The best poker sites for sit and go tournaments (SNGs) are those with the greatest amount of traffic. Because SNGs only happen once enough players have paid for a seat, you need a certain level of traffic to support a healthy sit-n-go ecosystem. The more players there are, the faster the tournaments fill at all stakes.
Beyond that, it’s also worth considering the skill of the competition, variety in tournament types and rake. Altogether, these factors make it a pretty straightforward job to recommend the top poker sites for SNGs. Here’s the list I came up with based on my own experiences:
The preponderance of poker strategy and training websites that we have today has really improved the average level of play across the board. You can still find soft games at the lower levels, but there’s no longer a huge difference in skill from one site to the next. The stakes at which you play have a greater impact on how skilled the opposition is.
However, I have noticed the games seem a little softer at poker sites that are attached to sportsbooks and casinos. This is most likely due to people who sign up with the intention to bet on sports or play roulette and somehow stumble into the poker room with little experience. Whatever the case may be, these sites seem a little softer based on what I’ve seen.
How SNGs Work
Sit and go tournaments are organized in the same basic fashion as standard tournaments. You buy in for a fixed fee, receive a set number of chips and then attempt to accumulate as many chips as possible. As the game progresses, the blinds increase in size and force the players to stay active.
What makes SNGs different than standard multi-table tournaments (MTTs) is that SNGs don’t start at a set time. Instead, they start as soon as every open seat as been claimed. In the case of a standard 9-person SNG, the tournament begins once nine people have paid the buyin to join the tournament.
The tournament then progresses in normal fashion with slowly increasing blinds until only one player remains standing. Payouts for a standard single table tournament give about 50% of the prize pool to first place, 30% to second place and 20% to second place. For example, a $20 SNG with 9 players would have a total prize pool of $180. The payouts would work out to something like this:
- 1st Place: $90
- 2nd Place: $54
- 3rd Place: $36
Types of SNGs
The widespread popularity of SNGs has led poker sites to introduce all manner of variants to further keep things interesting. Let’s take a look at some types of SNGs that you’re likely to encounter.
Single table tournaments (STTs)
This is the most basic, traditional type of tournament we think of when we hear the phrase “sit and go.” You square off against 9 or 10 opponents and play until one person has all the chips.
Multi table SNGs
These are just like regular SNGs but with more seats. Multi-table SNGs can have seats for 18, 27, 45 or even 180 players.
The blinds move at a faster pace in turbos – perfect if you’re short on time or specialize in late-game strategy.
You pay the normal entry fee and the prize pool is randomly selected. You usually end up playing for a standard prize pool, but it’s possible to play for double, triple or even 2,000 times the normal prize pool. An extra fee is tacked on to the buyin to pay for the occasional large prize pool.
Some tournaments are specially marked as “jackpot” SNGs. They work like normal SNGs but promise huge payouts if you win multiple tournaments in a row. Oftentimes, there is a progressive jackpot that grows over time until one player takes first place in 4, 5 or 6 tournaments in a row.
Instead of winning cash, you are given an entry to a larger buy-in tournament with a significantly larger prize pool. Satellites make bigger tournaments that are otherwise affordable more accessible to everyone.
Steps are sort of like satellites but with more steps in between the “first” and “last” tournament. You start at the bottom in a low buyin tournament and then work your way up through the levels if you place well. Often times, the prizes work out so that the first place finisher moves up a level, second place gets to try again and third place moves down a level. You can buy in directly at any level.
The final tournament is normally a large buyin single table event with a large prize on offer. Sometimes it’s a simple cash prize worth several thousand dollars and others it might be a paid trip to a major land-based tournament.
Shorthanded and Heads-Up
These are standard SNGs but with fewer people. It’s common to see heads-up, 4-person and 6-person tournaments in this category.
Double or Nothing
A double or nothing tournament flattens the payout structure in such a way that the top 50% of the field gets double their buyin. For example, a $10 double-up SNG with 10 people would award $20 to 1st through 5th place.
Why would you ever want to play for a mere double your buyin? Well, it’s a lot easier to cash and you don’t have to dedicate as much time to each tournament. Double or Nothings end as soon as half the players have been knocked out.
Pros and Cons
Sit and go poker tournaments occupy the middle ground between cash games and multi-table tournaments. On the one hand, SNGs limit your risk to a known and definite amount just like MTTs. On the other, SNGs attract way fewer people and therefore require less of a time commitment.
Furthermore, it’s a whole heck of a lot easier to win money in SNGs. Classic single-table tournaments pit you against just 9 or 10 other people. All you need to do is take one of the top 3 spots and you’ll end the day with a little something extra. The prizes aren’t as impressive as what we see in MTTs, but you can win money much more frequently.
SNGs can also be used to practice your late stage MTT game. A lot of us are pretty decent playing through the early and middle stages of any MTT but it’s tough to get practice in dealing with the final stages where the blinds are high and we’re dealing with push/fold situations. SNGs put you in those situations much more frequently and will help you polish your late stage game.
Overall, the trade-offs between SNGs and MTTs equal out. It really just comes down to whichever format you’re more comfortable with and which seems to give you the most success. I’ve gotten to know many people who make a full time living in both formats over the years. If you’re good at what you do, it all works out in the end.