Because these tournaments only pay the top three finishers at a nine-handed table, the standard strategy is to play conservatively until the tournament becomes short-handed and then become more aggressive during short-handed play.
Many newer SNG players favor these nine-handed tournaments because the blinds only increase every six minutes, providing a good amount of play. While these are great tournaments, I also encourage people to try other types of SNGs, including turbos where the blinds increase every three minutes, and six-handed games where you start off playing short-handed and only the top-two finishers are paid.
For really fast-paced excitement, however, I play six-handed turbo SNGs where I'm facing both short tables and quick blinds. The structure of these SNGs forces me to play each hand more carefully as the combination of fast blinds and short-handed play means one mistake can be crippling or even fatal. They also let me finish in time for dinner.
Succeeding in these tournaments requires making some adjustments to your standard SNG strategy. As with any short-handed table, one of the most important things you need to do is open up your starting hand requirements - but not too much. You shouldn't be playing trash, especially in early position, but you should be willing to see more flops in hopes of hitting a big hand.
That said, you shouldn't play with the intention of stealing blinds - especially in the early going - as there's just not enough value in that play to make it worthwhile.
This leads me to the biggest mistake I see many people make in these kinds of games, which is playing too loose. For some reason, people think they have to go crazy at short-handed tables in an effort to pick up chips early on.
Generally, one or two players go broke right away and, all of a sudden, you have four people left at the table with only two spots getting paid.
Once you've lost a couple players, there's usually one person who's built up a big chip stack and plays too aggressively in an effort to bully the rest of the table. You have to hang tough in this situation, even if you're sitting on just around 1,000 chips.
The bully wants to double you up, so you might as well let him.
If you are lucky enough to double up or accumulate chips early on, don't give them up easily. Instead of siphoning off your chips by calling raises out of position or trying to steal too much, pick your spots carefully and continue to play tight, aggressive poker.
Because these short-handed tournaments only pay out two places, you should begin applying more pressure on your competition as you approach the bubble. Your goal should be to finish first, as you'll earn three times your buy-in as opposed to just doubling your buy-in for second place.
Look for the player who is just seeking to squeeze their way into the money and attack their stack as much as possible in order to force their hand and hopefully, induce a mistake. At this point, the quickly rising blinds should force the bubble boy to push all-in with a less than stellar hand.
Overall, it's a simple but effective strategy. Play relatively tight and put yourself in a position to double up through the table bully in the early to middle stages, and then attack when you reach the bubble. This will put you in position to make the money and play heads-up for the win.
More Full Tilt Pro Tips: