament stages.
How can I make a value bet in sit & go?
A value bet in a Sit & Go is like any other value bet: it's a bet that worse hands can call. You think you have the best hand and you want your opponent to call in order to build the pot.
What is the best way for me to play with a big stack?
When you have a big stack relative to your opponents and the blinds, you should take advantage of this without going too wild. Look to steal blinds and small pots - and avoid playing big pots unless you have a big hand.
Do I still have an advantage with a short stack?
When you have a short stack, you have two big advantages: you don't have much to lose and your decisions are greatly simplified. You are forced to play push-or-fold once your stack gets below around 10bb - so no worrying about post-flop play. All-ins make people fold a lot more than regular raises so you can leverage this fold equity to help build your stack back up.
What are satellite sit & go poker tournaments?
Satellite Sit & Go poker tournaments differ from other tournaments in that the winners don't get cash - instead, they get a ticket to another tournament. They are a cheap way to win yourself a ticket to a big tournament. Chris Moneymaker famously turned a $39 satellite SnG ticket into a multi-million-dollar WSOP Main Event win.
Is sit & go poker better than cash games?
Sit & Go poker is no better or worse than cash games - it's just different. Cash games are a slow grind, whereas Sit & Go tournaments are more exciting, with the chance to win big. But the flipside of this is that you will encounter a lot more variance playing Sit & Go's.
Sit & Go poker tournaments are one of the best ways to practice tournament poker - there are so many varieties out there that you can work on every aspect of your game. So what are you waiting for? Hit the tables and put our Sit & Go strategies into action!