When I first started out online, I deposited $50, played for a while and lost it. A few months later, did the same thing. A few times I would cash out but no real winnings to speak of. This went on for a while and during this time I was playing in live games here and there and doing well. What I couldn’t understand was that I was winning thousands in home games, but losing at $1/$2 online. My wife kept letting me play online though, after all, I was playing with money I had won in the home games. However, I was finding out just how expensive it could be to learn how to play poker.

I finally decided that there must be some adjustments I needed to make, so I went on Amazon and bought five or six books then devoured them in quick fashion. I deposited $50 online and told myself that if I lost it, that was it. No more internet poker, only live games. I ended up building it up slowly, then six months later this guy named Moneymaker wins the World Series of Poker and all hell broke loose. Before his win, the poker site I played on had grown to 5,000 players – wow! I couldn’t believe how much it had grown up to that point. I still find it funny looking back on it. Anyway, I continued to slowly build the bankroll, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2003 when I found SNG’s, that I started to make some serious headway. I played the $5 SNG’s on Party Poker, then $10, then $20 SNG’s and so on until I eventually found myself playing the $200 tables. I now have played over 1500 SNG’s having won thousands of dollars. Many times I have heard the question “Can Sit “N’ Go’s be used as a way to build a bankroll?” to which my answer is a resounding YES YOU CAN!

Texas Hold’em Sit ‘N’ Go tournaments are becoming increasingly popular and are a nice change of pace from the daily grind of playing ring games. For a skilled player, they can also be an exciting and profitable means in which to increase their bankrolls.
You are not going to become an expert SNG player overnight. Mastering SNG’s takes hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours playing. When I started playing SNG’s in 2003 I had mixed results, I soon began to show profits, and over time my results continued to improve to the point where I consistently achieve high win rates. If you are a solid limit ring game player, you should be able to become a winning SNG player as well, but to accomplish this, there are many adjustments you must make. The reason many players fail to become successful at multi-table and SNG tournaments is because they neglect to make the necessary strategic adjustments to their game.

Bankroll and Winrates

It is very important to remain disciplined in your approach and understand that variance plays as much a roll in SNG’s as it does in other forms of poker. There will be your good runs and your bad runs, but over time, two important statistics will begin to surface. One is the percentage of the time you finish in the money (ITM) and the other is your return on investment (ROI). These are the two most important indicators of how successfully you are playing sit‘n’go’s.

How much of a bankroll do I need?

Like many of the answers in poker “it depends”. When playing limit poker, players generally like to have 250-300 big bets before moving up in limits. Then, if they go on a bad run, they move back down in limits until they have rebuilt their bankroll and are ready to try again. The same general principles apply to SNG’s. You generally want to have a specific number of buy-ins before moving up limits. Then, if you go on a cold run, drop back down to the previous limit and rebuild. There is no shame in moving down a limit. In fact, it shows a great deal of self-discipline in addition to proper bankroll management.

There are several factors to consider when you are determining the number of buy-ins you will need at each level. Will you have enough of a cushion if you place out of the money in several consecutive tournaments? Do you have enough to be comfortable and not be playing with “scared money”? For me, this was reason enough for requiring myself to have 100 buy-ins before playing in the $100 and $200 games. The first few times I played at the $200 limit, it was a strange feeling to say the least and if I would not have had such a large reserve, it could have affected me mentally and changed the way I played.

When playing the $5-$30 games, most players like to have between 20 and 30 buy-ins. This will usually be enough when playing at these limits. However, as you move up to the $50, $100, or even $200 games, I would suggest you increase the number of buy-ins in your bankroll to at least 50 and preferably to 100. I personally required myself to have 25 buy-ins at the $5-$30 levels, then 50 at the $50 level, and 100 buy-ins at the $100 and $200 limits.

What are the highest win-rates I can expect to achieve?

It is my opinion that your ITM rate will vary based on which poker sites you are playing. When playing at Party Poker or one of their skins, you start with only 800 chips (1,000 chips at the $50 – $200 tables). The blinds increase after every 10 hands played so the tourneys typically last about forty-five minutes. In comparison, PokerStars starts you off with 1500 chips and the blinds increase at a slower pace. This allows for a longer tourney (usually about an hour and fifteen minutes), and of course, these conditions favors the more skilled players.

A very good player’s stats will look similar to these:

$5 -$10: ITM – 45%, ROI – 35%

$20 – $30: ITM – 43%, ROI – 30%

$55 – $100: ITM – 40%, ROI – 24%

$200: ITM – 40%, ROI – 18%

These statistics represent the expected win-rates of an expert player while playing SNG’s at Party Poker or one of their many skins. The reason I use Party for this example, is due to the popularity of their site and because their SNG format is similar to many of the other online card rooms.

You will often hear of players who have played X number of sit‘n’go’s and have produced better results. This is indeed possible, but I do believe that the better results are more likely due to the player being on a good run rather than any other single factor. Over the long run, variance has a way of evening things out. My personal experience has seen me place 1st in up to eight consecutive SNG’s when things were running well, but finish out of the money sixteen consecutive times when things were going poorly. When I was winning, I felt invincible, as though there were not a better poker player alive! Phil Ivey who? Then of course when I was losing, I felt like my game was falling apart and that I was the biggest chump at the table. After analyzing my play, I realized that my game was fine and that I was simply experiencing a bad run. The most important thing to realize is that you will have your good and bad runs, but it is your consistently solid play that will make you a winning player over the long term.

As I mentioned previously, the conditions at PokerStars are more favorable to the skilled player, especially at the lower buy-ins. I firmly believe that it is possible to finish in the money 55% of the time at the $5-$30 levels. At the $50-$100 levels, I believe an ITM rate of 50% is sustainable while at the $200 level, 45% is possible. The main reason for this is the more favorable tournament structure. The better players are going to thrive in an environment that provides more starting chips and a slower paced blind structure. Another reason is that there are only nine players. Of course, with nine players, there will obviously be less money in the prize pool so your ROI could suffer. However, at the lower levels, the higher ITM rate should more than make up the difference.

Should I multi-table?

Once you know for certain that you are a winning SNG player, then go for it. When multi-tabling, your ITM and ROI percentages will likely decrease, but your hourly rate should improve. After all, we are trying to earn the most money possible. How many tables you should play is entirely up to you. Only you will be able to determine how many tables you can successfully play at a time to maximize your winnings.

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