An Introduction

Single table tournaments (STTs) have become exceptionally popular in the era of online poker.

They are the most common type of Sit & Go tournament – the name given to a type of game that has no fixed start time, but instead begins the very moment a certain number of players have sat down at the table.



STTs are Sit & Go tournaments that take place, as the name suggests, around a single table. As soon as all the seats are filled, the tournament begins.

In a nine-handed STT, the winner takes 50 per cent of the total prize pool, the second placed player 30 per cent and third placed 20 per cent. Players start with 1,500 chips and the blinds rise every 10 minutes.

Advantages of single table tournaments

There are numerous characteristics of the STT, all of which have contributed to its popularity:

  • They are available every hour of every day
  • There is typically a very short waiting time
  • Players don’t have to commit to a long session, unlike multi-table tournaments (MTTs)
  • There is more chance to win a return on your investment. The prize structure means that a third of players get paid, compared with the top 10 per cent typically paid in MTTs
  • They are very good training for other no limit Texas Hold’em games
  • The fixed buy-in allows players to know exactly how much they are investing from their bankroll

The articles in this section are based on the book Let’s Play Poker by Lee Nelson. They are designed for PokerStars School members who have already passed the Poker Basics Course.The main goal is to give you an easy-to-use strategy for playing STTs at low limits (up to $11 buy-in) without years of experience under your belt.

Hand categories for pre-flop play

The starting hands are grouped in different categories, and there is advice for every possible situation taking into account stack sizes, position and the actions of other players. The articles detail different phases of play, from the opening rounds through the middle stages and then the bubble period. Finally, the articles detail the best way to play three-handed and heads-up.

The advice in these articles refers to “categories” of starting hands, ranging from the very strong Category 1 hands to the weaker Category 8 hands. Unless specifically stated, hands that do not fall into any of these categories should not be played. They should be folded pre-flop.

We recommend learning these categories by heart so you don’t have to refer to the list when playing.

Category 1: AA, KK
Category 2: QQ, AKs, AKo, JJ
Category 3: AQs, AQo, TT, 99
Category 4: AJs, KQs, 88, 77
Category 5: AJo, ATs, ATo, KQo, KJs, 66, 55
Category 6: A9s-A2s, KJo, KTs, QJs, QTs, JTs, 44, 33, 22
Category 7: A9-A2, KTo, QJo, QTo, JTo, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s, 54s
Category 8: K9s, K9o, K8s, K8o, Q9s, Q8s, J9s, T8s, T9o, 97s, 98o, 86s, 87o, 75s, 76o, 64s

Hand categories for post-flop play

The following hand strength categories, combined with simple advice on how to play them, will help you avoid the biggest mistakes in STT play. You should note that these are simplified concepts and with more experience you can make more informed decisions.

Strong made hand:

A strong made hand means a hand that has already connected with the flop or was a Category 1 hand whose strength has not been diminished. In these articles this means top pair with top kicker, an over-pair to the board, two pair, trips, straight, flush or stronger.

Example: AK on a K104 board

Medium made hand:

This means a hand that has connected with the flop but that does not fit into the categories above. Top pair with good or medium-strength kicker, for example.

Example: KQ on a K75 board

Weak made hand:

This is also a hand that has connected in some way with the flop, or that was strong pre-flop and is now slightly more vulnerable. For example. top pair with weak kicker, middle pair with good kicker, or a pocket pair with one over-card on the flop.

Examples: A6 on a A72 board; AJ on a QJ2 board; 99 on a Q54 board

Strong draw:

This is a hand that is not yet made, but which has very strong potential after the flop. A flush draw with two overcards, for example, or a combination of flush draw and straight draw, combination of pair and flush draw or pair and open-ended straight draw.

Examples: KQ on a J105 board; 78 on a 458 board; J10 on a 972 board

Medium draw:

As above, but with slightly less potential. A flush draw, open-ended straight draw, gutshot straight draw with two over-cards, for example.

Examples: Q10 on an A72 board; 109 on a 78K board; KQ on a J92 board.

Weak draw:

A hand that has developed some kind of speculative draw or that has hit a small piece of the flop. Something like a gutshot straight draw, middle pair with medium and weak kicker, bottom pair.

Examples: QJ on a K92 board; 76 on a Q74 board; A2 on a K92 board

Try to remember the definitions above as we will refer to them throughout the lessons on STT strategy.