Basic Turbo SNG Strategy

As a Sng player and part time coach, I’ve made or seen my share of mistakes. Common mistakes, that the majority of Sng beginners make. Most of them are small when isolated, but when you combine all of these leaks together, they can keep a player from being profitable.

7 Tips to Help You Create a Winning Sng Strategy

What I want to do is share my basic strategy for turbo Sngs below in the form of tips. These tips are basic enough that they should apply to most 2 or more table Sngs, but extensive enough to help take you from being a losing player to a winning one.

1. Remember: Tight > Loose > Semi-Tight

That’s the basic formula that you should follow in a Sng. You want to stay tight earlier on, primarily because the chips mean less to your stack. Picking up the blinds when it’s only 45 chips and you have a 1500 chip stack isn’t worthwhile. It’s a lot of risk for little gain. Staying tight earlier on also preserves your image, making your plays more effective in the later stages.

As the Sng progresses, more players will bust increasing the worth, or equity, of each chip. Now they’re worth picking up. This is when you should start becoming more aggressive, stealing the blinds and making well-timed resteals. The whole idea is to start building a stack for the final table, not to mention the bubble.

Once you reach the bubble, you’ll start to tighten up a bit. Not to the point of being a nit though, as you don’t want to blind down to the point of desperation. This just gets you a bubble or min-cash. To get a good idea of how tight/loose to be, you’ll want to study Sng Wizard.

2. You Don’t Have to Stack Off with Ak

I’ve seen a lot of players stack off with Ak in the earlier stages like they have a made hand or something. News Flash: Ak isn’t a made hand.

It’s not that shoving Ak is -EV or anything. It’s a coin flip. Why risk your tournament life on a coin flip? I think it’s much better to try to play a flop, so that you can still fold and save chips, not to mention exploit the edge you have over players post flop.

There are some exceptions to this rule. If you mass table, it makes more sense for you to shove Ak then it does to play a flop. There isn’t enough time for you to make post flop decisions. The other exception is large field Sngs. Since you have to flip more often in these to build a stack to reach the later stages, Ak is a perfectly good hand to do it with.

3. Find the Regulars (regs) Fast

It’s important to find and label the regular players as quickly as possible. Your strategy, and the tactics you employ, will be as different as night and day compared to an unknown player.

For example, you shouldn’t be 3-betting hands like JJs, and sometimes even QQs. Ak is a no-no too. The reason being is that a regs range is going to be tight, and the only hands that you’ll keep in the pot 3-betting will be coolers, or hands that totally crush you. Everything else folds. Versus randoms you can (and should) 3-bet these hands, as it’ll be for value.

4. Min-Raise at Blinds 50/100

One of the best tactics I’ve added to my Sng strategy is the min-raise. I know a lot of guys don’t like it because they think it’s ineffective (less fold equity). That couldn’t be the furthest from the truth in my experience. The benefits of min-raising far outweigh that negative too:

  • When you min-raise you’re risking less to pick up the blinds. That means your steals are more profitable when you win, and you lose less when you’re caught.
  • Min-raising makes for smaller pots. Smaller pots means smaller pot to stack rations. In other words, you’ll face fewer resteals. Smaller pots also mean smaller c-bets.

I start min-raising at the blind levels of 50/100 (or equivalent). If you don’t want to min-raise (for whatever reason), I’d make it 2.5x the big blind. Any more than that is excessive, and doesn’t accomplish anything more. It also commits you to the pot faster.

5. Fold Your Blinds

A huge leak of mine was getting too involved from the blinds. I’d call with a speculative hand, flop top pair and spend too much, only to give up or find out I was no good.

I suggest completing (or playing) only hands that will flop monsters such as suited connectors or one-gappers, pairs and your big(ger) hands like Ak and Kq. For your speculative hands, I follow a two pair or better rule. If I don’t make two pair, I check/fold. It sounds childish I know, but it kept me out of trouble.

6. Shove or Fold When You Have 10 Big Blinds or Less

It amazes me that, despite the increasing popularity of Sngs, there are players out there unfamiliar with basic push/fold strategy.

The strategy is simple: if you have 10 big blinds or less, you don’t raise or flat-call, you only shove or fold. The reason being is that you don’t have enough chips to raise without either shoving the flop or folding, due to the lack of fold equity. Not to mention you commit yourself to the pot.

As your skills improve, I definitely encourage you to experiment with different short stack strategies besides push/fold. As a beginner though, I don’t recommend it.

7. Don’t Nit Up on the Bubble

Nitting up on the bubble is a common mistake. It’s natural though. Who wants to play for 1-2 hours, only to make a dumb mistake and bubble?

However, I’m not suggesting that you make a dumb mistake or unnecessary risks. What I’m suggesting is that you don’t allow yourself to blind down to the point of having no fold equity. What will happen then is you’ll end up min-cashing a lot for a small or even negative ROI, or you’ll bubble and make nothing.

Sngs are top heavy, so you want to play to win. The best way to do that is to have a good stack for the bubble. That way you’re not playing scared, and you can focus on bullying the other players or maintaining your stack, so that you can ensure you take a top 2-3 finish.