Online Sit & Go Strategy That Pays By FlopZnuts The following strategy has really helped me turn my results around in small no-limit “Sit & Go” tournaments. Most of what you will read is geared toward the 18 seat and 10 seat variety at Poker Stars. Personally, as I am trying to build a bankroll, I play the $1.00 to $6.00 buy-in games. I like the turbo’s because you have to make decisions rather quickly, and it requires you to concentrate entirely on the moment – not the last hand or what may come up next. I try to look at these games in 4 distinct phases: Early, Middle, Final Table and Money. EARLY The key here is survival. My main focus is to PROTECT MY CHIPS AT ALL COST. I’m not talking about playing with scared money, but you only start with 1500 chips so you must protect them vigorously. To sum it up, I would say: PLAY ONLY PREMIUM STARTING CARDS IN GOOD POSITION, BUT BE WILLING TO LAY IT DOWN IF YOU DON’T HIT. You can find starting hands charts all over the web. (link)(NOTE: Some charts, especially in late position, could be a little loose for me early in a tourney. I try to stay with the 10’s or better, that is pocket pairs or hole cards that are 10 or higher in late position, Q or higher in earlier positions. If you don’t flop a set with small pocket pairs, be willing to dump them if there is a lot of betting/raising. As stated, this article is geared towards beginners. Over time you will learn how to loosen up a bit and not get yourself in too much trouble, but for now struggling beginners should strive to play the classic “Tight Aggressive” style of play. Advanced moves will come in their own good time. Here is an pretty good article on starting hand value.)Using this strategy does several things. It gives you an advantage because you will usually be drawing to better hands than that of your opponents who may be playing weaker cards. It allows you the option of more aggressive play when you hit on the flop. It allows you more opportunities to trap your opponents for more of their chips. It takes a little pressure off of you because you are not getting too attached to those monster hole cards when you don’t hit. It makes marginal decisions very easy. RISK Another key for me is early calculated risk. Yes, you have to take risks, but they should be very calculated. And, I try not to risk most or all of my chips on hands that I probably have the 2nd, 3rd or 4th best hand. Of course, if you have the nuts, try to maximize the amount of chips you may rake in a given pot. But if you miss some of the flop and you think you might have gotten out-drawn, let it go. Remember: PROTECT YOUR CHIPS. SURVIVAL IS THE KEY TO EARLY PLAY. There will be enough maniacs who will take themselves out for you by their mistakes. And yes, it would be good if you can double up off of their poor play, but the bottom line is that a person who has been eliminated is finished, regardless of whether you took them out or someone else did. That is still one less opponent you have to contend with. Remember SURVIVAL – PROTECT YOUR CHIPS. DON’T TAKE UNNECESSARY RISKS. I think many people play just the opposite strategy -that is, they play as aggressively as possible and try to double up early and coast the rest of the way. I feel this assumes more risk than potential reward. I like Howard Lederer’s advice. The Professor advises, “I see many players employ a nearly opposite strategy. They figure they have nothing to lose, so they go for the quick double-up early. They take chances too soon when, in their view, there's "nothing on the line". Then, once they're in the money, they tighten up, thinking about that extra payout for moving up a spot. If you start to rethink your SNG approach and adopt a "slow early, fast late" strategy, you will see an almost immediate improvement in your results.” (Link) This is the same as Ed Miller’s “wait and pounce” theory in "Getting Started in Hold'em", and I like that analogy. I just kind of sit around unnoticed until, BAM; I hit ‘em right between the eyes for half or more of their stack!!! (Ed Miller's website) MIDDLE This is where the action really starts to heat up. If you have played well, you should find yourself with a minimum of at least close to the same amount of chips that you started with. By now 3 to 6 people have usually busted out from each table and you only need to outlast 4 to 8 more people or less to make it to the final table. (obviously, if you are playing a 1-Table S&G you are already at the final table). Usually in this section of the tourney, I find myself either chip leader or close to it, or somewhere right in the middle. Of course there is always the bad beat that puts me to the bottom of the leader board or completely out, but for the most part, the norm for me is either somewhere close to the top or right in the middle. I have played tight and protected my chips. The few hands I have played I have played very aggressively. Overall I haven’t played that many hands (unless the cards are really coming!) but the ones I did play I made count by maximizing my pots and possibly even taking someone out! This is how you should be around the top 3 in chips. But, if I just haven’t gotten the great cards, my tight play has protected my stack and I am probably somewhere in the middle, like I said earlier. Also, so far I have hopefully earned a tight-aggressive reputation in this session making people respect me when I play a hand. This will set me up to later put pressure on the short stacks and allow me to semi-bluff if I think I can get someone off of their marginal hand or draw. But I am still not talking about playing reckless. Remember, you want to SURVIVE and get to the money. I still basically play the same strategy of protecting my chips and playing premium hands in good position, laying them down if I think I’m beat. But now a very important factor begins to come into play. The blinds have started to increase to the point that most people will not pay to see a flop with marginal hands (unless on a bluff). Early on, when the blinds were smaller, I may have tried to limp with marginal cards if I felt weakness on the table. But now you have to really start to watch the short stacks because they are the ones that are likely to move in and try to double up. For example, say you get 8c9c or pocket 4’s in middle position and the blinds are $200. I may just try to limp with this hand and see a cheap flop and hopefully hit a good draw or a set. But I look around the table and a short stack is in the little blind