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Sit and Go Poker Strategy - Getting Started in Sit and Go (SNG) Poker Tournaments - Part 2

Part 2 of a guide describing correct basic strategy for online sit and go (SNG) single table poker tournaments. This article describes the basis behind the "move in or fold" strategy employed by most top players in the middle game of these tournaments.

In part 1 of this series I discussed play at the beginning of a sit and go (SNG) tournament, where you should be very tight. Here we are going to talk about the theory behind the "push-fold" strategy used in the middle game or "bubble" stage of a sit and go, which can be defined as the following: * There are four or five players remaining (in a ten man SNG) * The average stack size is 15 big blinds or lessUnlike the early stages, on the "bubble" of a sit and go you need to open up your game. Hopefully you have picked up a hand or two and added to your stack in the early stages, but if you have been playing tight (and correctly) you usually will have somewhere near your starting stack. Because the blinds rise quickly, at some point in the SNG tournament you need to accumulate chips. Quite simply, the best way to do that is to push all your chips in the pot and hope everyone folds. This "push or fold" strategy is the key to winning sit and go play and all advanced players have mastered it. With less than 12 big blinds or so and often with 12 to 15 there are only two correct plays: push all in or fold. These are the only plays that are even close to correct, regardless of what you may see others doing.

Many players will just limp in when they get down below 10 big blinds "hoping to just see a flop". They reason that if they were to move in and get called, they could bust out. Of course, this could happen and it is the worst catastrophe in a SNG when it does. The problem is that they give up too much profit by doing this. Even though waiting to hit the flop may reduce their chances of busting slightly, it also greatly reduces their average profit on the hand. Take the following example:

Player A has A4 offsuit in the small blind and a stack of nine times the big blind, who has him covered with 15bb. There are 5 players left and each person has around 10-15 times the big blind left.

This is a very common situation in sit and gos, and understanding it is very important. An ace heads up with short stacks and nobody about to bust out is too good to fold, so forget about that option. Player A could call, but a lot of things can go wrong if he does. First of all the big blind could raise, which will happen quite often. A4 is not strong enough to call a raise here even though the blind may be raising with hands that it beats, and so A will have to fold without seeing the flop anyway, wasting 5% of his stack. More often, however, the blind will check. Now, player A is going to have the best hand on a lot of flops, but an ace will come off only one time in six. Any other time, if player A bets, he's going to have nothing but ace high or something like bottom pair/a gutshot. Player A will be forced to often bet with a very weak hand that can't stand a raise, or give up the pot to the big blind, who will usually bet if checked to after the flop. And when A does hit the flop, the big blind is rarely going to put a lot of money in the pot unless he has A beat. In other words, player A has turned what is a pretty big hand in a heads-up spot into something that is only slightly better than a total bluff with trash. With position it is not quite as bad, but the problem with limping in position is that it is more likely someone will raise after you come in, plus your limp does not get a lot of respect so many players will bluff after the flop comes.

So what does player A do in this spot? After all, an ace is a big favorite heads-up, right? This is where the all-in push comes in. By going all-in player A maximizes the value of his hand. The big blind can only call or fold, so having position makes no difference. Furthermore the big blind knows that if he calls, he could face losing a big portion of his stack. The result is that big blind is going to have to fold a lot of hands, probably about 80-90% in this spot. Let's say it is 85%. 85% of the time, you will win 1.5 bb over folding, for an average profit of ~1.3bb/push. The other 15%, you will be called. A 15% call range has A4o in pretty bad shape. Let's say you will win an all in 35% of the time. Your average loss is 2.7bb in this spot (you will win .35*18 chip pot = 6.3 chips in the all in on average, and you started with 9). -2.7*.15 is about -.4. So the average profit of a push here is .9bb. It is highly doubtful you could do this well by limping in and betting flops, or trying to catch an ace.

However it is not quite as good as it seems, because the nature of the prize pool cuts into your actual cash profits on each push. Gaining that .9 bb or 10% of your stack doesn't add 10% to your cash expectation, but instead something like probably 7 percent. And the chance of busting out cuts that down even more. But hereHealth Fitness Articles, the amount of profit you make from a push is so huge that you have to do it anyway. In fact K4 offsuit would be a push in this spot as well against most opponents (although this is very close).

In the next article I will discuss what sort of hands you should be pushing all-in with in far greater detail.

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Brian Stubiak is an experimental physicist and long-time winner at online Texas Hold'em tournaments. In his spare time he enjoys golf, watching sports, especially his beloved Cubs, and gambling in all its forms. To learn more about texas hold'em and read many articles just like this one, go to my strategy articles blog at

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