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Spotting Key Situations in Sit-and-Go Tournaments
Oliver MacLennan 02.03.2009

(Note: this is a guest blog by Oliver MacLennan of Poker Junkie. No kidding: Poker Junkie is an insanely good site.)

In a sit-and-go, key moments come and go fast. A single-table sit-and-go lasts less than an hour, so if you don’t pick up and take advantage of key situations, you’re going to be on the rail looking for your next game before you know it. Here are a few key situations you should be looking out for in your sit-and-go tournament.

Opening Stages
In a traditional tournament, many players start out slow and tentative, feeling out their opposition before making any risky moves. In a sit-and-go, this may work for a round or two, but the sooner you can get aggressive, the bigger advantage you will have. If you’ve taken notes on one or more of your sit-and-go opponents and know how they play, the opening stages of the tournament can be a key opportunity to put pressure on them.

Bubble Time
In a single table sit-and-go that pays three places, you should sit up and take notice when there are five players or fewer left. This is a key moment in a sit-and-go, as players in third and fourth position will wait anxiously to see if player five busts out and where that will leave them. During bubble play, you should understand where every player stands in the tournament, including yourself. You should know how to exploit these facts.

End Game
Once you get heads-up with one sit-and-go opponent, you face another key moment. The winner of the sit-and-go gets paid substantially more than the runner-up, so having a sharp heads-up poker strategy can pay big dividends. Here it’s time to get as aggressive as you possibly can, mixing it up with almost every pot and to put all of the observations you have made about this particular opponent into play.

Of course, any time a player moves all-in during a sit-and-go poker tournament is a key situation. Here a player can get eliminated, moving everyone else that much closer to the money. Another player can possibly double up, or close to it. You will always root for the player with more chips to eliminate the other. The fact that the survivor will have many chips is not nearly as big a problem as having an extra player to deal with. Keep an eye on what kind of hands different players move in with, and when, so that you will have a better idea when you should call an all-in bet.

Poker tournaments, especially Texas No-Limit Hold’em poker tournaments, are all about how you handle a few key moments. These moments can cost you all your chips, or catapult you to an almost insurmountable lead. Learning to identify and take advantage of these moments is likely to increase your sit-and-go cash percentage significantly.