In the game of poker, there is literally a strategy for every situation. While strategies such as starting hands, bluffing, and bankroll management seem to be the norm, there are so many other kinds of strategies that apply to specific situations that players should be aware of.
One specific situation that tends to be common for everyone are situations where you find yourself short stacked or in other words, you have hardly any chips when compared to your table mates.
This situation arises due to different circumstances. The most common circumstance is in a race situation where a player is all in and loses the pot but has barely enough to continue playing. Other circumstances would include either being card dead or playing super tight and being blinded off. Either way you look at it, you do not have any chips and if you want to stay alive much less win, you need to double up at least once if not 2 to 3 times.
That is right. You need to double up and to be quite honest there is no other way to look at it. If you had enough chips to play with you would not be reading this guide, so quite frankly you do not have enough to limp in and see a flop especially since you will more than likely be committed post-flop.
While there is not that many strategies to short stack play besides choosing when to push, choosing when to push is a poker strategy in itself. Take a look below at the few things that you will need to consider before pushing your stack in the middle and put your tourney life on the line.
Short Stack Guidelines
Blinds/Level: This is the first thing that you need to be looking at. You need to know what level you are in and what the blinds are for that level. By knowing this information, you will then compare it to your stack and then asses how many orbits you can last (how many BBs can you withstand?). For example, if you become short stacked during the second hand of the tournament where the blinds are 25-50 and you still have 500 chips left, you have plenty of time left to make a choice. In comparison to the other stacks, you may be short, but with blinds at 25-50 you will be able to see 60 hands before you are blinded out. In a six-handed game, you will be able to see 40 hands. Although that does not seem like a lot, you should be able to find something to push with there. Now, if you only had 200 chips and the blinds were 25-50 then your pushing range would have to widen significantly. Meaning, you would have to push with any hand even those that if called would leave you an underdog in a race.
Percentages: In my opinion, knowing where you stand before you push is ideal. For example, if you push with any pocket pair and come across a caller with two high cards you are actually a slight favourite by almost 5% in many cases and in the worst-case scenario, you are a coin flip. The same thing can be said if you are holding 2 high cards. If you face a small pair, you will be a coin flip to win. This is not the deciding factor on when you push as you obviously cannot be that picky but it should give a little perspective on what hands are better to push with.
Your Opponent: This is an important aspect to consider before you push. If you decide to push against a stack that how has you out stacked 20:1, you will more than likely get a call because there is +Ev in doing so. The opposite could be said for players who can barely withstand a loss should they lose a race to you. Again, it is not like you have many choices and sometimes you just have to put your chips in the middle and hope for the best. But if possible, push against a shorter stack as you are more than likely going to induce a fold.
Push First: By being the first to push you are setting the tone for the rest of the hand. You are saying, “I have something” when you do. By doing this, you are forcing your opponents to make a decision and forcing them to figure out a range of hands they can beat. Many times your range will be so wide that people will call with A-x, with x being as low as 2 thru 5. This can be a good situation for you as you may have your opponents out-kicked. Being the caller (not the first to push) in an all in situation requires you to have a much stronger hand, as the player who pushes is willing to take anyone on, thus having a tight enough hand range to do so.
Short Stack Tips
Just because you may be on the low side of things does not mean that you cannot make a stand and try to comeback. It happens to everyone and by employing some simple strategies, you too can come back from the dead. As a poker player, it is important to analyse all the different kinds of situations and many times, it is not the most common strategies that you find you need to know the most.