Sit and Go tourneys are fast-paced and fun to play in. It’s like playing in a microcosm of a big multi-table tournament. The structure of SnG’s is usually that of a one-table freezeout and the top 2 or 3 places pay out. Since you’re going to be starting out with at least 9 or 10 players at your table, it makes sense to play pretty tight in the early stages of these tournaments.
The logic is simple: many of your opponents will be wild and tend to gamble early on. For whatever reason, these folks just don’t feel comfortable unless they get a quick double-up under their belt. This puts you in a great situation if you’re holding a monster hand preflop like pocket Aces or Kings, but you generally want to stay out of the action early on. You get rewarded for just surviving, so let others get knocked out before you take your shots. If there’s enough gamble in your opponents early on, you might not even need to win many pots to get into the money.
Look at the risk/reward ratio for another reason to play more conservative early on. The blinds start off pretty low in these tourneys, so what do you have to gain by bluffing, or even playing a mediocre hand at all? You’re not going to be picking up much if you win the pot, and you might get raised to the point where you’re paying much more than you’d like to. Especially in early position, I wouldn’t play anything worse than A-Q suited or a pair of Queens. Wait until your table is a few opponents short and the blinds are higher, as you’ll have more to gain by your aggressive play.
Especially at tighter sites, an SnG is a great place for the continuation bet. A continuation bet is making a bet after the flop after you’ve raised the hand preflop. You’ve taken control of the hand, preferably with position, by raising before the flop, so your opponents will usually check to you. At this point, you make a bet anywhere between half the size of the pot and the full size of the pot. Since you raised preflop, your opponents will tend to put you on a big hand, possibly a big pocket pair. When the board comes out with 3 rags, or your opponents only got a piece of the flop, and they’re facing another bet from the preflop raiser, they’ll usually throw their hand away.
For example, let’s you raised 4x the big blind from late position with A-K and 3 callers stay in. When the flop comes out 9-2-5, regardless of the suits, you’re going to bet at least half the pot when your opponents check to you. If one of your opponent calls your bet on the flop, he obviously has something to stay in the hand, even if it’s only a draw. If he checks to you again on the turn and you don’t hit your Ace or King, you’ll have to check behind him. Also, be aware that many opponents like to slowplay or check-raise the preflop raiser. They know that you’re likely to bet or raise again on the flop, so they’ll often wait until you bet and raise you. If you get raised and you didn’t hit the flop in some way, you should just release your hand.
As the blinds begin to increase further into the tournament, you’ll need to open up your play a bit. Firstly, you’ll want to start looking for tighter players to steal the blinds from. As the tournament progresses and the blinds become a larger percentage of everyone’s stack, play at the table will generally tighten up. You’ll often find yourself in late position without any players yet to enter the pot. If you have a decent holding (two face cards, an Ace, or any pocket pair), you should consider raising to gain control of the hand and possibly win the blinds preflop. This play works best against tight or timid opponents, who will usually fold unless they have a premium hand. If this type of player calls your raise or reraises you, you should proceed with caution. They’re inherently tight players, so a call or raise means that they’re holding a strong hand.
Facing a reraise, I will often throw my hand away. You can still attempt to steal the blinds from aggressive opponents, but tend to have a stronger hand to raise with than you would against tighter opponents in case you get called or reraised. Unless you’re holding an overpair to the board, I don’t recommend a continuation bet against an aggressive. This type of online player will often call you down with middle or bottom pair, and if you can’t beat that you shouldn’t bet.
You’ll also want to loosen up your starting hand requirements. Usually by the time the blinds reach levels of 100-200 or 150-300 or greater, at least a couple or more of your opponents have been knocked out. Since there are less players at the table, the sizeable blinds will hit you more often. While I recommend a tight-aggressive style of play early in the tournament, you simply won’t be able to wait for premium cards with the blinds so large. Even if you’ve managed to increase your chip stack significantly by this point in the tournament, the blinds will still affect you. As I mentioned earlier, your opponents will generally play tighter at this point in the tournament, so playing an aggressive game can be advantageous. Look for opportunities to raise hands like suited connectors or any two face cards from late position. Even if you get called by one or both of the blinds, you’ll be able to analyze the texture of the flop and act last on every future betting round. Position is extremely important in hold ‘em, and anytime you have position in a hand, you have a major advantage.