Rebuilding Hualien, Taiwan Together | Natural8 will DOUBLE all donations | Get Entered into an Exclusive Flipout | Make a Difference Today!

Sit and Go Poker: Rules, Strategies and Winning Tips

Dominic Field

Jun 19, 2023

Sit & Go Poker Explained: Rules, Strategies and Winning Tips

If you are new to poker and are wondering what a “Sit and Go” (SNG) is, this article has all the answers you need! 

We’ll first explain exactly what SNGs are, before looking into the different formats and their unique structures. Finally, we’ll round off with some vital SNG strategy tips to help improve your results.

Ready to learn all about Sit and Go poker? Then sit back and let’s go!

What Is Sit and Go Poker?

It’s a common question among poker beginners. Most understand the concept of a tournament, which has a fixed start time, hundreds of participants, and multiple tables. But Sit and Go poker tournaments are different. Most notably, they start as soon as the table is full.

SNGs at online poker rooms open for registration as soon as the previous event begins, ensuring a steady stream of events. Although they can involve multiple tables, Sit and Gos are usually single-table tournaments.

Different Types of Sit and Go

Sit and Go poker comes in different shapes and sizes. As we’ve already mentioned, multi-table tournament SNGs do exist, but single tables are more common. It’s also possible to play heads-up, as well as 6-max events. However, standard Sit and Go tournaments are full-handed, with either 9 or 10 participants. 

In addition to the number of participants, there are many other SNG variables too. For instance, Turbo or Hyper Turbo events feature shorter blind levels and steeper increases. While this means they tend to finish much more quickly, it does negatively impact more skilled players, increasing the variance involved.

There are several unique SNG structures around, with poker sites getting increasingly creative. At Natural8, for instance, there’s the Spin & Gold format, which allows players to gamble before the start of each game. 

Here, a lucky wheel determines which multiplier is applied to the prize pool, creating potentially bigger-than-expected rewards. You could also end up with smaller than average prizes, though there’s always an option to insure against such an eventuality. 

Sit and Go Tournament Structure

Chips in Sit and Go poker tournaments have no monetary value

Unlike cash games, chips in Sit and Go poker tournaments have no monetary value. Players pay a fixed fee to enter in return for predetermined starting stacks, with each player receiving the same number of chips. Each payment, known as a “buy-in”, goes into a prize pool which will be shared among the winners. 

The exact distribution depends on the number of players in the SNG. But it’s common to pay the first three places in a 9- or 10-handed tournament, with a 50%, 30%, and 20% split. 6-max SNGs usually pay something around 70% to the winner and the remainder to the runner-up.

Although they are less common these days, you might also encounter 50-50 SNGs. These end when half of the players at the table are eliminated, with the remaining players doubling their buy-ins. In these games, the accumulation of chips is less important, and survival is the main aim.

Blind Levels

The deeper you go into a Sit and Go poker tournament, the more the blinds will increase. After a predetermined period of time, both the small and big blinds are raised, with antes potentially introduced later in the event. This is to force the poker players into action, rather than simply folding everything until picking up a premium hand.

Again, the exact structure depends on the specific poker site and type of SNG. A standard game will see the blinds increase every eight to ten minutes, probably starting from between 10/20 and 25/50. Of course, Turbo and Hyper Turbo formats involve shorter levels and sharper increases.

SNG Strategy Guide

Sit & Go Strategy GuideNow that you’re familiar with how such events work, it’s time to think about Sit and Go poker strategy. Although there are different SNG formats, the basic tactics apply across the board. Most notably, it’s important to break the tournament up into stages and modify your game accordingly. 

Early Rounds

At the beginning of a Sit and Go poker tournament, you should play a simple game, keeping it tight and avoiding conflict. Raise your premium hands, of course. By all means, speculate; perhaps by limping in late positions with small pocket pairs and hoping to catch a set. But don’t get involved in monster pots unnecessarily. 

