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Which Hands to Play How in The Early Stages of A Sit-n-Go Poker Tournament!

31 October 2005, By: Pokerjunkie.com
The early stages of a sit and go are a wait-and-see game. You want to make sure that if you are involved in a hand that you win it.

This is how in general I will play the following pocket hands before the flop.

Note: this strategy varies dramatically depending on the type of game and type of players, but this is a GENERAL guide for the first 2 levels nine-handed.

Early Position:

Raise 3 units with= AA,KK,QQ,JJ,AK
Limp with= 99,1010,AJ,AQ

Middle Position:

Raise 3 units with= AA,KK,QQ,JJ,1010,AK,AQ
Limp/Call with= 55,66,77,88,99,AJ

Late Position:

Raise 3 Units with= AA,KK,QQ,JJ,1010,99,AK,AQ,88,AJ
Limp/Call with= 22,33,44,55,66,77,any suited connectors
Reraise with= AA,KK


I'm sure many people will debate my hand selection; this isn't 100% how I play or the correct way to play.  Poker is so situational that you shouldn't follow this guide and do exactly what it says because it won't help your game.

But if you're totally unsure of the general hands to play early on then this might be a good guide to start off with. Remember the above guide is for early stages of the tournament meaning a full table and still small blinds.

Some people will debate that playing small pocket pairs or certain suited connectors is not tight play, but it is when your only goal is to flop a set or 2-pair or flush or big hand.

You want to see flops with these types of hands for cheap, like 20-30 chips. If you don't hit with these hands you lay them down without hesitation.

The blinds are so small in the early stages there's no stealing involved and your only goal is to see some cheap flops with solid hands in hopes of hitting 2 pair or a set.

Even if you end up getting an open-ended straight draw or flush draw, unless the situation is right, you're in good position and you're getting the right price to call, then don't even bother risking chips to hit a draw.

You want to hit a solid flop with the best hand and win as many chips as you can. Don't do anything fancy or get greedy for chips.

Put your opponent on a hand and play it accordingly and try and extract as many chips as possible. Even if you have A-K and the flop comes K-Q-9 2 suits and action is heavy with 2-3 opponents your hand MIGHT be the best on the flop, but you have to dodge so many cards that's it not worth it.

Make sure you're in a locked position and that you're at least a 3:1 favorite. Play your cards, but more importantly your opponent and situation.

Your goal early on is to not risk any substantial amount of chips unless you're a big favorite odds-wise and you are very confident in the situation and that you're going to win the pot.

The last thing you want to be doing is risking a large portion of your hands on draws or speculative best hands.


Establishing Your Image

Even though you're analyzing your opponents, people will be analyzing you as well. Remember most of these players you're playing with will be for the first time, so first impressions are EVERYTHING, just like in real life.

Usually the way you play early will make your opponents think that's what kind of player you are. That's excellent; you want them to establish in their heads what kind of player you are - this way you can play your hands against them accordingly.

If you play a tight solid game and fold pretty much all your hands early on, don't defend your blinds etc. (no need to early on), you'll pretty much go unnoticed at the table and you won't be given a loose image.

Their will probably be 2-3 jokers on the table playing a lot of pots, raising lots and they will be established as the loose wild players because these are the players that stick out.

By playing a tight solid game & not playing any hands, people will have you pegged as a tight player that only plays premium hands & plays straight up poker.

Now you OWN your opponents because in the later stages of the sit and go you can play to them, you can understand their raises, their bets and what they have, because their mindset is that this is a tight player, so they will push you around, raise your blinds with weaker hands later on.

Because they are thinking ok this is a tight player there's a 90% chance he will fold and if he reraises me then he must have picked up a hand.

If you happen to get a lot of good hands early on and you're raising a lot but not getting much action, you then need to understand that you're earning a loose reputation.

That's not a problem if you're able to recognize the image you're giving off. With this image in the later stages of a tournament you can play your strong hands really strong and people will be less likely to believe you.

