There are numerous reasons why online poker fans should try out Sit & Go games. First, they’re great fun! Second, they’re so convenient – rather than being committed to possibly hours playing a multi-table tournament, we can sit down to play a short session of Sit & Go games and still get plenty of action. Additionally, the prize distribution is so much better than a standard tournament.

Another distinction could justifiably be argued as a negative comparison, namely, the blinds tend to go up quicker in the quicker, more popular formats. However, we can turn this to our advantage by exploiting the weak play of opponents who don’t approach the game properly. The early phase of a Sit & Go is a good example of this.

During the early levels of a Sit & Go, because the blinds (and antes) are at their lowest there are fewer chips to aim at, which is why the vast majority of players – especially at lower stakes games – tend to be too passive. Rather than doing the same, we should be looking to exploit such weak play, and an effective strategy is to adopt a tight-aggressive approach (TAG).

By tight I mean making the most of our chips and keeping our powder dry for the right spots. We can limp in, but not thoughtlessly, without purpose. If at least a couple of players have limped in we can follow them into the pot with starting hands that are well suited to such scenarios, such as small pairs and suited connectors. But we have to be prudently selective, and it’s when we have strong holdings that we need to act proactively. Big hands need to be played big, ideally bringing along for the ride an opponent looking to earn chips with a less good hand. With far less time to build a stack than in a multi-table tournament, we can’t afford to get too clever for ourselves by slow-playing strong hands or trying to be tricky – it’s imperative to maker whatever gains we can, and this means value betting. And we don’t have to limit such a strategy to the strongest hands! If we notice that someone is making the double error of combining passive play with poor calls, then we should be looking to exploit this by further value betting when we judge that we’re ahead.

Adapt

Of course, not everyone we come across at the virtual Sit & Go tables is going to be so accommodating that they don’t challenge us enough, and keep calling our bets with not quite good enough hands. The overly passive style described above might well be the most common among the vast majority of players, but we will, of course, find ourselves up against different types of players with all sorts of approaches.

Consequently, it’s imperative that we are able to adapt accordingly from game to game, as well as during a game. For example, we will sometimes have to deal with those players who – from the very first hand – like to throw their weight around. It’s by no means rare to find players going all-in even on the first hand, and with so few chips in the pot. We could be in the BB, contemplating the J8 suited we were just dealt, and before we know it a couple of players have already shoved! A big mistake here would be to catch the all-in bug and do the same. This is sheer gambling for the sake of it and, while poker is indeed gambling, we don’t want to be taking unnecessary risks if we can help it. Obviously, with premium hands we can happily shove (albeit we need to have the kind of attitude that means we take in our stride being eliminated at such an early point of the game). Otherwise, we keep our powder dry. What does happen when players get jiggy with it during the early stage of a Sit & Go is that they suddenly have twice as many chips as we (and others) do, but this is the early stage, remember, so there’s plenty of time. As long as we have a workable stack we’ll be fine, and if a player is reckless enough to gamble when there are literally just a few chips in the middle, there’s a good chance we can capitalise on their weak play at some point. We shouldn’t rule out, after noticing a player’s tendency to be way too aggressive or put their stack at risk ‘for fun’, limping with big hands when such a player is seated to our left. Ideally, we want them to see our only calling – and with their having position on us! – as a sign of weakness so that they’re induced into raising, after which we pounce. I’m not advocating making a habit of getting tricky with monsters, but this can be a profitable play in the right circumstances, particularly during the opening phase of a Sit & Go. This is because it’s often the case that there simply aren’t enough chips in the middle, and a hefty raise can be tantamount to telling everyone we’ve been dealt a biggie. But if there’s a wild looking player at the table it’s possible we might be able to even double up if we inject a level of subtlety into our play.

Conclusion

The object of the game – however much we play for fun – is to win/make a profit, so whichever approach or tactic or act of flexibility that is geared towards helping that happen is what we should be thinking about constantly.

While the early phase of a Sit & Go isn’t critical, it’s nevertheless possible to make significant progress by taking advantage of our opponents’ typically over-cautious play or, equally, making sure that we’re adaptable. Even if we don’t necessarily win a bucketload of chips during this stage we should be using the opportunity to closely observe our opponents in order to be better placed to deal with them later on.

Have fun!

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About the Author

AngusD

AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

Latest changes

The last changes of the page “Sit & Go Strategy: How to Approach the Early Phase” was made by AngusD on February 17, 2021