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Variance in Poker Sit and Gos

Sit and gos are notorious for their variance. The variance itself isn’t always the real problem, though, as the frustration can send any player over the edge. Sit and go players, depending on their particular limits and games, are accustomed to swings that can range from 5-20 buy ins on a very regular basis.

There are a lot of swings in cash games, but they don’t even compare to what a lot of sit and go players have to deal with. Heads up sit and go players have the most variance, as is to be expected. Trailing heads up sit and gos in variance are the short handed and full ring games. Full ring sit and gos have significantly less variance than short handed games, and short handed games make heads up games seem like the worst experience in the world.

Interestingly enough, the games with the most variance are also the ones that will generally yield the highest returns. One of the lessons to learn with sit and gos is that the more risk you take, the more reward you should expect, if you are successful. The flaw in this approach is that you will inevitably fail a fair amount of the time if you play the games with wild variance. Play what you are comfortable with, and always be ready for the inevitable bad days.

Proper bankroll management is of the utmost important for SNG players. There are a lot of casual players who enjoy playing sit and gos from time to time, but these are not the people who need to worry about their bankrolls. As a serious player who wants to win, you should be paying extremely close attention to your bankroll at all times.

In addition to monitoring your poker sit and go bankroll, you should also have the self-discipline to either move down in limits or take a break from sit and gos if things aren’t going well. This is a concept that is lost on a large number of SNG players. It is easy to start with a sound bankroll, it is easy to move up in limits when things are going well, but it takes a real effort to rework your game when you run into a few obstacles.

Realistic Variance in Sit and Gos

While your limits, skill level, and type of game can alter what variance would be considered normal, there are a few general guidelines for downswings in sit and gos. If you are going way over these numbers, you should at least consider changing something up. Normal variance is something that is completely unpreventable and it happens to every single player in the world, but abnormal variance is an unnecessary hurdle that can be improved upon.

Heads up sit and gos are the most brutal when it comes to variance. You might think that heads up players would be able to win with greater consistency because they are in a one on one environment, and while that is true in the long run, all that it takes for a big downswing in heads up games is a few lost coin flips.

You could have any number of opponents dead in the water, but you could also lose 10 coin flips in a row. Sometimes nothing will go your way - every poker player has been there, but the problems and losses are multiplied in a heads up environment. Small stakes heads up players can easily lose 10-20 buy ins, while mid stakes and high stakes players can lose double this. A solid player won’t have too many stretches of sizable losses, but no one is immune to a big swing in heads up sit and go tournaments.

Short handed sit and go players fall right in between the variance found in heads up and full ring games, as any logical player would suspect. The jump in variance is more dramatic when compared to heads up games than full ring games.

If you are a full ring player, expect a slight bump in how streaky your wins and losses are in short handed games, but don’t look for extremely dramatic differences. Five-ten buy in swings are quite normal in these games, with 10+ buy in downswings not being something worth crying about. Once you hit a 20 buy in downswing, however, it is probably time to reassess your skills.

Full ring sit and gos are the safest route for any player who is worried about losing buy ins. If you prefer to win your money in smaller, more consistent amounts, full ring SNGs are the game for you. The trade off is that full ring players make a lower ROI. You can't pound out the volume in full ring games that you can in heads up or short handed games. For most players in full ring SNGs, downswings rarely extend past 10 buy ins. Would a downswing of over 10 buy ins be a reason for panic? Definitely not, but you shouldn’t find that they happen all that often.

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