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How to play poker

Sit and go poker: how to play sit & go

Sit & Go tournaments are ideal for new players. They don’t cost much to enter and last less than an hour. But you’ll start to get a feel for shifting hand values, the importance of chip stack sizes, position and aggression.

It’s easy to get started too. All you have to do is take your place at a table and as soon as enough players arrive (usually five or more), it’s game on.

Even if you’re a beginner, you’ve got a good chance of winning, as there are plenty of chancers out there trying their luck (who haven’t read our Sit & Go tips ). Keep cool, stick to the basics and you’ve already got a head start.

Five reasons to play Sit & Go tournaments

Take your seat and get going with these quick and easy tournaments.

  • Play on demand. The tournament starts when the table is full, so there’s no waiting around
  • There’s a game to match your budget with buy-ins starting at just $1.10
  • Be done within the hour when you’re playing just 6 or 10 players
  • Choose your game from lots of different types
  • Improve with multi-table Sit & Go tournaments against up to 50 players

Sit & Go strategy

At the start

All tournaments have a beginning, middle and an end. However, in a Sit & Go the middle period is shorter than in a big tournament – so even if you get off to a bad start you still have a good chance of scraping into second or third place.

Tighter than normal play is recommended in the early stages. Fold most hands and wait until a few players have been eliminated before getting involved.

In a Sit & Go, it's important to preserve a decent portion of your starting chips (at least two-thirds) for the middle stage of the game when four or five players remain and the blinds are high enough to be worth stealing by pushing all-in.

Once you arrive into the middle stages of the Sit & Go, a lot of what happens next depends whether you're playing a regular or a turbo Sit & Go.

  • Regular. It's common for the final four players to jostle for a long time until either one player makes a fatal mistake or two big hands collide. Wait for good opportunities to get involved
  • Turbo. The blinds quickly become astronomical and people will be forced to go all-in and call with far less. Here, it may simply come down to a matter of counting how many hands you can survive until the blinds eat you up and look for the best hand to push all-in with

In the middle

Okay, you’ve arrived in the middle stages with an average stack for the last four or five players.

The first thing to do in this situation is to look around you and see what the other players have in front of them. When there are different-sized stacks, if there's only one short stack between you and the bubble , you should try to stay out of harm's way as much as possible (unless a great hand comes along). However, if the stacks are pretty evenly matched, you need to carefully look for ways to maintain your chips or get ahead without risking a disaster, as any all-in benefits the by-standing players so much.

You shouldn't risk a lot more chips with a marginal hand if another player shows commitment, but remember this is a chance to effectively win the game there and then by getting a mile in front. Even if you do lose an all-in, you have probably paid for it with all the small pots you've stolen. What's more, the other players will know you're gunning for them and won't pass easily next time.

The last three

When you get to the last three, the blinds will probably be quite high and, after the tension of the squeeze-out stage, the players will loosen up considerably. If you were the big stack, remember your bullying privileges have just been revoked to a large extent. If, however, you were the short or medium ones, this is the time to gamble it up.

Assuming the traditional 50/30/20 payout structure, the smallest change in pay by position is from third to second, so it's well worth taking on the bigger stacks at the first decent opportunity in the hope of being in contention for first position.

If you have fewer than 10 big blinds and find a decent hand, you might as well go all-in (unless it's a real monster and you want action), as you have nothing to lose. Similarly, if you're the big stack with any kind of a hand, you might as well force the short stack to commit. Because of this situation and the pace of a three-handed game, you will probably reach 1 on 1 play quite soon after making the money.

15 tips to succeed in Sit & Go tournaments

1. Sit tight at the start

Play tight (stick to good hands) during the early stages, when the blinds are small. Small pots aren’t worth the effort and you want people to take notice when you start betting aggressively later. Play big hands strongly and fold everything else.

2. Watch for hands with potential

Some hands could surprise you. Suited connectors , small pairs and aces with a suited kicker (a tie-breaker card of the same suit) could turn into a major hand, so be prepared to play them. But if someone raises, or the flop doesn’t bring anything useful, you’ll need to fold.

