Playing the Short Stack

Playing the Short Stack Obviously you never want to have a short stack in tournament play, especially NL Hold'em tournaments. Just as obviously, it is going to happen sometimes and I see a lot of players make a major mistake when playing a short stack.

Playing the Short Stack

Playing the Short Stack

First, determine that you are short stacked. Sure, the standard method is to figure out the number of revolutions of the table that you can make with the blinds/antes etc. This is correct and the best way to figure it. But, I am not going to get into that today. Today I want to focus on one aspect of short stack play that often gets overlooked.

That aspect is based on the belief that once you are short stacked you are out of the tournament. Middle and late positions will always have you as a short stack in most cases. However, if you are playing in the first or second positions you are able to do some things. In a nutshell, you can grow a healthy stack, with the blinds and antes intact, by accumulating chips.

You see, the real advantage of being a short stack is not in growing a stack, but in forcing other players to act behind you. This is actually how you achieve your chip advantages. You can't give a free card to someone who would have otherwise played, or you pre-flop to someone with better pocket cards. You are keeping other players in the hand.

ella vs. heeling bet

Another example is when you raise pre-flop with KQ and the flop comes JT5. If you have average cards and the player in the first position bets the flop, you can raise with a fairly good hand, say A5 off suit, and the player in the first position, who would usually fold, calls your raise.

The reason this is particularly effective is that, even though you may not have the best hand, you force the players to make a decision. He may just have a Q in the hole, and not want to risk his chips against your bet. But you are controlling the table now, and your pre-flop raise is a sign of strength.

Playing the Short Stack

The effect of the flop on your strategy

One of the keys to successful short stack play is to have a solid strategy for the flop. You should be looking for a starting hand, or a starting round of betting, that will give you a decent edge against the oddsmakers' hands.

This means you want to be very aggressive after the flop when you play a solid hand, even if you are behind. For example, you raise pre-flop with KQ and the flop comes JT. You now have a good edge if you feel someone has a set of threes. You can bet out or call, but the important play here is to bet out.

Simply calling here will not be profitable as you are going to need to hit your set more than one time in two games or four times in a tournament. You want to take a shot at the pot, but if you don't drive out your opponents, you will be building a pot that someone will have to call. You need to try to take control of the betting early, but you need to wait for a better hand. Playing the Short Stack short stack

Playing the Short Stack

Harrington on Loose Play

Harrington on Hold'em in Tournament Play with David Skymakers, David Sklansky, and Mason Malmuth, all of whom won a recent tournament with suited cards, introduced a concept called loose play, which can be summed up in a single word. My favorite quote from Harrington on Hold'em was "The art of poker is not learned on the best kind of books; it is learned by doing, not by reading."

In the quote above, Harrington obviously feels that you can make the decision yourself, rather than waiting for the mother hen to teach you. Your own abilities and the decisions you make at the poker table are hopefully instinctive and not something learned. As you play more and more poker, you will start to rely more and more on your instincts.

This is fine. However, at the moment, it seems that one of the biggest factors holding back your success is that you are still playing a largely conservative game. You are choosing your starting hands wisely, and generally playing way back from the flop, but you are not tossing any hands into the muck.

Once you improve your hand, you will be able to play aggressively, maybe even making some of the big pots that you have won, but for now, you are atmosphere the waiting for premium hands. Playing good starting hands is important, but so isaging the waiting for premium hands.

Sometimes all you need is a high card and a paired flop on the turn or river to double up your chip stack. Phil mask the cards with a set, but you have the set.

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