Moving On Up The Difference Between Buy-In Levels In Sit N Go Tournaments

Compares Opponent Skill Levels At Different Buy-In Levels In SNGs

A common question for those who enjoy SNG Tournaments concerns the difference in skill levels of opponents as you move up from the micro stakes SNGs through to the mid, and then higher stakes games. This article examines this subject in some detail, first with a general guide to what you can expect at each level - then with some critical success factors for players wishing to move up.

You will see adverts for our interactive Fish-O-Meter widget in this article - make sure you give this a try to find the easiest games for your bankroll!

The relationship between buy-in levels is not linear – that is to say that the players you will find in a $22 SNG tournament are not ‘twice as skilled’ as those you will find in the $11 games. Furthermore, depending on the site at which you play, the time of day and often just the chance distribution of players, there is considerable overlap between a ‘tough’ $5 game (for example) and a ‘juicy’ $11 SNG – even at the same site.

With these factors in mind we can start to examine how to quantify the differences between levels for SNG tournaments. We will start by profiling the players at the different buy-ins and then move on to discuss the important considerations one-by-one.

Differences Between Levels For SNG Tournaments - Summary

  • Micro Stakes SNGs: $1 to $5, expect recreational players who have little or no poker strategy knowledge beyond looking at their own cards. Big bluffs and ugly slow-plays will predominate. Easy games to beat but often have SNG Rakes at a prohibitively high level.
  • Low-Stakes SNGs: $10+, this is where good SNG sites selection and table selection starts to become important. Many profitable Sit N Go Grinders at the bigger sites can make these games tough at times. Also many inexperienced players who will understand poker basics but do not adjust for ICM at the bubble. Expect 2-3 decent players, 2-3 average players and 4 to 6 fish in these games.
  • Mid-Stakes SNGs: $20-$50, the middle level is where the multi-tabling SNG grinders will settle, making these games tough if you choose the wrong site or time of day. Expect half of the fields to have an excellent understanding of strategy and the push / fold poker game. Fish are still around but you will need to keep an eye on the ‘regulars’ at your site to ensure that the tables do not have 4+ winning players registered (see our article on the effect of winning Sit N Go players on your ROI for more information)
  • Mid-High Stakes SNGs: $70 to $100, here you will need a perfect understanding of push-fold (ICM-based) poker to have any chance of making a profit. The standard is high and the profit margins thin, if you can reach a 10% ROI at this level then you are doing very well indeed.
  • Higher-Stakes SNGs: $200 to $500, tough place to play, groups of expert players will sign-up for these tournaments. They will be sharing the ‘dead money’ provided by the occasional wealthy fish who accidentally strays into these tables - rather than profiting from each other. Table selection becomes a critical skill. Perfect bubble strategy and very strong all-round poker skills required before moving up to this level.
  • High-Stakes SNGs: $1000+, for those with very large SNG Bankrolls. In contrast with the 2 levels below this, there are more rich players who enjoy ‘taking a shot at the highest level’ to be found here. There are also many of the best online SNG players of all – not for the feint hearted.

When To Move Up SNG Levels – Critical Success Factors

Moving Up Levels In SNG Tournaments #1 – All Sites Are Not The Same!

So many players either miss this critical fact, or (to their own cost) ignore it: The best known SNG poker sites are full of profitable players, the smaller sites are not! Just because you like the software at Poker Stars (for example) and can beat the games there for a reasonable ROI, does not mean that this is the ideal site for you to play at. Many of the smaller sites have games so soft that a thinking player could literally crush them… if you only do one thing to improve your profits this month then take the time to check out some alternative sites to the ‘Big 2’!

Best Site For SNGs Article

Moving Up Levels In SNG Tournaments #2 – Bankroll Management

You could be the best SNG Player ever born, yet if you move up levels before your bankroll is large enough to cope then there is a very real chance that the natural variance of poker will lead you to go bust. Taking a shot is a great way to get established at a new level – as long as you are disciplined enough to move back down after a few losses.

Introduction To Bankroll Management For SNGs

Moving Up Levels In SNG Tournaments #3 – Table Selection

We already alluded to the effect of winning players on your SNG ROI, this is large and should not be ignored by those serious about growing their poker bankrolls. A few minutes spent finding out who the winning multi-tablers are at your site and either avoiding them completely or avoiding playing too many pots with them will improve your profits dramatically.

move up buy-in levels in SNGs

Moving Up Levels In SNG Tournaments #4 – Moving Back Down!

Every poker player who plays enough games will suffer the effects of negative variance at some point in their career. Long term winners are tough and disciplined enough to move back down levels when this happens to them – in order to re-build their bankroll to a ‘safe’ level before moving up again. Setting a ‘stop loss’ could save you from going broke.

Moving Up Levels In SNG Tournaments #5 – Poker Skills For Success

Players who successfully climb the ladder of SNG buy-ins need to study the game and work on their skills on a continual basis. Get into the habit of analyzing your own hand histories after each session (either manually or using tools such as SNG Wiz). An understanding that a shark at one level can easily become a fish at higher buy-ins is key, make sure you are competitive before moving up. For reviews and information on the best poker software tools available for SNG and tournament players check out our Best Poker Software Tools page now!

Planet Mark’s Rec: The Easiest Sit and Goes Online are Over at America’s Cardroom!

You can use them to grow a bankroll, qualify for online tournaments, or even to help you win a seat in the World Series.

Instead of tables full of ‘regulars’ who know the math, bubble strategy and hand ranges, ACR Poker is recreational. Compare the fields to the bigger sites, and you will quickly see how soft they are for yourself.

You can get your bankroll off to a flying start with a 100% matched bonus using referral code: SNGPLANET

Check out the latest promos and tournament events for yourself now, over at!

ACR Poker Mark's Rec

Further Reading On Improving Your SNG Game

If you enjoyed this article
I would genuinely appreciate you taking the time to
share it using the ‘Like’ button – thanks!