3 Crucial Sit-and-Go Concepts
Want to play the perfect sit-and-go strategy? Who doesn't? But online single-table tournaments are fraught with tough decisions: When should you be raising all in on the bubble? How often should you call when someone else raises? Should you be "going for the win" or simply waiting it out to make the money? Tough questions for most players, but they don't have to be.
I break sit-and-gos down to three primary concepts that work together. Once you have a basic knowledge of the game and know enough to stop calling raises with A-J, then you're ready to study the big three.
Here is where things get interesting. Rather than worrying about how many chips you can get as you would in a cash game, you must develop an understanding of how tournaments work and what the payout structure means to you. Because of the very flat prize structure in most SNGs, with 30 percent of the field or more being paid, there are some major adjustments to make.
The basic strategy is to play very tight early on and then turn up the aggression if you haven't chipped up by the 50-100 blind level. At the lower levels this works well, but of course you want to be the best player you can be. So how do we skip the platitude and get you some serious SNG knowledge?
Equity. One word describes the whole thing. You can't cash out your chips and leave the table, and your chips aren't worth their current denominational value, they are simply a representation of your equity in the tournament. Just like the equity in your home when you have a mortgage, your tournament equity represents how much of the total you currently own. If you have 10 percent of the chips, your seat then would be worth 10 percent of the prize pool. You didn't think it was that easy did you?
How Your Hands Play
SNGs have a fast blind structure and all-in preflop decisions are common. To master the latter part of the tournament you will need to understand how well your hand plays once all the chips are in the middle preflop. Is it better to raise all-in with Q-J offsuit or 7-6 suited? If you said, "It depends," then you're on the right track. By using a product like the Cambridge Hand Analyzer or PokerStove (both programs are free and easy to find with a web search), you can develop an understanding of how your hand actually plays against your opponent's likely range of hands.
If your opponent is going to be very tight and will only call your all-in reraise with the top 4 percent of his hands, then 7-6 suited is in much better shape to beat him when he calls because it plays better against that range. If your opponent is almost all-in on the big blind then the Q-J offsuit plays much better against the random hand that he will be forced to call with.
Making the right decisions requires the most complete data possible. This means that when you try to decide which hands to push all in with or call a raise with, you'll need to put your opponent on a range of hands. The more accurate your estimates are, the better your decisions will be. It doesn't do you much good to know how your hand plays against a certain range of hands if you are just guessing randomly about what cards your foes are holding.
Watching your opponents carefully is an acquired skill. At first it may seem like you are getting nowhere, and that there is too little time to really get a read on people, but keep plugging away at it. As you watch more and more players, you will start to notice things that you didn't before. You will see that certain plays indicate certain styles and you will be able to pick out bad plays even when you don't see a showdown.
Take notes constantly at first. I will help you to get in the habit of watching your opponents. The more you study your opponents, and work on that set of skills, the more accurate of your estimates will be about an opponent's behavior.