Simple No Limit Hold’em Strategy: Guide to Single Table Tournaments

The Sit-and-Go or Single Table Tournament is one of the most popular online poker variants, and also one of the most formulaic if you take the correct approach, as the Tip Top Fox explains

Available in a wide variety of formats ranging from six-max turbos to nine-handed regular games the Sit and Go (SNG) or single table tournament (STT) is one of the fastest and most popular games online. No matter the format the basic strategy remains the same. Depending on the format (blind speed), the blind level, and the number of remaining players there is a time to be patient and a time to be aggressive. Read on as the Tip Top Fox gives you the lowdown on simple SNG strategy.

Early Stage

So what’s the best SNG Strategy? Tight is right early on, the only difference between a turbo and a slower structured game being the length of the early period. Turbo tournaments reach the ‘push/fold’ stage a lot quicker. Chip retention is as important as chip accumulation as your chips increase in value as the blinds rise.

Your range here is pocket pairs TT+ and AQ+, opening with a raise of four times (4x) the big blind (BB), adding an additional BB for every player who has limped in. In a six-max game add ace-jack and pocket pairs 88+ to your repertoire.

Early stage SNG opening range. Range calculated using

The later your position, the more hands you can add to your opening range. For example, pocket pairs 2-2 to 7-7 are good for set mining but you shouldn’t be opening with them early. Also, don’t call big raises or re-raises with them out of position (OOP) – you need implied odds of close to 15-to-1 to justify set mining.

Suited connectors are trickier as even if you flop a big combo draw you are still only 50/50 and should not be taking coin flips this early against bad players who can’t fold. Patience is key and your edge should come from getting it in as a 60%+ favourite.

Middle Stage

The period when the antes kick in up to the ‘bubble’, which is aptly named as when it bursts the remaining players make the money. This creates an interesting dynamic with some players tightening up in an attempt to squeak into the cash.

This is the best time to get aggressive and your conservative approach in the early stages should pay off, as your table image will be solid. Most of the action now occurs pre-flop, making for fewer flops with most of the chips going in pre-flop.

Blinds are now big enough to warrant stealing from late position and you can counter this by re-stealing from the blinds. You should be raising roughly 40% of your hands from the button and cut off.

A 40% opening hand range. Range calculated using

From the blinds, you should be defending with 55+, AX, K9+, and QT+ by re-raising or shoving (depending on your stack size). Remember you need a better hand to call than you do to raise. It is always better to be the player moving all-in as you have fold equity. This means that if you raise and get re-raised you should only be calling with AQ+ and TT+. Of course, this is only a general rule of thumb and a basic understanding of the independent chip model (ICM) will further improve both your skills and your win rate.

End Game

At this stage, your strategy is stack size-dependent, both in relation to the size of the blinds and your opponent’s stack. If you are sitting on over 20BBs you should be aggressive, playing a lot of hands from the button and tightening up in the small blind.

If you are one of the shorter stacks with 15BBs or less and there are antes it is almost always correct to open shove any two cards from the small blind if the action is folded to you. Hands that flop well like KJ+ AT+ and pocket pairs 88+ are hands you should be happy to move all-in with pre-flop, or post-flop if you make top pair as it is less likely you will have kicker problems.

Remember the key to success is in shoving as oppose to calling. Shoving gives you fold equity, calling means you must have the best hand at showdown to win.  

In Summary

Be tight in the early stage, aggressive in the middle stage, play hands that flop well in the late stage, and steal from the small blind. Now you know when to be tight and when to be aggressive take a stab at an SNG and give it a try.

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