Sit and go tournaments

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On the Internet, sit'n gos are often played as cash tournaments with the last two or three players sharing the prize money. And, they also act as satellites to the regular large tournaments that online sites such as Titan Poker offer. In traditional cardrooms, these one-table contests generally appear as satellites to larger multi-table events.

The different contexts for these tournaments means that correct endgame strategy will vary depending on the payout structure. For instance, if you're playing a single-table satellite to the World Series of Poker, the de jure payout structure is that the last man or woman standing scoops up the entire prize pool (generally tournament chips worth the buy-in to an upcoming event). The de facto payout structure is however often a deal between the last two (or even three) players. In the online world, the cash SNG almost always pays three players.

With this in mind, there is still always a crucial period as the blinds increase and the money begins to loom. In a ten-person sit'n go with starting stacks of 1000 chips, this period usually occurs around the 100-200 blind level. You typically have 4-5 players left, so the average stack is 2000-2500 chips. The blinds represent 12-15% of the average stack and more importantly, a precious orbit of the button during which your stack will stay (effectively) constant while the carnage continues elsewhere. Or perhaps, you'll pick up a premier hand with which you can make a quantum leap in position.

Your job during this time is to find a way, once per button orbit, twice if you're fortunate, to pick up that one round of blinds. Many players hunker down here hoping for others either to bust out, or to pick up that A-K themselves. You can often take their blinds without too much difficulty if you pick your spots correctly. Look for the places where the blinds have enough chips that they want to protect their stack, but not so many as to make calling your raise trivial. Fortunately, the short-stack nature of one-table events makes the latter case rare.

Also, you want to look for players who will be willing to give up their blinds. Pay close attention to their eagerness to defend their blinds earlier in the event. Some folks feel the need to defend the blinds no matter what. Others are perfectly prepared to let them go unless they wake up with a big hand. Obviously, you'd prefer to steal from the latter group. It's awkward to talk about position in this situation. You've got five players left, two of whom have posted blinds. Thus, we have under-the-gun, the cutoff guy, and the button. Everybody has a name. Don't worry too much about position. If it's your turn make your move, but do not try it on three straight hands.

Deciding how much to raise can be tricky. One of the biggest mistakes people make is not raising enough. With the blinds already big, a small raise (2-3 time the big blind) puts a lot of chips in jeopardy. If you get called, you now have a pot big enough that you might well be pot-committed after the flop. The other problem with a small raise is that it's psychologically less imposing to the opposition. Remember, you almost never want to be called. You just want that precious set of blinds.

For these reasons, you should often move all-in. Even if you can persuade yourself that you have enough chips to have some play after the flop, you do not want to play after the flop. By moving all-in, you tell your opponent, "Like it or not, I'm committed to this pot. You can't re-steal from me. If you get this hand wrong, you're out of the tournament (or badly hurt)." Before they are in the money, most players are hesitant to go all-in. After all, they're here to have fun and if they lose all their chips their fun ends. By moving all in, you force them to make a difficult decision. They may tire of this situation ("Is that all-in move the only play you've got, or what?"), but then lay the hand down nonetheless.

Conversely, if you do catch a big hand, you can use this same psychology in reverse. A real SNG example went as follows. Down to four players and with a healthy stack, a lady got K-K. It was fully expected for her to move in as the blinds were big. Instead, she carefully adjusted her bet size to just a hair more than the big blind's chips. Sure enough, it was folded around to him, and he took the bait. He had Q-Jo, and was drawing dead on the turn. Is not vertaon if he would have folded to an all-in bet (though his risk was obviously the same either way). But, there is something about the big stack of chips that may intimidate opponents. In general, you'd like to use it to make them fold.

In summary, when you get to the point that a single round of blinds makes a significant difference in most stacks, plan to grab that round for yourself once per orbit and see if you can't find a way to get a second one too.


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