Ultimate Guide: Short-Handed Sit-and-Go Tournaments

This guide is designed to allow any player to consistently beat short-handed sit-and-go tournaments. This will not require as much discipline as the long-handed tournaments. I recommend that you read the Ultimate Guide to Long-Handed Tournaments first, as it covers some basic concepts that will be expanded upon in this article.

You will still need to be patient in the earlier rounds. This is something that you will learn pays off in every tournament, be it a short-handed, a long-handed, or even a multi-table event. By being patient we are allowing a number of possibilities to take place.

1. Less Players Present. A very sharp player could get knocked out on a bad beat which is good for us: it reduces the total number of players. Obviously, the less players, the sooner we reach the money, which is the goal here.

2. No Gambling Here! We are also choosing not to gamble, which is another good thing for us. Remember that anything can happen in poker. Even if you go all-in pre-flop with AA, you are still gambling despite the fact you may be up against the worst hand in poker. The goal here is to gamble as little as possible. Now, don't get me wrong, we can't sit back and wait on only premium hands forever. We will be limping in with many hands pre-flop as well. We are looking to hit a great flop for a cheap price. For the sake of the term "gambling," which I hate to use, we will develop a habit of using the word investment, thus, we will be placing small "investments" to hit a good flop.

This guide features:

1.) The Main Difference between a Winning Long-Handed Player and a Winning Short-Handed Player

2.) Short-Handed Trouble Hands - Used for beating long-handed sit-and-go tournaments.

3.) Specific Situations - Throughout the guide you will notice sections with a "Specific Situations" headline. This will provide the reader with great examples of the topics covered and answer any questions one might have.

The Main Difference between a Winning Long-Handed Player and a Winning Short-Handed Player

There is a huge difference between playing long-handed Hold'em and short-handed Hold'em. I have seen great long-handed players play short-handed tournaments and get slaughtered. Let's go over what qualities we must possess to become a winning short-handed player.

1. Patient Early, Aggressive Late - This strategy will allow us to win consistently. Just as you would play a long-handed tournament, so should you play the early rounds of a short-handed tournament. The main difference between the tournaments becomes evident in the middle/late rounds.

2. Loosen Up Through the Middle Rounds - We are going to need to loosen up a little here.

In the early rounds we will stay tight for the most part, playing as if it were long-handed. The blinds will be so low that we don't need to gamble to win. Chip-stacks will vary and are basically irrelevant at this point. Try to see a lot of cheap flops with A-x suited, suited connectors, or pairs.

When the middle rounds hit we will loosen up a quite a bit. This is where short-handed No-Limit becomes the aggressive man's game. We won't be able to play tight any more. Remember that hands such as JJ, AQ, and TT become monsters in short-handed, and are great hands to raise with pre-flop. We still must steer clear of "trouble hands."

Short-Handed Trouble Hands

Ok. I will probably get some flak for listing some of these hands but I feel they are more trouble than they are worth. The problem is that these hands are virtually useless against a re-raise. You will tend to win small pots when you hit the flop and lose big pots when someone flops a set or has a better starting hand pre-flop. I will list the reasons why these hands cause trouble in short-handed.

1. KJ. I like to call this hand the monster of all trouble hands. Although it is a great hand heads-up, this hand spells trouble with more than 3 people at the table. Let me demonstrate the problem associated with this hand.

Specific Situation: Shouldn't I play KJ since the table is short-handed? You said that hands tend to go way up in value when the game has fewer people.

You are right. Hands do go way up in value in short-handed. But there is a dilemma here. If we play KJ and flop our K, we could easily be out-kicked. Ok, let's suppose we have the best kicker. At the most, we will take down a small pot when we hit our K on the flop since we will have to bet hard to protect our precious pair. When someone flops a set or has us out-kicked we lose a huge pot with our pair. Thus, we lose big pots and win small ones.

Here are a few other trouble hands to be wary of:

2. AJ

3. AT

4. QJ. I suppose you could call this hand for the possibility of a straight or flush (if it is suited).

Specific Situation: I am playing the hands you told me to, but I miss the flop a lot. People are running me over and I know they have nothing. What do I do?

This is another common problem with short-handed play. Don't worry though, I have some awesome statistics for you. Did you know that in short-handed, an un-paired hand pre-flop will miss the flop roughly 2/3 of the time? You must take advantage of your good position at the table. If you don't know about position then you need to search for articles about it. I will give you a brief rundown though since this is the "ultimate guide."

The best position is the dealer or button, obviously because you get to bet last after the flop. The position right before it is also good in short-handed. The small blind is the worst position and you should play the least amount of hands from here because you will be betting first on the flop. So, when the table checks to you and the blinds are a decent size, take down that pot! More often than not, you will win it. This play becomes profitable over a long period of time, although you will get caught occasionally. In short-handed, you must not be afraid to throw out decent bets when you miss the flop. Also, don't be afraid to bet your draws. You will have a chance to take the pot immediately as well as to build the pot for the times you are called but still end up making your hand.


I hope this has helped you in your quest for short-handed success. Remember to play tight in the early rounds and aggressive in the late rounds and you should become a premium player at your current online poker room. Incorporate these tips one by one until you have each of them down pat. See you at the tables.

We recommend you to try the sit and go advisor tool Sit And Go Shark when you are playing a sit and go tournament.

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