(Dumb) Mistakes SNG Newbs Make

I’ve been coached by multiple successful sit and go grinders. I’ve also coached my share of players. The same mistakes pop up, time and time again. These mistakes aren’t always big either, yet they prevent players from making progress just the same.

What I’ve found is that if you can eliminate one or two of these leaks, that you stand a real good chance at becoming a successful sit and go player.

So what I thought I’d do is provide a list of different leaks commonly found in sit and go newbs. Take a look, see if you spot anything familiar. If so, make a plan to wipe it out and see your profits rise.

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13 Mistakes Made By the Common SNG Newb

Newbs Like to Splash Around Early On

A lot of beginners go into sit and go tournaments with the mindset that since they start off with tiny blinds, like 10/20, that they should splash around more in the early stages. That way they may find an opportunity to double or triple up.

That’s great in theory, but the strategy is flawed for many reasons.

For one thing, in regards to ICM, you don’t actually gain that much more equity in the tournament by doubling up early on. Not enough to justify the risk. You actually gain more ground later on when there are fewer players and each chip is worth more (in terms of the prize pool).

Not only that, but you run the risk of busting out early. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I have a bigger edge than that. I’m not going to risk it all trying to flip and double up in the first couple of rounds.

I’m better than that. Aren’t you?

Newbs Tighten Up On The Bubble

The same players will then tighten up on the bubble. They’re done trying to build their stack. Now they want to try to cash.

So does everyone else.

A good player will sense this weakness and exploit you. All the way until you bubble, or if you’re lucky, until you min-cash.

Now, this isn’t to say you should go wild on the bubble. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is that you should not be sitting on your hands if you have a workable stack. Try stealing a few blinds, maybe reshove on someone or complete the small blind to see a cheap flop (with a suited connector, king or ace).

Often times the only way you’re going to consistently take the top 2-4 spots in a sit and go is if you pick up the aggression towards the money bubble.

Newbs Slow Play Too Many Hands

Beginners like to get crafty with their made hands. They flop a set, then slow play it. Unfortunately, many times they don’t make the money they should have.

The problem? There’s just not enough time to slow play your hands. You need to bet, bet, bet to build a stack, and hopefully double up. You’ll hardly ever catch me folding a set. I want to double up with it, or get unlucky trying.

Another problem you run into slow playing your hands is that there are many cards that slow the action down. Over cards, card that complete flushes, straights and so on. So you need to get value when you can.

The only time I’ll really slow play a hand is on an uncoordinated flop with nothing but low cards — and that’s assuming that I don’t think my opponent will (check) raise me if I c-bet.

Newbs Are Not Aggressive in Key Situations

SNG newbs seem to get it backward. They’re more aggressive earlier on when they have chips to spare, but they tighten up when faced with elimination or potential winnings.

Eeehhhh. Wrong.

You should recognize when and where the tense situations are, then exploit them. If you think you’re nervous on the bubble, don’t you think your opponents will be too?

Absolutely. So punish them for it.

Try to find the medium sized stacks that have something to lose. Raise or reshove on them. Maybe try to steal from the biggest stack to take over the table.

Obviously you want to be smart about it, but overall I think you’ll find that you cash (and win) more sit and gos if you pick up the aggression in key spots like the final table bubble, when the tables get short handed, as well as the money bubble.

Newbs Play Poker With Less Than 10 Big Blinds

A huge mistake that players make is not go into push/fold mode when they have 10 big blinds or less. At this point you should not bother raising, calling or limping. Fold if you have nothing, or shove if you do.


10 big blinds is not enough to do anything else. By the time you call or limp, you’re committing too much of your stack to just fold postflop, yet you might not (probably don’t) have enough fold equity to get anyone to fold.

Newbs Go All-In With Small Pairs and AK

Generally speaking, going all in with AK or a pair isn’t that bad. Often times you’re a flip.

But I think you’re a better player than that. Why go for 50% equity when you can see a flop for much, much less, and possibly win more chips if you hit? If you don’t, you can fold and preserve your tournament life.

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Newbs Play Too Many Tables — The Focus on Quantity Over Quality

Another mistake I see from sng newbs is that they focus too much on their hourly rate. They load up as many tables as they possibly can, then grind out a small profit per table. Granted, they do ok, but not nearly as well as they could if they cut back on the tables and focused on actually playing poker.

In fact, you’d be surprised at the ROI you can sustain if you play fewer tables. You’ll experience less variance, build your bankroll and move up in stakes faster. You’ll be less stressed too, and probably won’t be as tired when you finish your sessions. Your poker game will improve, as well.

Newbs Focus Too Much on Bad Beats

Bad beats are a part of the game. It’s important that you learn to deal with them. If you don’t, your game will be negatively affected.

I know from firsthand experience. You tweak your game a little, or go in with a bad attitude, and the bad beats just keep on coming. After a while, it’s not so much variance you’re experiencing as it your own bad play. But you never know it, until it’s too late.

Newbs Don’t Review Hands or Practice Enough

From my experience sng newbs don’t review their hands or practice enough. They spend most of their time in forums or on their Xbox playing COD.

If you want to get good at sngs, you need to study hard. More so in the beginning, while you learn the basics to ICM, push/fold strategies, hand ranges and so on. Once you start getting these principals down, then you need to play and experience everything first hand. The more you can play, the better.

Newbs Don’t Abuse the Bubble

SNG newbs often make the mistake of building a huge stack, then sitting on it when they’re on the bubble.


The problem with this is two-fold. One, it’s very possible that another player takes initiative, builds a stack and then becomes the chip leader.

You don’t want that.

Secondly, and worse yet, the bubble can last a long time. During that time you blind down, putting yourself at risk to bubble the very tournament you held the most chips in.

Kind of embarrassing, wouldn’t you say?

Newbs Make Too Thin of Calls On The Bubble

A really bad leak, and one that will correct itself once you learn sng basics 101 (aka ICM), is making real thin calls on the bubble with hands like AK, AQ or pocket pairs like TTs.

Without a really good read, these plays are horrible. Even with a good read, they’re thin at best. There’s just too much (tournament) equity at stake.

There are few times where it makes sense to make a thin call on the bubble. It usually comes down to more than the cards you think your opponent has. You need to (also) determine if you think you have an edge in the sit and go. If not, making a thin call can make sense. Otherwise, you’re almost always better off folding.

Yes, you read that right — better off folding AK (on the bubble).

Newbs Aren’t Creative

This goes hand in hand with the multi-tabling mistake above. Players are so quick to multi-table as many tables as possible, essentially turning themselves into robots. Every play they make is the same. There are so many downsides to this approach:

  • Smaller profits / ROI per game
  • Predictable play
  • Easily exploitable in the blinds, on the bubble, etc
  • Takes longer to move up in stakes
  • More swings
  • More stress

The list can go on and on. You’ll find that you become a better poker player the more “real poker” you actually play.

Yes, real poker is possible in sit and go tournaments.

However, the only way to play real poker is to play fewer tables.

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Newbs Play From the Blinds Too Much

I think this is a common mistake for all beginners, regardless of the type of poker game they play. Newbs like to play their hands because they’ve already committed chips and/or because it’s cheap to play. However, getting caught up in the blinds is a surefire leak. You’re out of position for all future streets putting you at a massive disadvantage.

The only times I recommend playing from the blinds is when you have a pair, suited connector or hand like AK, KQ, etc that I know is the best hand, or will almost always flop top pair-top kicker. Of course, I play (and almost always re-raise) my premium hands, too.