Short Stack Poker Tournament Tips

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During most poker tournaments you are going to find yourself short on chips from time to time. That is not to say that you will not gain some traction and get back into the mix but it does happen. If you play tournament poker you are going to be short stacked no matter how well you play. True, some of us are short stacked a lot less times than others but it does happen. There are many poker players that are tremendous short stacked players and understand how to use the situation to their advantage. On the other hand there are players that have no understanding of how to play a short stack and might as well just give away the rest of their chips instead. We are going to examine short stack play and how to survive.

Situational Awareness
Obviously when you are short stacked you need to be extremely sensitive to not only your own situation but also that of other players at the table. If I am short I do not want to pick on another player that is in the same desperate situation as I am in. Why? The reason is because he is more likely to call than someone that has an average stack. Remember, just because you are short stacked does not mean that you don’t pose a danger to other players at your table as long as you do not allow your chips to dwindle down to nothing. Usually 10x’s the BB is as small a short stack as you want to get before getting all your chips in. This means you can still sting most of the players that are at your table enough to make them think before getting involved in a pot with you.

Even if you pick up the blinds you are increasing your stack by another 10% and allowed another orbit to pick up a big hand and double up. You need to stay away from calling raises or getting involved with speculative hands like flush draws or small pairs unless you are in the blinds or on the button and confident you will not see a raise behind you. But remember that there is no such thing as always. You must have a good feel for your table and how your opponents perceive your game in order to carry this out. Small raises and getting involved in hands out of position as a short stack do you absolutely no good. The reason is that you are likely to be put all-in after the flop hit so you need to be prepared for that no matter what hits the board. The same thing is possible pre-flop when you see a raise in front of you. It’s very likely that player wants you to get all your chips in the middle and is trapping.

Hand Ranges

Too many times I see short stacked players getting involved with minimum raises and then folding. The rule of thumb when you are short stacked is that you are going to get the rest of your chips in the middle after the flop at the very least. You should never call a minimum raise or flat call a limper when short stacked and then fold your hand. The bottom line is that you do not have enough chips to call and then fold. It’s true that we would love to get our chips in the middle with a premium pair before the blinds come around again. However, that is not always an option and we need to open up our range of hands considerably when short stacked. Just about any pocket pair from [5][5] or higher will be enough to justify getting your chips in the middle even with a raiser in front of you. You also want to consider hands like [Js]Ts], {Q][T], [K][T], [Ks][9s], [J][T], [Q][9], [A][5]-[A][9],[7][6], [Js][9s]. None of these hands are premium hands but they do allow you outs with straight draws and flush draws alike.

The objective of the short stack is very simple, you are on a mission to either double your stack or you are going home. So, even though your hand range must expand considerably you also can take advantage of those that are afraid to get involved and target them when you are not picking up cards so you can steal their blinds. Every time you are able to get away with stealing the blinds is another opportunity for you to pick up a real hand and double-up. It is another opportunity for survival. Anything can happen after you gain a little traction through a double up. I have seen players go on to make many final tables after starting off extremely slow. So give yourself the best shot you can and play your short stack aggressively and see what happens.