Early Stages Strategy for Poker Sit and Go's

Early Stages SNG StrategyContrary to popular belief, the early stages of a sit and go aren’t all that important. Sure, it’s important that you don’t do something silly and lose all your chips but that’s about it. The majority of your wins in single table tournaments are created near the end of the tournament.

You don’t need to double up as fast as possible to win SNGs. All you have to do is play a tight, smart game in the early stages and stay out of trouble.

In the early stages of an SNG, the best strategy is to play a tight, straightforward game. You don’t need to get involved in a lot of pots at this point in the tournament. All you have to do is play tight, play smart and keep your eyes open for legitimate opportunities to double up.

Many players want to double up as soon as possible in the early stages of an SNG because they don’t like the pressure that comes later when the blinds increase. It’s understandable to want to have a big stack, but that goal should not supersede smart play. The early stages of a SNG play fairly loose so you are best off waiting for strong hands.

That’s not to say you can’t take a flop with the occasional pocket pair or suited connector. You can (and should) do so occasionally. The important thing is that you only play such hands when the conditions are right. In late position, with other people already in the pot, you can play small drawing hands. You just don’t want to get into the habit of playing pocket pairs and suited connectors from all positions. That’s an easy way to cut your chip stack in half.

Starting Hands

In early position, you should play the fewest hands. There’s not much good that can come from playing marginal hands in early position. Your opponents have too much of an advantage by seeing what action you take before they have to choose an action. In order to make playing from early position profitable, you need all the help you can get with strong hands like AA-JJ, AK and AQ.

As the button moves around the table, you can slowly loosen up your starting hand requirements. In middle position, you can add a few more hands to the mix. When nobody has entered the pot, you can come in with a raise with all the hands mentioned above plus hands like KQ and KJs. You do not want to play such hands if the pot has already been raised.

In late position, you can open up your starting hand selection even more. If nobody has entered the pot yet, you can come in with a raise with even more hands. If people have already limped in, you can limp in behind them with drawing hands like suited connectors and pocket pairs. If the pot has already been raised, your best bet is to fold all but your best hands. The stacks are not deep enough to make it worth calling raises with drawing hands.

Come in with a Raise or Fold

The best strategy for playing your starting hands in the early stages of an SNG is to either come in with a raise or fold. The only time you should limp in is when other people have already limped in before you and you have a drawing hand in late position. Other than that, you should think with a raise/fold mentality.

The reason I recommend the raise/fold mentality is because the players in SNGs don’t have deep enough stacks for you to constantly play weak hands and hope to hit a draw. You will have the best results by getting value with your strong hands like AA and KK or by pushing other people out of the pot.

Postflop Play

Postflop play is pretty easy during the early stages because all you have to do play a straightforward game. The players are too loose in the early stages for you to bluff them, so the best way to win chips is to bet strong hands.

However, you can make an exception to that with continuation bets. If you raise a hand before the flop and get only one caller, you should place a continuation bet on the flop whether or not you hit a hand. Your opponent will concede the pot the majority of the time.

Draws shouldn’t be much of an issue because you won’t play many drawing hands before the flop. If you do happen to hit a draw, just follow basic pot odds to determine whether you should call or fold. It might be tempting to chase draws but if you don’t follow the odds, you’ll end up knocking yourself out of the tournament the majority of the time.


This strategy probably sounds pretty boring and unimaginative so far but don’t let that discourage you. As the tournament progresses, you’ll have many opportunities to play an aggressive, exciting game. All you have to do is get through the first few blind levels and then things will start to pick up.

Finally, don’t be afraid to add to or subtract from this strategy. No two poker players play the same exact game. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with experimenting to find the playing style that works the best for you. In the end, the only thing that matters is that you take all the chips.

Now that you know about early stages SNG strategy, read about middle stages SNG strategy.

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