3. Bet big on big pairs

Big pairs (aces, king and queens) are your friend. If a few players have limped in (called the big blind) ahead of you, you should raise enough to double the amount in the pot. Either people will fold and you’ll pick up the money, or they’ll make a mistake and try to raise you with a weaker hand. If you’ve got kings and they’ve got aces, that’s bad luck, but statistically the odds are small enough to risk it.

4. Seize the moment

If the flop brings you a big hand, act on it. A lot of players will call you with a top pair, even if their kicker isn’t up to much. So if you find yourself with two pair and a high kicker, don’t wait to make your move.

If you check, and someone else bets, then raise big or move all-in. They’ll fold and give you a nice pot or, more typically, call, even though they’ve only got a one in three chance of winning.

5. Hang in there

If you’re short stacked , don’t panic – you can come back from the brink. Just be patient and wait for something really good to come along. Make it as hard as you can for people to walk away with your chips.

6. Scare off the weak bettors

You'll see it time and time again – players paying the minimum before the flop and trying to steal the pot with a small bet. If you’ve got a hand, raise. If you have a drawing hand (halfway to something big) or something so-so then call. Usually they haven’t got anything, so you’ll come out on top.

7. Match speed with confidence

Turbo Sit & Go tournaments are great fun, but instead of playing patiently, you need to move fast. Overpairs, top pair/top kicker and even flush draws (when you're a big stack) are a chance to jam the pot (bet aggressively or go all-in).

8. Put the pressure on

Continuation betting is essential in Sit & Go tournaments and will win the pot a lot of the time. If someone re-raises and your hand can’t take it, then you can fold. But generally, a post-flop bet of around half to two-thirds of the pot is a profitable move.

9. Know when to back down

In a Sit & Go, you can sometimes play hands you wouldn’t touch in large tournaments. But if someone raises and you’ve only got a top pair with a bad kicker, it's time to take cover.

10. Pick on someone smaller

If you’ve got a large stack, then put pressure on the short-stacked players. Raise their blinds, move them all-in (if you don’t mind being called) and they’ll make a mistake sooner or later.

11. Watch the stacks

Chip stacks can go up and down quite dramatically, especially as the blinds increase. It’s important to keep an eye on that, as you’ll want to avoid head-to-heads with the chip leaders and hone in on the small-stacked players. Don’t give up if you’re in last place. As the short-stack you can use an all-in push to scare opponents when you can. You'll either pick up lots of blinds or potentially double-up and head back towards the top of the field.

12. Don’t fade away

If you're really short-stacked (with seven or fewer big blinds left) now’s the time to step up and to make the most of any opportunity. K-8 suited, J-10, 6-7 suited, small pocket pairs – these types of hands could be your lifeline and you should bet with confidence. If you pick up the blinds, great. If you get one caller, you’ve got about a two in one chance of succeeding, which is better than letting yourself get chipped away by the blinds until there’s nothing left.

13. Burst the bubble

On the bubble, you’ll want to take control as people often get cautious when there’s a prize at stake. If you’re a big stack, move all-in when you can to pick up blinds and possibly knock someone out. If you're a short-stack, put your chips on the first big hand you get so you can double-up, or move all-in on the button with any two cards if no-one’s raised yet.

14. Get aggressive

When short-handed (down to three or four players) it's time to get in and raise pretty much whenever you can (as the blinds get bigger, you can’t wait for a rock-solid hand). Don’t do anything stupid, but raises and re-raises in the right position, followed by aggressive play after the flop (when you've made a hand) are the way to get through to the final.

15. Finish them off

When it's down to two, you need to crank things up again, raising until your rival has nowhere left to run. Most of the time they won’t have a hand, and if your stack’s big enough, then that could be all you need. If you’re the one being chased, a big re-raise should stop them in their tracks (the pot odds at this point might tell you that it’s right to call anyway). Against one player, a top pair could be all you need, so go ahead and take the glory.