Playing With & Against The Short Stack

// Published by Luke

We’ve all been there. We’ve either been the short stack, or we’ve had to play the short stack. Both are not easy to play, but with practice, patience, and common sense, you can become a better short stack player and learn to beat the short stacks.

Playing Against The Short Stack

We all know when you are the short stack your options are limited. But too often people will misplay AGAINST the short stack, thinking they can bully them around and get them out of hands because they are the short stack. For the most part this is the wrong play.

When you have a short stack at your table, you need to be ready for the all in move on their part. They have few options, and the all in is their move. Ideally you want to avoid hands with them unless you have a strong enough hand to take them out of the tourney with. Now is not the time to get limp happy to see a flop, cuz odds are they’ll push all in and you’ll fold, giving them more chips than what you should have.

When I have a short stack at my table, I will play more selectively, and when I do get a premium hand I will bet enough to put them all in, or sometimes even move all in myself. That way i can disguise my hand strength more and either pick up a pot or knock them out if they call.

short stack poker

The most misplayed spot i see playing against the short stack is the small blind. Most people will complete the blind, than the BB will often push, and the small blind will call since they are getting odds and have already put so much in. Often times here the best move is to fold, since if the BB pushes, you may feel committed to calling. Unless you got a good hand, folding is correct. If you have a hand, push the BB all in and make them decide their fate.

Just play smart with a short stack at your table. If you have a good hand and they have a better one, that’s poker! But by not playing sound poker against a short, you may end the short stack yourself!!

Playing As The Short Stack

Far too often I see people misplay there short stack. If you want to be a good player, knowing how to play the short stack is vital to your success. For bar tournaments, a good indication of being on the short stack is if your chip stack is about 5 times the size of the big blind. So if the blinds are 50/100, and you’ve got 500 in front of you, guess what? You’re sitting on a short stack. When this happens, you have 2 moves – All In or Fold. There is no call. This is where people make there first mistake. They call. By calling, you encourage other players to call to see a flop, and when the flop misses you, you muck your hand, and just gave away 100 and your stack got even shorter.

Case in point – This happened a while back at one of my tournaments. Blinds were 400/800, and there was a player with 1200 left. We all knew she had one move – All in. So when she reached for chips one particular hand, we all figured she was making her move. She didn’t. She called the big blind. And folded on the flop.Now with 400 left, she goes all in under the gun. She proceeds to triple up to 1200. Next hand she is big blind and folds to a preflop raise. She goes all in on the small blind, and proceeds to get knocked out of the tournament.

Whenever a player gets this short stacked, any playable hand is an all in hand. You cannot afford to call and hope to hit the flop. And if you do hit the flop and push all in, chances are everyone will fold since you made it obvious you made a hand. You want to make your move preflop. Chances are you will be heads up when you do this, and at best only a 3-2 underdog in the hand.

In tournaments where antes are involved, hand selection is not as important. You still want a playable hand, but with antes every hand and blinds coming around, sometimes the timing is more important than anything. If you have 2500 in chips 5 handed, and the blinds are 400/800 with 100 ante, its going to cost you 1700 to play those 5 hands – That’s 2/3 of your stack!!

If you wait for those miracle pocket Aces (which only happens 1 in 221 hands) or a very premium hand you may triple, or even quadruple up, but with only a few hundred in chips in your stack you are still very short stacked, and have not gained any ground at all. Just remember, when your stack is 5 times the size of the big blind, you have to push!