with only $600 in chips left. It is one third of his chips to complete the blind and you have to really watch him moving in on you. So you could very well try to limp or even raise a bit and he could move all in. Now you have the tough decision of calling – putting more of your chips at risk, or throwing your suited connectors or pair away and waste the $200.00 call you just made. So be cautious of short stacks! That is why position is so important. Steve Danneman said, “Not calling a raise may only be a small mistake”. That is so true. But the reverse of that is that making a particular call could be a HUGE mistake. Pick your spots, play with caution and know where everyone on the table stands in chips at all times. If you feel you are about to get caught in the middle of 2 raisers (chip war!) throw it away unless you have the nuts. Let them take each other out. Remember, you just want to see people going out, and when you do, you are one closer to the Money! Raisers and re-raisers are your friends so get out of their way unless you KNOW they can’t beat you! One tourney I played in I was in 5th and short stacked on life support. I folded from early position, but then there was a raise, re-raise and an all in which 3 players called. One guy took out 3 other people leaving just me and him heads up. Of course he was a massive chip leader over me, but the point is that I went from 5th and probably not making it into the money, to 2nd in one hand. You just never know what might happen so be willing to get out of the way! FINAL TABLE You played well and outlasted half of the competition. You are at the final table! But there is still work to do. It is important to me to not get cocky at this point – especially if you have just put a hard hit on someone with a premium hand. I have to guard against feeling that I am invincible if I am really playing well and getting great cards. Do not loose your sense of caution. You still have to make it past 5 more people so it is not a done deal yet. At this point the blinds are getting to the point where people will start to defend them vigorously. But you should not get caught in that trap. Let’s say the blinds are $300/$600 and you have around 2500 chips. You are not the table short stack, but you are about right in the middle. You get marginal cards in the big blind like Th 7c, and hate to just throw away your 600 chips. The button raises you to 1200. It is simply NOT worth it to pay to see a flop with marginal cards at this point. Again, each scenario is different and endless as well, but just ask yourself “would I pay 600 chips to see a flop with this hand if I were in good position and not in the blinds?” Chances are that you would not, so throw it away and pick up something better to play unless you feel your opponent might be on a steal. Another thing I have to guard from is missing things on the board. For example, sometimes I get so focused on what I have or what I am drawing to that I can miss what someone else may have and lose a big pot. This is a novice mistake, and over time I hope to make less of these types of errors. Likewise, playing against pocket pairs can be particularly deceptive so watch the board and take note of betting patterns very carefully. Another key for me is to ALWAYS watch the leader board closely and know where you stand at all times, especially early. This plays a big part in determining my aggression versus tight play. As the blinds go up, if my stack is dwindling I might have to take more chances to try to make it into the money. This goes back to picking your spots, or “Strategic Aggression” as I like to call it. It really gets down to who can minimize their mistakes at this point. Control your emotions and don’t make snap decisions. Look, think and ask yourself what cards you would bet or raise that amount with if your opponent fires into you. If you have the best hand MAKE THEM PAY DEARLY TO DRAW OUT ON YOU. Don’t be afraid to bet the pot or more to force a BIG decision on your opponent. Don’t just be a calling station. That’s not to say that sometimes just a call is a good move because it is. (See article here) But remember, you are still protecting your chips. Pick up the blinds by betting if you get checked to. Lots of times no one will hit the flop so don’t be afraid to take a stab at it, but don’t risk more chips than you need to in order to take it down. When you have the best hand keep the pressure on and you should make it to the money!!! MAKE THEM PAY TO SEE CARDS IF YOU HAVE A STRONG HAND. But, try not to tangle with the chip leaders if you can help it. If you do, be SURE you have them beat because they can break you. Put pressure on short stacks and put them all in if they show weakness. IN THE MONEY!!! Congratulations, you are in the money! At Poker Stars, last place pays more than it cost you to enter, so if you just finish 3rd or 4th you will profit. Hopefully, the times you miss the money will be made up for by the times you win, or finish 2nd or 3rd. Fourth place just keeps you alive in terms of your bankroll. (At Poker Stars, Single table S&G's pay 3 spots, while 2 table S&G's pay 4 spots) The final four strategy is much the same, but your starting hands get a little more open. In multiway pots suited connectors can play well, but I still try to see flops as cheaply as I can with weaker hands. Still put pressure on shorter stacks and get out of the way if you sense others getting ready to clash. I will bluff a little more if I think I can get someone off their hand. For example if the small blind folds and the big blind checks to me I will likely raise him about half his chips if I have a strong hand. So really his only option is an all in call, which if he makes I'd better have him beat or have a lot of outs. So normally I won’t stone-cold-bluff, but I will semi-bluff hands that have lots of outs if I get called. So, the main focus of this is to help you build fundamentally sound poker skills and get in the money more often, thereby building a solid bankroll. I won’t really go into heads-up play at this point because, quite frankly, that is another entire article. There are certainly other topics such as short stack play, starting card selection and many others that also add to your foundation of poker skills. The poker strategy section at Chiptalk.net is a great place to start. You will also find links there to personal poker coaches such as jojobinks and TheMightyJim2k who will help you use these strategies and others to improve your game.