There is very little point in bluffing in the first few levels. If you are able to successfully steal the blinds, they will add nothing especially valuable to your stack. But, note that if you do so, there’s every chance you’ll run into a genuine hand and lose a chunk of chips. This is why the best Sit and Go players don’t go to war until later in the game.

Middle Stage

Once you reach the middle part of a Sit and Go poker tournament, it’s time to increase your aggression. From this point, you should never limp into a pot. For every hand you wish to play, look to raise around 2.5x to 3x the big blind. Don’t allow anyone to get involved cheaply and make sure you pile the pressure onto those who are short stacked.

Because you’re going to be raising more frequently, you need to pick your spots carefully. Avoid weak Aces, as they’re not good enough to risk ending up all-in. Be extremely cautious with small pocket pairs too, unless you have a very tight table image. Get rid of tricky hands like K-T entirely.

Continuation bets are more important than ever in the middle stages of an SNG. Unless you’re up against the big stack at the table, people will be feeling the pinch of the increasing blinds. They will be much less keen to continue without the goods. So, leverage the initiative seized by your preflop raise and fire that c-bet

End Game

As you enter the later stages of a poker Sit and Go, or even the final table, your strategy will be shaped by the exact circumstances. If you’ve made it to the money quickly, there will still be plenty of room to play, so don’t go crazy. After all, SNG payout structures are top heavy, so a min-cash is not much use. Your aim should always be to win.

If you’re extremely short stacked, with six or fewer BBs, you’ll need to shove wide. Any Ace, pocket pair, or two face cards become all-in hands. Even if you’re not short, you should really open up your range when reaching the heads-up stage of a Sit and Go poker tournament. The winner is likely going to be the player who successfully steals the most blinds, not whoever picks up the most big hands.

When heads up, the most likely all-in conflicts will be pocket pairs against two overcards, overcards against undercards, or one overcard versus one undercard. In all of these situations, even if you are behind, you will live. You could have anywhere from 30% to 50% equity in the worst case, so there’s no need to fear being all-in. Ramp up those aggression levels!

General SNG Strategy Tips

Let’s round out our Sit and Go poker guide with a few general tips. These apply to all SNG formats, regardless of rules and structure.

Be Careful with Ace-King

Be Careful of the Ace-King HandAlthough Big Slick is a genuinely premium hand, inexperienced players tend to overvalue it in the early blind levels. It’s increasingly common to see players shoving with A-K in the first couple of rounds, seemingly happy to try and win a coin flip. 

Ultimately, you shouldn’t be going broke with a drawing hand in the earliest rounds of an SNG tournament. If you do find a call, you’re most likely dominated by Aces or Kings. At best, you’re flipping against a pocket pair. This isn’t a profitable long-term strategy, so don’t do it!

Read: Top 10 Best Texas Hold’em Starting Hands

Loosen Up Later On

We’ve already alluded to this, but “tight is right” in the earliest rounds of a Sit and Go poker tournament. Not only will playing conservatively keep you involved deeper in the competition, but it helps to create a positive image.

It's more important to pick up blinds in the middle to late stages. If your first raise or 3-bet comes at this time, observant players will have to give you credit for a hand. Therefore, always leave it late to loosen up.

Keep Suited Aces for Late Position

Be careful with small to mid-sized suited Aces. They might look like strong hands, but they will likely get you into trouble. You will often be dominated by better Aces and risk losing pots. Chip preservation is important, especially in the early stages of a Sit and Go poker tournament.

However, if you’re in the button or cut-off positions, these hands can be rewarding. If you can enter a pot cheaply, they offer serious double-up potential. Here, you’re hoping to catch two pair or a flush. If you can find an opponent who’ll overplay their top pair, you’re in great shape to boost your stack.

Read: How to Play Pocket Aces

Conclusion

That wraps up our guide to Sit and Go poker tournaments. If we’ve put you in the mood to play Sit and Gos, be sure to follow our top tips to improve your results.

Want to experience something a little different? Head over to Natural8 and give the Spin & Gold tables online poker tournaments a try. Buy-ins start from as low as $0.25 through to $200.