Single-table “sit-and-go” tournaments are great for testing new strategies and for getting you in and out of the action quickly.
Before you throw in your first blind, you need to figure out your strategy:
Hand selection: Know which hands you’re willing to play. Will you “gamble it up,” raising pots with hands such as 6-6, A-8 offsuit or J-10 suited from out of position during the early blind levels? If so, one of two things will happen: (1) You’ll win a lot of blinds by risking a good portion of your stack, or (2) you’ll run into a big hand and probably find yourself short-stacked early on. Calling with these hands is even worse.
If you’re calling with hands like middle pairs or suited connectors, your sit-and-go experience might be unpleasant. During the early stages, play a sit-and-go the way you’d play a multi-table event: Play tight and wait for premium hands. This allows others to overplay their hands and eliminate themselves. This also allows you to slowly move into the money while maintaining a decent stack size for future moves and “scare equity.”
Draw strategy: You can’t commit yourself to calling a draw to the river. The most frequent mistake players make is going after flush draws when they aren’t getting proper odds.
Let’s say you flop four to the flush. What are your chances of turning that flush? You have two cards in your hand and three on the flop for a total of five seen cards. That leaves 47 cards unaccounted for, and you have nine outs. That’s 38 bad cards, nine good cards – 4.2-to-1 odds of hitting a flush on the next card. You can’t count on seeing two more cards for the price of one, so if you’re not getting better than 3-to-1 on that flush draw, it’s probably incorrect to call. If your opponent is all-in on the flop, you’re going to see two cards, and you’re about a 2.1-to-1 underdog. So if you’re getting odds of 3-to-1 or higher, call.
If you’re considering a call for all your chips, you must know what has positive expected value. For example, chasing a nine-out flush when your opponent holds a set gives you a large negative expected value, regardless of the price you’re getting. This scenario eliminates several of your outs, as a pairing for your opponent would give him a full house and send you packing.
Knowing your opponent through odds: If you offer your opponent the right pot odds to play a draw and it hits, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Put enough into the pot so that it would be a mistake for your opponent to call.
A friend was recently in the big blind in the early stages of a sit-and-go, sitting on a terrible hand – 5-3 offsuit. There was only one caller before the flop, which came A-9-4 rainbow. My friend checked, and his opponent bet 50 into a pot of 125. With 175 in the pot and my friend getting 3.5-to-1 on his money, he called.
The 2d fell on the turn. My friend, now holding a straight, checked. His opponent moved all-in and, after my friend called, flipped over pocket aces. He had slow-played a monster hand before the flop, thinking he’d sprung a trap. In fact, he was walking into a trap of his own making; he had given my friend enormous implied odds. When he finally got all his money in, he was drawing at 10 outs, which he missed. If you’re new to tournament poker, hone your skills in a few sit-and-gos before you jump into a large-field tournament.