Sit and go strategy
Dear Tony,

I enjoy the site. Good info. I have a question about how much to raise when raising. Because it is sit and go should that keep the preflop raises smaller, in order to preserve your stack.

Does it depends the number of BB we raising if we are de opener or sitting on the button? I mainly talking about 5 and 6 handed sit and goes.

thanks for your anser in advance,


Hi Stuart,

This is a really good question because raising obviously means committing more of your stack to the table and goes against our principle of preserving your stack.

The two don’t go together so we need to formulate a plan to address this.

In cash games you can occasionally limp with Aces or Kings to try and deceive your opponents. It’s a risky play, but when you sit at a cash table you usually stay for an extended period of time of three hours or more so that you can work out who are the calling stations and who are the bluffers. You are usually hoping you are going to get re raised with these hands so that you can call down an aggressive player/bluffer.

In our SNG we know that we need to eliminate as much risk as possible and so limping into pots with junk hoping to get lucky is not a viable play. Limping with monster hands is also not viable as you are most likely giving the big blind a free chance at hitting.

So we know that as a fundamental rule if we are going to enter a pot we are going to be coming in raising. It’s rare that we are going to be limping into a pot.

Entering a pot with a raise has all the advantages that limping does not.

Firstly you can get people to lay down middling hands that they would normally quite happily limp with.

Secondly you establish a psychological edge over any caller. The maxim for any poker player is to only call a raise or re raise with a hand that you think is better than you are being raised with. Very few players in the lower stakes SNG follow this basic rule and it’s why you can beat the game.

(This is why our rule is to never call a raise.)

You will often raise, get a caller and then make a continuation bet on the flop where your opponent then immediately folds because they should not have called in the first place. These are easy chips for you.

Thirdly you get information that you need to play the hand. Knowing how tight you play if someone re raises then you can be pretty sure they have a very big hand and you can easily fold your AJ.

No one is going to be re raising you with A J or worse. 10, 10 is probably the worst hand you are going to be re raised with. It’s possible that short stacks will commit their last chips with any pair.

So, now that we have established that we are always coming in with a raise we need to decide how much we are going to raise in each circumstance.

The key idea here is that when you raise you are confident that you have the best hand at the table.

So how much to raise?

When the blinds are low at say 30/60 and you have a full table left then you need to raise more than three times the big blind. If you are in first position and have something like QQ or better then you need to raise it up five times the big blind. Certainly more than your normal three times raise.

The reason for this is that players look at the amount they can call comparative to their stack and so with starting chips of 1500 calling off 300 of them to see if they can hit a set with a low pair or make something of 4,5 clubs looks appealing.

You really want a call but you don’t want to make it so cheap that you get three or four of them. If you have Aces and get four callers then the chances of you being beat on the flop are extremely high.

You need to raise to narrow down the amount of callers and ideally play heads up against one opponent.

Once the blinds get to 50/100 and beyond then a three times raise is normally enough to do the job.

I’m quite happy to keep all raises to three times the big blind. If you get called then you know that they probably have something worth playing. Three times the big blind seems to be a good standard to work with throughout the middle game.

The real test of your poker skill comes towards the end of the game when the blinds are at 100/200 and every decision you make will decide whether or not you make the money.

Here there are multiple permutations depending on how many players are left, what their chip stacks are and what you have left.

As a general rule if the blinds are 100/200 and you have 1000 chips left then your only realistic play is an all in move. If you raise then once the flop hits you are only going to have 400 chips left anyway and folding after the flop is going to leave you on life support.

By moving all in you get to see all five cards and that’s the best option for hands like AK where you need to pair a card.

Sometimes you have to win coin flips to win the game and that’s poker. You can take as much risk as possible out of your game and do as much as possible to preserve your stack but unless you slaughter the table with two or three early double ups then eventually there comes a point where you have to commit or someone else makes you.

This is poker skill. Being able to fold decent hands until you get a hand to move all in with takes both emotional stability and poise. Too many times you will see players moving all in with any two cards after they take a beat. These are the bad players. They surrender the game and curse their bad luck.

The fact is that if you stay out of the turbo games you will always get enough decent hands to have a good chance of winning the game. Sure you will lose a lot of big hands through bad beats but it is the ability to be able to recover and play as though nothing happened that will make you a good player.

So to summarise, in the early stages we need to raise it up a good amount of four, five or six times the blind so that we don’t get multiple callers in the early stages.

Then we need to make a consistent raise during the middle game of which three times the big blind seems about right.

And finally if three times the blind is going to leave you with next to no chips left then you may as well move all in unless you are going to make a spectacular bubble busting fold.

Next we’ll look at the Independent Chip Model.

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