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Sit & Go Tournaments on PokerStars are arguably one of the most popular pursuits for the online poker player in today’s environment. Their appeal is simple, they are called Sit & Go’s because once you enter and “sit down”, as soon as they fill up, they “go” – no waiting for a predetermined scheduled start time. They are available at any time of the day or night, whatever your time zone, and they are offered in a wide variety of buyin levels that appeal to every skill level.
PokerStars offers a wide variety of Sit & Go (SNG) tournaments, with dozens of forms of poker available. From the ever-popular No Limit Hold’em to more obscure games like 2-7 Triple Draw, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for. There are variations on the theme as well, with multi-table Sit & Go’s that have up to 360 players, short-handed games with only 6 players to a table, and “turbo” games where the blinds go up very quickly. Here we will be focusing on the most basic Sit & Go tournaments, the single table, normal speed version.
Most single table SNGs are 9-handed, with a few exceptions (Stud and HORSE games are 8-handed, for example). When you sign up, you pay an entry fee plus a small amount that goes to the house, called “rake”. For example, at the $10.00 level, you pay a total of $11 to enter, with $10.00 going to the prize pool, and $1.00 going to PokerStars for hosting the tournament.
Sit & Go tournaments pay out the top 3 finishers. The winner gets 50% of the prize pool, 2nd place gets 30%, and 3rd place gets 20%. With nine players, the total prize pool in the above example is $90, so the winner would get $45, 2nd is awarded $30, and 3rd place will get you $20.
Tournaments start with 1500 chips, with the blinds at 10/20. Antes (where all the players put chips into the pot prior to the start of play) start at the 100/200 level. The blinds increase every 10 minutes, according to the following table:
Level – Blinds – Ante
1 – 10/20
2 – 15/30
3 – 25/50
4 – 50/100
5 – 75/150
6 – 100/200
7 – 100/200 – 25
8 – 200/400 – 25
9 – 300/600 – 50
10 – 400/800 – 50
The blinds and antes increase similarly in levels 11 and beyond, but most SNGs are over by level 10. They usually last about 60 minutes, depending on your buyin level and also on the talent level of your fellow players. The level of the blinds relative to your stack will largely determine your strategy in these tournaments. While “correct” strategy is arguable, and each player follows his own perspective of the game, several theories have evolved over how to play these games profitably.
One underlying idea is that in the early levels, “tight is right”. With only 1500 starting chips, the idea is that you need to have a relatively strong hand in order to commit chips to the pot. When you do, it is often beneficial to play aggressively post flop. If you manage to double up, you can then afford to play more conservatively post flop in the early stages and avoid committing a large portion of your chips without a very strong hand.
When the field narrows down to 5 players, it often pays to become more aggressive in your preflop play. Since the tournament only pays the top 3, there are players that will tighten up their play and will often fold to raises preflop, allowing you to take down the blinds and antes (if any). As the players’ stacks get smaller relative to the ever-increasing blinds, the all-in play becomes more and more commonplace.
The shorter stacks need to gamble to double up, or risk blinding out. The middle stacks will want to pressure the shorter stacks, and the big stack will want to put pressure on everyone. This dynamic comes about because finishing in 4th place nets you nothing. You must come in 3rd to make the money, so when there are 4 players left (the “money bubble”), the dynamics of applying pressure through raises and reraises becomes very interesting. Good SNG players spend lots of time studying the specifics of bubble play and are capable of making some non-intuitive plays when the money is on the line.
Sit & Go tournaments are a great way to get a feel for tournament poker when you are first starting out. For the more advanced player, they offer good practice for final table environments and give you an opportunity to play more short-handed situations, which can also benefit you on the final table of multi-table tournaments. For those that are so inclined, playing SNGs exclusively can also be a profitable venture. Find your game and check out the PokerStars SNGs today.
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