News Front Page

Poker Rooms

Poker Strategy

Odds Calculator

Poker Rules

Poker Games


Player Profiles



Poker Blogs

Poker Software

Poker History

Home Poker



Hand Selection In Sit ‘N Gos – Part 2, Getting To The Payout

By Marc Weinberg

I play in a lot of Sit 'N Go (SNG) tournaments and if you look at the distribution of my results you will see that I either go out very early, very late, or end up winning. The one place you won't find me is anywhere in the middle, finishing between 5th and 8th in a 10 person field and that's by design. Hand selection in the middle stages of an SNG changes for me, because my focus has changed: I want to get to the payout structure (final three places), and I am not willing to gamble as aggressively until that is achieved.

Let me show you exactly what I mean. I hold KJ suited in the cutoff seat (one off the button) in three different scenarios during the same SNG tournament.

  • Scenario #1: Blinds are 10/20 (first level, 10 players at the table) and one player has limped in before me. I raise to 80 chips, and am willing to play the hand aggressively. My strategy here is to "buy the button" (make the button fold), pressure the blinds and the single limper, and control the betting after the flop regardless of the flop.

  • Scenario #2: Blinds are 100/200 (middle level, 5 players at the table) and one player has limped in before me. I fold KJ suited here every single time. My strategy is to be suspicious of the early limper, who might conceal a big hand, and to worry about those behind me who are unlikely to allow limpers if they have any kind of hand.

  • Scenario #3: Blinds are 500/1000 (late level, 4 players at the table) and I would be first to act. My decision here is not a simple one because the next man out is the bubble boy and no-one wants to work hard only to finish 4th in an SNG! This time my action depends on the context of the game - my chip stack, my reputation, the way my opponents have played - but one thing is certain, I either raise big here or fold quietly. If I had the chips in front of me my inclination would tend towards all-out aggression here, whereas if I was treading water I would fold and wait for a better opportunity. If I was in real trouble with my stack then I'd have to move all-in with this hand, even though it is marginal.

My point is that hand selection varies a lot during the course of any one tournament, and in the middle stages of an SNG you need to play marginal hands in the Dan Harrington style as opposed to the Gus Hansen style (that is, unless you are an absolute master of post-flop play. Do not deceive yourself here - I can count the number of professional poker players who have the ability to do this on the fingers of one hand, which is why Gus Hansen is so feared). You must exercise a degree of caution with these hands because they generate so much doubt in your own mind as to how to play them. There are easy decisions in poker where you know that you have to raise big and put it all on the line, or fold without question. The hard decisions in hand selection revolve around hands that might improve to take down a big pot, or improve just enough to cost you everything.

My advice here is not by the book and it might not work for you. It works for me, but you really need to know your own style before you proceed. I am happier to push in the middle stages with small pairs than I am with AK or AQ, and I stay away altogether from those temptation hands like KQ. It is incredibly aggravating for me to get eliminated with 5 players left if I hold Big Slick, so my solution is not to let this happen. I consciously devalue those hands in the middle stages of SNG's, and will fold them without a second thought if the situation does not play strongly in my favor. On the other hand, I know from experience that a hand like 99 is often best pre-flop at this point of a tournament and will not hesitate to get all my chips in the middle against a hand that I know is either Ax or a smaller pair. There are times when I am wrong: the smaller pair turns out to be TT and has me dominated, or an A falls on the flop, but as Amir Vahedi loves to tell everyone: "In order to live you have to be willing to die." Too true.

If you are fortunate enough to get to the middle stages with a comfortable chip stack it is fine to limp in and take inexpensive flops with a wide range of hands. That is, so long as you recognize that certain flops are of limited value, and not worth a lot of action. For instance, if you hold 78 suited and you can see the flop for a reasonable price and with good pot odds I would definitely take that flop. But when the flop comes 2-3-8 you cannot get too excited. In fact, if there is a lot of betting activity you have to fold this hand (not only in middle stages of the tournament, but early on as well. In the late stages it becomes a question of feel because now you might have the best hand, especially heads-up). You speculate with suited connectors in order to hit straights or flushes, not to hit top pair on the board with a useless kicker.

As you move towards the payout structure tighten up your game. Toss away that Ax nonsense that always gets new poker players into a world of trouble, and treat paint with caution unless they match up exactly. No one wants to be eliminated right now, which also means you can steal pots when you have position or sense weakness, but the key remains: Don't try to be too clever at this juncture of a Sit 'N Go; save your creativity for the "playoffs" when there are only three of you left to fight it out!

♠ ♣ ♥ ♦

$600 First Deposit Bonus at Poker Stars

♠ ♣ ♥ ♦

Poker News - 2016
Poker News - 2015
Poker News - 2014
Poker News - 2013
Poker News - 2012
Poker News - 2011
Poker News - 2010
Poker News - 2009
Poker News - 2008
Poker News - 2007
Poker News - 2006
Poker News - 2005
Poker News - 2004