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Sit & Go Tournament Early Stages Preflop Ranges and Strategies


Sky Matsuhashi

on April 4, 2024

This Sit & Go article was written by Smart Poker Study contributor Jason Borowski. 

I'm a huge fan of low stakes Sit & Go (SNG) tournaments because there is less variance than regular tournaments and they take much less time to complete. Plus, the competition is pretty weak. Paying attention to how they play and using solid preflop strategies will make you a SNG winner.


Sit & Go Early Stage Open-Raising Ranges

Each SNG format can be very profitable with the correct strategy, and understanding preflop ranges is a key ingredient to becoming a winning SNG player. Remember, time goes quick in these SNGs, usually 5 minute blind levels and you start with anywhere between 40bb-60bb.

So you do not want to be opening the wrong hands OOP (out of position) in the early stages. The old saying “tight is right” applies to the EP in the early stages. So let's go over what hands you should open and what hands should hit the muck during the early stages of a low stakes SNG.


EP Open-raising Range

In the EP (first 3 positions: UTG, UTG+1 and UTG+2), you should be opening 10-12% of hands. What does that look like?

66-AA, AKs-A9s, A5s-A4s, AKo-AJo, KQs-KJs, KQo, QJs. You can throw the JTs in there at times, if the table is folding a lot then take a stab with it.

If you get 3bet, I would fold out a lot. The SNG player pool does not 3bet bluff nearly enough so when they do 3bet, it's usually a premium hand like AA-TT, AKs-AJs, AKo-AQo. So fold out the bottom of your range like AJo, KQo, 66-88. Even those low suited aces will have a hard time continuing UTG vs a 3bet. A5s, A4s have like roughly 33% equity vs the above 3betting range, so folding is in order.

Do not get out of line in the EP and open hands like 76s UTG. You have 7 high! Stay disciplined in the EP because playing hands IP (in position) is really important, which makes playing post-flop much easier.


MP Open-Raising Range

In the MP (lojack and hijack), you can have a wider open-raising range, attacking the later positions and blinds. They know “tight is right”, so we're exploiting that in the early stage to earn some of their quick-to-fold chips. What hands should you open in the MP?

AA-33, AKs-A2s, AKo-A9o, KQs-K6s, KQo-KTo, QJs-Q9s, QJo-QTo, JTs-J8s, T9s-T8s, 98s, 87s. This is double the EP open-raising range above.

If you see a someone play the weaker hands in this range in the EP, like QTo, JTo, A9o, J8s, tag him with your HUD. He is opening way too wide from the EP. Later we will try to play some pots IP against him. Remember no matter if we are playing cash, sit and go, or tournament, information is super important.


LP Open-Raising Range

Open wide ranges in the CO and BTN. CO can open 37.3% of hands:

AA-22, AKs-A2s, AKo-A5o, KQs-K2s, KQo-K9o, QJs-Q5s, QJo-Q9o, JTs-J7s, JTo-J9o, T9s-T6s, T9o, 98s-96s, 87s-86s, 76s-75s, 65s, 54s. This is where you should be playing most of your hands. Having position in poker is so powerful. If the player's to your left are tight then you should attack them and go for the BB and ante. If they are playing loose and splashy then you might want to tighten your range up a little. So pay attention to what the players are doing!

A very powerful tool on your HUD is their Raise First In statistic by position (RFI). So my HUD has RFI in a popup by EP, MP, LP and SB. When I see a player with 15% RFI in the EP, I will give him credit as a decent player or maybe just tight. But when you see a guy with 35% RFI from the EP, mark him and try to see his showdown hands. He is opening way too much so he might be a perfect person to 3bet bluff when IP.

Another powerful bit of information to exploit is their Cbet %. If you see someone with 85% Flop Cbet, he's a great candidate for bluff check-raising. Learn to exploit these types of players!

Your BTN open-raising range is a little bit wider at 43.3%:

A great way to remember this range is you're opening off-suit 8's and suited 5's or better. You can open all of these hands, but fold most of the time vs a 3bet.


SB vs BB Open-raising Range

You only have one player to deal with, so you can open roughly 60% of hands in the SB vs the BB (or you can just use the same BTN range above). Tread carefully because with BB defense ranges being so large (due to antes), it can be tough to put someone on a range of hands. This is what the SB range would look like:

AA-22, AKo-A2o, AKs-A2s, KQo-K3o, QJo-Q4o, QJs-Q2s, JTo-J5o, JTs-J2s, T9o-97o, T9s-T3s, 98o-97o, 98s-94s, 87o, 87s-85s, 76s!

My SB advice: experiment with limp/calls. Raise most of your good hands, but try limping with the middle of your range like suited-connectors and gappers that can make straights/flushes. These are often worthy of limping and calling a raise.


Calling in SNGs

In SNGs, from my experience cold calling is usually a bad idea. The blinds go up so fast and it's just different from playing deep stacked cash or even a regular tournament. Every big blind really matters in this format. So I don't play calling ranges by position.

However, if a good calling opportunity presented itself, it would have to be with a good starting hand like ATs-AJs, KQs-KTs, QJs-QTs, JTs, T9s and 99-55. I don't set mine with baby pp's in SNGs. But, 66-99 can be very strong hands late in a SNG. Big difference between 33 and 77!

The player pool often over-values suited-connectors and suited-gappers. They like to call in the SB or BTN with less than 25bb and see a flop with these hands. Hands like T9s and T8s, you can play in late position in the early stages when you have a large 60bb starting stack.


3betting in SNGs

Should we be 3betting in these low stakes SNGs? Yes, but I only 3bet with about 5% of my hands. It's a value heavy range of AA-TT, AKs-AJs, AKo-AQo, KQs. You can 3bet KQo versus a LP open-raise, but don't get out of line with 3bets because the player pool lacks bluffs.

If you have information on a player, for example BTN's Steal % is > 60%, fight back! This player is steals too wide. So if you are in the SB with Ax or a decent suited King, it's a great time to exploit his wide range with a 3bet. I would also look at his 2bet/Fold to 3bet % as well. This is why I say pay attention to your opponents to gain information. See what they are opening and from what positions.


Who Am I?

I'm a low stakes SNG and tournament grinder America's Cardroom, Ignition and Global. I have played on every premium poker website you can think of. So many different masterclasses that it's hard to remember them all. I hired a coach for a period of time. I take poker very seriously. I have found that if you play regular tournaments all day, the variance can really be tough to handle. So, add some SNGs to your routine. Once you start winning these SNGs (and yes, it is possible!), you might stop playing those longer tournaments.

Learn more about Jason Borowski: JbPokerWar on YouTube and X (Twitter).


Sky Matsuhashi

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