Single-Table SnG Strategy

by Jason Kirk

Today I'll outline a basic, relatively tight, No-Limit Hold'em single-table sit-and-go (SnG) strategy that should allow beginners to have a shot at making money every time they play. This strategy is ideal for those playing $5 SnG's and below. First off, I recommend that you play SnG's that have a "slow" structure - that is, one where the blinds advance gradually. Faster structures tend to favor luck over skill, and you really don't want to have to move all-in every other hand on the third level. Next, it's very important to keep track of where the big stacks are at all times - they have the ability to knock you out at any time, so you have to be aware of them. Don't be afraid of them, but recognize their inherent power. Third, make as many notes as possible on your opponents. If you notice a player raising every time he's on the button, or folding to a big raise whenever he limps in, you should take note. Most of the time this is really the only information you'll have to go on. On all but the smallest sites you will rarely see the same opponent twice, and your notes could end up making the difference between finishing in the money or going out on the bubble. Finally, make every preflop raise exactly the same - don't let the size of your raises give away the strength of your hand. A standard raise of three big blinds should do the trick.

In the first two levels or so of a SnG, the safest route to take is to play tight and fold all but your most premium hands - AA, KK, QQ and AK. If you're holding one of these hands and someone raises you, reraise. Avoid playing trouble hands like AQ and KJ, as you'll often be dominated and lose your whole stack on what looks like a favorable flop. If you have the opportunity to play suited connectors or medium-to-small pairs with good odds in late position, you can take advantage and try to hit a monster flop - but if you miss the flop or meet heavy resistance when you bet out, you're through with these hands. Avoid lower suited aces and all suited kings except KQ in all situations except those when you have position and extremely favorable pot odds, and even then be prepared to muck your hand if an ace or king hits the board and a pre-flop raiser bets out. While you're folding your hands, don't get distracted - pay close attention to your opponents and try to pick out their tendencies. By level three or four you should have only 6 or 7 opponents remaining - sometimes even less - and you should also have a good read on at least two or three of the guys who are left. Anyone who hasn't played more than one or two hands right now is very tight - be careful when they get involved in a hand.

If you haven't been able to build a stack yet, you need to begin looking for opportunities to get aggressive. Luckily for you, most people will begin to tighten up as the blinds begin to advance. This is your chance to make a few steals when you have position and you are first to act - aces with an eight kicker or better and kings or queens with a ten kicker or better are good enough to give you a playable hand in position should you get reraised. Medium pairs - eights or better - are usually good enough to play in any position at this point, and worth moving all-in with if a loose-aggressive player comes over the top of your raise. Don't be afraid to take risks when the rewards are worth it - you don't have much time to build your stack, so you have to make the most of every opportunity.

If you do have a decent stack after the first few levels, you still can't afford to sit back. In addition to the hands you would have played in the earlier levels, you can begin to open the betting with lesser high card hands (AQ, AJ, KQ, QJ). You can also play your suited connectors more aggressively. Semi-bluffs - bets that represent the best hand when you're still drawing - can often buy pots for you against weak opponents with shorter stacks, even when they show strength. Weak-tight players don't like to take risks if their tournament is on the line, and you can take advantage of this tendency. Trust the reads you have on these opponents when deciding whether to make these kinds of bets.

Once you reach the fifth or sixth level, the blinds will be high relative to everyone's stack and the kinds of moves you make will depend on how you sit in relation to your opponents. Your main goal here is to make the money, so play smart. If the big stack wants to play every hand, sit back and let him either knock out the bubble boy or lose a significant portion of his stack. If your opponents are overly tight, widen your range of raising hands and pick up as many chips as you can. If everyone is aggressive and you pick up a monster pair, be more willing to slowplay it. The key here is to make the most of your opponents' tendencies so you can maximize your chance of a payday, and the best way to do that is to play the opposite style from what they play.

This strategy should give you a good chance at making the money as you begin playing SnG's, allowing you to build a bankroll that will allow you to continue playing without depositing more money. As you play more, you'll find that these general guidelines don't always apply. Don't be afraid to branch out and try different strategies based on your own experiences. That's part of learning the game - and a rewarding one at that.

Full Tilt Poker Logo
Carbon Poker
100% up to $600
Doyles Room Logo
Aced Poker
150% up to $750
BetUS Logo
PDC Poker
100% up to $600