Texas Hold'em Strategy with a Short Stack
There are always going to be times in your poker career where you will find yourself as the short stack at the table and probably having a smaller stack than the rest of your opponents.
It may be because you are in the middle of a tournament and had a bad run of cards, or because you simply enjoy to buy in to cash games with a short stack.
But for whatever reason you are playing with a relatively small amount of chips, it is good to be able to understand and employ a good short stack strategy.
What is a short stack in no limit Texas Hold’em?
However, there are varying degrees of short stack poker as a 10BB stack will require a slightly different strategy than a 40BB stack, and it is important to be aware of these differences.
You may have noticed that the term ‘short stack’ is determined by the size of your stack relative to the blinds, and not relative to the stack sizes of your opponents. Therefore even if you have 30BB and your opponents have 20BB, you are still considered to have a short stack, and so you should continue to utilize a good short stack strategy.
How to play with a short stack
Having a short stack means that you have less room to make plays at the poker table. Bluffs and advanced moves (like float plays) are formed from being able to make educated checks, bets, calls and raises on each round of the hand, so having a short stack will reduce and sometimes eliminate any room for special manoeuvres by both you and your opponents.
Furthermore, the general structure of a no limit Texas Holdem game is that the bigger bets will be made on the turn and river, as the preflop and flop rounds are usually set-up rounds that build the pot and prepare the hand for action. The fact that we have a short stack means that we will rarely be making it past the flop in terms of betting as we will not having enough chips to continue.
Hands to play when short-stacked
The fact that we have little room for movement and that our betting will cease at the flop means that we should be playing big heavy hitting hands that will make strong hands at the flop, rather than smaller hands that have ‘potential’.
We should avoid hands like suited connectors and small pocket pairs, as these hands are profitable when we have a deep stack, as our implied odds are there to compensate for the likely event that we miss the flop. In general we are best entering pots with are big suited cards that can make top pair or better at the flop, although we should exercise some flexibility in starting hand selection depending on the size of our short stack.
Short stack strategy evaluation
Good short stack strategy is all about pushing every little edge that we have. Just because we have a smaller stack, it does not mean that we have less chance of winning any individual hand, it just means we have to adapt our play a little differently to each situation.
Nevertheless, we will be facing an up hill battle if we are in a tournament as each pot we enter is more likely to involve putting our tournament life on the line. At some poker sites (friend’s website), the structure of the faster tournaments will mean that you will spend the majority of the game as a short stack, which is a good way to learn how to play good short stack poker.
We should always look for the most profitable situations and get our money in when we think we have the best of it, and we should always prepare for luck to play its part in each outcome. Playing a good, sound short stack strategy does not guarantee to save a tournament life or secure a double up, but it will improve your chances of coming out on top in the long run.
In cash games, you cannot expect to win every all-in, but you can still play a profitable game by picking the right situations and trying to get your money in with the best hand.
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