How to Adjust From SNG to Multi-Table Tournaments

Tournaments are a great way to change it up from the day-to-day grind of sit and goes. The pace, the players, the variations and rules are different. The biggest difference of all is the amount of money you can win, often times with no larger a commitment than what you’d spend to play a sit and go.

What I like most about tournaments coming from a sit and go background is that the transition isn’t hard to make. You can take your current strategy, use it in a multi-table tournament and manage to do ok. You won’t be faced with a large learning curve.

However, if you want to do well and consistently make the money in MTTs, I do recommend making a handful of adjustments. The following 5 adjustments is where I recommend you start.

Note – These tips can apply to sit and go MTTs like 90 or 180-mans, as well as tournaments with hundreds or thousands of players.

1. You Need to Open Up Your (Short Stack) Shoving Range

One of the first adjustments I suggest you make is widening your shoving range. So instead of shoving with 10 big blinds or less, start shoving when you have between 15-20 big blinds. And take your 1-10 big blind ranges, and spread them out over 15-20 big blinds. For example, if you would shove a hand like 22+, AT+, KJs+ from under the gun with 10 big blinds in a sit and go, shove that range with 15 big blinds in a larger tournament. That’s just an example, of course. You should be adjusting your ranges based on your table, position, image, stack sizes and opponents.

The reason why you want to open up your range in a tournament is because you have to take more risks to make a MTT final table. It’s not like a sit and go where you can sit on your hands, outlast a couple of players and make it into the money. That works for sit and goes because of the hourly rate, ROI, field, etc, but in a tournament you have to be aiming for final table money, otherwise your hourly will suck. So you have to take chances with better than marginal hands when you get them so you don’t lose your fold equity.

Plus, you don’t want to finally pick up a good hand, only to have 4 big blinds left. Sure, you’re going to get called. But even if you double or triple up you’ll have 10-12 big blinds. I’d rather double/triple up to 30/45 big blinds, and actually have some room to play poker.

2. Play More Post Flop Poker

One of the biggest, and arguably hardest, transitions that sit and go players will have to make is playing (more) post flop poker. Sit and go tournaments in general focus on pre flop play and ranges. That’s because you don’t have enough chips to get involved post flop and fold too many times. Otherwise you’ll be in push/fold more often than it’s worth to build a stack and make a deep run. That means more variance.

However, with tournaments you’re often starting with 100, 200 or even 300 big blinds. So what you’ll find is that more players are willing to play you post flop, and won’t simply fold to a continuation bet on the flop. You’re going to have to now have a game plan for what you’re going to do on subsequent streets. And that’s not only when you’re the one with initiative. You’re not going to want to fold every time someone c-bets either. You’re leaving a lot of money (and possibly many deep runs) on the table if you do.

But what if you suck at post flop poker? What can you do to get better?

Try one of these ideas (or better yet, try them all):

  • Play more hands post flop. Put yourself in more of these situations.
  • Review your trickiest hands.
  • Post your hands to forums.
  • Share your hands with friends.
  • Join training sites.

The time and/or money you spend on any one of these ideas will pay for itself many times over.

3. Focus Less on Cashing, and Focus More on the Final Table

Although it’s not great for your ROI or hourly, min-cashing in sit and goes is ok. In most cases you’re playing for less than 1 hour to do so. And sometimes it makes sense to just try to cash, especially when you factor in other stacks and ICM.

But when it comes to MTTs, I think a mistake players make is having an attitude on making the money at all costs, as opposed to playing aggressively to try to make the final table.

The problem with this is that if you’re not trying to make the final table, you’re not taking as many chances or opportunities as you should be to steal blinds, re-steal from players opening and shoving as wide as you should be. These are all things you need to do to make the final table in tournaments consistently.

Another way to look at it is your time. It will take 2-3 hours to reach the money, maybe longer. Do you want to spend that much time (2-5 hours) to min-cash (make double your money)? Assuming you bought in directly, the amount doesn’t even matter; chances are that you could've made more money putting your focus into playing 5-15 tables at whatever sit and go and level you usually play.

Not only that, but the majority of the prize pool for any tournament is on the final table, with the majority of that being in the top 2-4 places. So that’s where you should be aiming.

4. Play More Hands With Potential

Another adjustment that I make is that I get more involved in more pots with hands that have potential. This might be a hand like KTs, or even a hand like 87s. My goal with these hands is to make a strong hand, much stronger than just top pair. Obviously, looking at these two examples I’m going to be vulnerable (if not crushed) when I flop a K or 8. So my focus is instead on making straights, flushes and two pairs. This isn’t something you do (much) in sit and goes because you just don’t have the stack to open/fold too many times, or to spend too much on flopping gin. But in a tournament it makes more sense to try to find spots to double up since you have to build a large stack to make a deep run. Plus everyone is usually deep enough to give you the implied odds you need for the play to mathematically make sense.

Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting you play any two cards or be careless and play any hand that seemingly has potential. You still need to apply common sense. So that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should make a habit of opening 76s from under the gun. But you might consider completing it from the small blind in a multi-way pot, assuming you’re going for two pair or better, and preferably the straight.

5. Stack Off Less With (Over) Pairs, Two Pairs, Sets, etc

Last on my list of adjustments is to avoid stacking off with hands like over pairs, two pairs and sets. These hands are great for doubling up in a sit and go. It comes down to the number of opportunities you have – which aren't very many given your stack size. You can’t sit around with an over pair like AA and be afraid of getting your stack in, in fear of running into a set. It just won’t happen often enough to offset the benefit of doubling or tripling up, in addition to your experience, strategy, edge, etc. In other words, when you double or triple up, and have a good portion of the chips in play, there’s a good chance that you’ll make the money.

However, that’s not the case with large MTTs. Doubling, tripling or even quadrupling up doesn’t mean squat, especially the earlier in the tournament you are. Your equity just won’t increase that much.

On top of that, the deeper your stacks, the bigger the mistake it is (mathematically) to stack off with hands lower on the winning poker hand chart. The hands you’re up against just aren’t that far behind, usually a 30-45% dog. That’s too close to a coin flip to play for such deep stacks, not to mention the equity, edge and your tournament life that you give up when you lose.