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Single-Table No-Limit Tournaments

Single-table no-limit hold'em tournaments (also known as "sit and go" tournaments or SNGs) are incredibly popular. By far, the most popular place on the internet for single-table tournaments is Party Poker. They hold tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $5 to $1,000. Single-table tournaments are also often held in brick-and-mortar casinos. However, B&M single-table tournaments are usually satellites to multi-table tournaments and are most frequently played winner-take-all.

The strategy for this article focuses on tournaments that are ten-handed, with the payout structure of 50% to first place, 30% to second place, and 20% to third place. If you are playing in a winner-take-all single table tournament, you will probably need to play a much more aggressive strategy than the one advocated in this article.

At the beginning of the tournament, you should be more willing to see a flop. You can often limp in with speculative hands, such as [[cards 3c 3s]]. Obviously, raise when you hold very strong hands like [[cards Qs Qd]], but limp to see a lot of flops if you can with hands like [[cards Js 10s]].

For the lower buy-in tournaments, there are a lot of bad players that will quickly lose their money in the first few rounds. If you happen to hit a really strong hand, there is a decent chance someone will pay you off with a lot of their stack.

As the early stages progress, you should still attempt to see quite a few flops. However, if the pot is frequently raised, you will need to play tighter preflop.

Once the middle stages of the tournament begin (when the big blind is around 10% of a player's starting stack), you need to start focusing more on stealing the blinds. Except for a few circumstances, you should almost always raise if you are the first to enter the pot (no one else has called or raised the big blind yet). A typical raise is 3 to 4 big blinds.

One example of a situation where it may just be better to limp in is if you hold AA in early position and want to induce someone else to raise after you. Then, you can reraise him all-in when the action gets back to you.

In the middle stages of the tournament and later, the "gap" concept comes into play more. There is a "gap" between the (lower) hand strength that is needed to open a pot and the (higher) hand strength that is needed to call someone who raised. This implies that blind stealing is effective.

You should be more willing to enter a pot if no one else has already called or raised the pot. If someone has already entered the pot, they likely have a strong hand. Thus, stealing the blinds is much more difficult, and it is much more likely your hand will be challenged. So when someone else has already entered the pot, you need to be more selective with your hands.

Later in the tournament, almost all the action will occur preflop. At this point in time, you will generally be in one of three situations:
  1. You have a short stack. You can only afford about 5 big blinds at the level, and those big blinds are just gonna get more expensive. The worst thing to do is to blind yourself to death. Stealing the blinds means a lot to you at this point, and the last thing you want to do is see a flop for half your stack and fold. Consider going all-in with Ace and a high card, or any pair preflop (provided another person hasn't bet for a lot already). In late position, you should consider just going all-in with two cards of ten or higher if no one has entered the pot. You want enough chips to survive and get into at least third place.

  2. You have a medium stack. Try to accumulate chips slowly, avoid a big confrontation unless you clearly have the best of it. Your goal should still be to win the tournament, not to just place. After all, winning one STT is better than placing third in two single-table tournaments.

  3. You have a large stack. If you are clearly one of the chip leaders at the table, you should use your power to bully other players around. For example, if you have 8,000 chips and other players have around 2,000 chips with blinds of 200-400, you should very aggressively steal blinds. Don't be stupid, but be aggressive. Opponents will be scared to call you because they will be trying to sneak into the money. Solidify your position and aim to win the tournament.
If you intend to play STTs often, you should definitely keep track of your statistics. This way you can compare how well you are doing at different buy-ins. You should keep track of your poker statistics.

Next Article: Advanced No-Limit STTs

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