Beginner’s Guide to Turbo SNG poker strategy

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We want everything faster these days, and that includes gambling. Online poker caters to a demanding and impatient poker player base. The allure of the all in has taken the online poker world by storm.

Sometimes the blinds can be painfully slow in online poker. In a standard Sit ‘N Go (SNG), blinds usually increase in 6 to 10 minute increments. In a turbo SNG, the blind speed doubles. At Full Tilt Poker, for instance, a standard SNG has 6-minute blinds, while a turbo SNG has 3-minute blinds. Know that not every limit has a standard and a turbo version.

The biggest advantage to playing turbo SNGs are, of course, the time it takes to complete one. If you’re a winning player, why not play turbos? You can play one in half the time and increase your per hour win rate. Turbo SNGs have their risks as well. You will be forced to move all in more often, and it reduces your crafty post-flop abilities. Passive players will find it hard to win at turbos, but tight-aggressive players should thrive.

Early stages

As in almost every online poker tournament, you should play relatively tight early on. Narrow your range and try not to limp-in with weak hands—it can be a recipe for disaster. For many players, this is one of the hardest things to do. That 10-8 offsuit can look tempting when the blinds are so low.

Too many players use the low blind levels as an excuse to play weak hands out of position—something they couldn’t afford to do in the latter stages. But if you wouldn’t limp-in with a particular hand in the late stages, why would you do it in the early stages? Yes, there is the rare chance you might hit a big hand and get paid off, but there is also the chance that the exact opposite can happen.

In the early going, especially at the low limit SNGs ($3-$15), players are double-up hungry, hoping that this will let them coast to the money. An absurd amount of players won’t hesitate to move all in after they hit top pair on the flop and are faced with a raise. If you’re lucky enough to catch two-pair or a set on the flop or even the turn, you can be in for a big payoff.

It happens all too often: Player A makes a solid raise from early position with A-K. Player B calls with A-J in late position. The flop comes A-10-7 with a rainbow of suits. Player A makes a bet ¾ of the pot, Player B goes all in, Player A calls and makes quick work of Player B. The moral of the story is bide your time early on. Let other players make the mistakes, and when they do, don’t be afraid to push. You’d be surprised how many times you’ll receive a call when your opponent has top pair with a modest kicker.
Steal more often

When the blinds are in the hundreds and make up a good chunk of your stack, stealing becomes an integral part of staying alive and keeping your head above the short-stack water. Whenever possible, steal from late position. The button is the best place to steal. Before you attempt a steal, consider the following factors: 

  • Are you short-stacked? If you’re short-stacked, you may be re-raised all in.
  • Raise enough to get your opponent to fold. Ideally, you’d want to represent a good hand by raising around 3x the BB. However, if you notice your opponent is playing tight and folding hands in hopes of making the money, you might get away with making a raise that’s only twice the BB.
  • Is your opponent short-stacked? If this is the case, you have to be aware that he might come over the top.
  • Know whom you are stealing from. You probably wouldn’t want to try stealing from an aggressive chip leader in the BB—he has the chips to call and might just come over the top.

Pre-flop aggression is key

As the blinds increase, more and more hands are going to be won pre-flop. Unless you have a monster and want to trap a loose-aggressive player, you should get your money in the pot pre-flop in order to get the most chips for your hand. In the latter stages of the turbo SNG, if you get raised and are confident that you have the best hand, it’s usually a good move to shove rather than call.

Be cognizant of the blinds

It’s a no brainer, but blinds will become a factor earlier on in the tournament. This means you have to monitor your chip stack and make sure that when you become short-stacked, you make a move. You don’t want to have your stack dwindle so much that even a double-up will leave you with a shortie.

Having less than 10 BB is considered “short-stacked,” but with blinds increasing so quickly, you should consider going all in before that. Then again, many players are content to make the tail end of the money, preferring to wait on a premium while letting the blinds eat away their stack in the process. Take note of these players, as you can pad your stack by stealing from them while they whither away.


Generally speaking, you need to play a more aggressive style in turbo SNGs vs. standard SNGs, especially pre-flop. Sometimes you might have to shove with less than premium hands in order to have a shot at winning. Always look for chances to steal pots. Be aware of the blind levels and pay close attention to the types of players at the table. Play a narrower range of hands in the early stage, but loosen your game considerably in the middle and late stages.

Which do you prefer to play, standard or turbo SNGs? Why?

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