To sum it up, recognize and understand the image you're giving to the other players by the amount of hands that you're playing early on and play accordingly in the later stages of the tournament.

This is a huge edge that no amateurs or weak players pick up on or realize.


What style should I play?

I recommend playing a rock solid tight game without ever risking a lot of chips unless you have the best hand and you're a dominate favorite in the hand.

I also recommend playing a passive game, this way you're not risking a lot of chips and you can sit back and analyze the betting and then be able to make a decision based on your analysis of your opponents' betting patterns.

Often early on a lot of players make the mistake of getting a big hand and keep on betting and raising the whole way, I think that's weak poker and you should play a real tight solid game and no matter what your 2 cards are, you're playing the situation looking for the best spot to get your money in.


What happens if I'm short stacked early on?

You play a tight game and wait for a top 4 premium hand (AA,KK,QQ,AK) and try and get it all in before the flop, more often than not you're going to be called by a dog and this is a good opportunity to double up and get back in the running.

Just because you're short stacked you don't want to be playing more hands to double up, or think you're dead and call with some weak cards.

The blinds are so small still that it doesn't hurt you and you can't give up. If the blinds are 15/30, and you have 500 in early position it doesn't mean pushing it all in with pocket aces,

I don't even like a regular raise in this position as it screams strength. If you had a half descent hand (aq)(10s) you know you'd push it all in. If you're playing with strong opponents they would pick up on that, so early position I like a limp and hopefully someone opens the action enough that you're then able to push it all in.


What if If I'm on the button and someone pushes all in and I have AK suited?


Lay it down, you don't want to risk your whole stack and tournament early on a coin toss. The only time I may take a coin toss early on is if I have enough chips that If I lose the coin toss or hand then I have at least around the starting chips left.

If you leave your result to a coin toss you might as well go play baccarat or roulette.

I'm sure you're saying, well what if he has AQ?. "What If" is the key - unless this player has pushed all in numerous times and you are confident that he doesn't have some sort of hand.

But even then if he has pocket 2's you're gambling or if he has 72 off suit you're not a big enough favorite.

Sometimes you have to have no emotions with your cards. Who cares if it's AK or 72 - you can't have any emotional attachment to your hands.

You say to yourself this isn't the right situation. I don't have anything invested and I'm going to wait for a better spot.

The problem with weak and amateur players is they fall in love with their hand and when they see the 2 cards, they say subconsciously in their head. "YAY, I'm going to win this pot".

You can't think like that. You have to be emotionless with the cards, tell yourself "Ok I got a hand I can play with let's go see If I'm able to win this hand if I get a good situation".

The best players in the world can lay down big hands without even hesitating if the situation isn't correct.



What if no one is knocked out in the early stages?

You don't want this happening, this makes it a lot tougher to make the money. Don't panic though.

Sit back, wait, relax and continue playing your style. People will eventually start being knocked out. Ideally you want at least 2-4 people knocked out in the first 2 levels.


Keys to early play in a sit and go:

- Play tight & wait for the best situations.
- Don't get emotionally attached to your cards.
- See flops with pocket pairs and suited connectors if you're getting the right price.
- Don't leave your tournament up to a coin toss.
- Analyze your opponents and have each one figured out by the time the 2 early levels are complete.
- Make sure you know what your image is on the table and make sure you play accordingly to it.
- Your goal is to get at least 3-500 extra chips by the end of the 2 levels. You can usually do this by winning 1 good hand.




In my next article I will discuss the middle stages of a sit and go.



If you want to discuss this series on sit and go's post in the official discussion forum here:

Official Discussion Forum On Sit & Go Series


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Articles : STT Tourney Strategy : Sit & Go's: My Strategy, Part 2 - The Early Stages. | Configure | 1 Comment
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Re: Sit & Go's: My Strategy, Part 2 - The Early Stages. (Score: 1)
by jedmitchell on Aug 02, 2006 - 05:23 AM
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great general STT strategy for begginers - keep 'em coming



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