PokerPAL: Be a Winner at STTs

PokerPAL: Be a Winner at STTs

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Poker beginnings

The STT, or sit-n-go, is one of the best ways to get a poker grounding. They don’t take very long and you get to experience playing with various stack sizes. Players of all abilities will find a level that suits them, whether it’s for play money or a high-roller buy in. You can also find varying types of tournaments, from super-turbos to double-ups.

You don’t need a complex strategy to be successful at STTs, and below I detail the basics required to be able to change gears as you progress through the tournament, mainly concentrating on a solid pre-flop game.

Early stages (more than 50 big blinds)

As in any tournament, the blinds start off relatively small compared to your starting stack. Therefore the optimal strategy is to play tight and aggressively. You want to avoid leaking chips by playing passively and calling to see flops. It’s as much about saving your stack for the later stages as it’s about accumulating chips.

While waiting for hands, pay attention to how your opponents are playing. Try to categorise their play so that you can predict how they will react later in the tournament. Separate the good and bad players; look for limpers and any that show down bad hands. Replaying all hands that go to showdown is a good habit to get into.

Middle stages (between 20 and 50 big blinds)

As, with MTTs, you now need to become more active. Open up your stealing and re-stealing range. Picking up the blinds and protecting your own blinds is now crucial. Target the passive players who give up their blinds easily and also 3-bet players who are stealing frequently. As you approach the 20BB mark, you should think about shoving all in as a 3-bet rather than a smaller 3-bet.

Also, avoid making speculative calls with marginal hands. If you can’t raise or 3-bet, you are better off folding and conserving your stack. This will maximise your fold equity later in the tournament.

Late stages (between 10 and 20 big blinds)

At this point, you are usually on the bubble or close to it and winning the blinds (and antes if applicable) represents a significant part of your stack. If you enter a pot at this stage you are usually pot committed in terms of Independent Chip Modelling “ICM” (See March’s issue for details), so use strong hands that you are prepared to call with if re-raised.
Open-shoving is not an optimal strategy with this many blinds as the risk / reward is too marginal. Your fold equity is only slightly increased in comparison with, say, a min-raise but your entire tourney life is on the line. (You may still be playing against passive limpers and if one or more players have limped before you then it is OK to shove).

Your fold equity is again maximised when shoving as a 3-bet against a frequent stealer or even someone who is quite tight and will fold a lot of their opening range.

Less than 10 big blinds

With a small chip stack you have little room to manoeuvre so the only raise is an all-in shove. If the bubble still hasn’t burst, then you can afford to shove quite wide. When you’re in the money players tend to call shoves a little wider, so you have to pick your spots carefully. Pick on the tighter opponents, the right situations (eg SB versus BB), and with the right hands: pairs, aces, big cards and suited cards. Shoving is the only way to maximise your fold equity at this stage, so never be tempted to raise-fold.


Up until now we have concentrated on raising but have not yet considered what hands we should be calling with. On the bubble you should be calling with strong hands unless very short stacked. With no fold equity you’re looking to apply Sklansky’s Gap Concept and play a tighter range than the player that has shoved before you. This ensures that your range is plus-EV versus theirs. In general, try to get your chips in first. Be the aggressor.

Please visit and sign up for the tutorials and poker grading software. Once you have signed up and downloaded the software your STT hands will be uploaded automatically to our grading software and you will receive your mark. There will also be comments on each stage of your play with links to videos that will improve your play in that area. Please contact me at for further details.

Tags: Badbeat Poker, strategy, Phill Wise, STT