Improving Performance

Sit n Go Advanced Strategy: Improving SNG Heads Up Performance

Heads Up play is often a weak area for a lot of players. This is because you will play the other stages of a Sit and Go much more often than you will heads up, for some players it’s a very rare occurrence.

So it’s important to maximise the time you do get playing heads up and there are 3 steps that we will teach in this lesson to help improve your heads up performance.

The 3 Steps to Improving Heads Up Performance

Committed SNG players must make a serious effort to maximize their results in heads up play. First place is where all the money is, and the jump in prize money from second to first is usually significant, especially to your long term profits.

Here are the three steps we will discuss to improving your Heads Up Performance:

  1. Tracking results
  2. Studying play
  3. Practising

Step 1: Tracking Results

Keeping a track of your historical performance in heads up play is important.You should keep a note of the following:

  • The opponent
  • The stack sizes when heads up play began
  • The results

Noting the opponent allows you to keep records on who you beat and who seemingly owned you. If you find an opponent you can’t seem to beat, change your style against them. If they counter your aggression with all in re-raises, beat them to the punch. Raise them all in first. Try mixing in some check raises out of position, or simply checking behind a little more often when they check to you.

Recording the stack sizes when heads up play began is important. If you are a 10-1 chip underdog and lose, it’s probably not a reflection on your play, as you were unlikely to win anyway. Keep ranges similar to this chart:

% of chips held at start of heads up play Expected Wins Target Wins Actual Wins
> 80% 95% 98%
60% – 80% 70% 75%
40% – 60% 50% 55%
20% – 40% 30% 35%
< 20% 5% 8%

Expected wins is the probability that you will win giving the % of the total chips you held at the start of heads up play.

Target wins are a goal that you should set yourself and is over and above the expected win %, since this helps overcome the rake (fee you pay to the poker site each time you play a SNG which is a real cost to your bankroll that you need to cover).

Actual Wins is where you record how you are performing which each against each of the targets. If any of your numbers in this chart are below the target, you can study your play in those situations and try and work out where you are going wrong and look to improve your approach.

Don’t adjust your results tracking for bad beats. Bad beats go both ways, and you are allowed to lay them on someone too. In the long run, those will even out.

Studying Play

There are two ways to accomplish this:

  1. To study your own hand histories (in a replayer if you have access to one) for possible leaks in your play.
  2. To obtain a calculator like Poker Tracker to plug hand ranges into, to see how various hands do against expected calling ranges. It can be helpful to know that if you think your opponent is playing the top 25% of hands for a raise, you can call with J-9 suited if you are getting better than 1.6-1 odds.


Since heads up play is not always easy to get playing single table tournaments, you can practice it in heads up sit and go tournaments. Drop way down below your normal limit, and play some of these.

There will be a slight adjustment, as the blinds in these will be much smaller than what you see at the end of an STT, but if you can make the mental adjustment for that, you can learn a lot.

An even better method is to get a friend to play you heads up, and agree before the start that you will not play any hand for more than 10 big blinds to simulate late STT situations.

Two-player no limit holdem cash games can be used as well, if you both buy in for the absolute minimum (and play for lower stakes than your bankroll can afford, since you’re using these for practice, not profits.