How to Survive with a Short Stack

Debi

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This is our December week 2 strategy discussion for the CardsChat Forum Challenge. Please read this article and discuss it in this thread:

Short Stack Strategy

We have all been there - trying to survive a tournament when your stack is short. Knowing when your stack is short is critical.

Make sure you watch the video that is included in the article!
 
Ivansito26

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In my opinion to survive the short Stack there are two ways depending on the tournament, if the tournaments are turbos you have to play as many hands as possible to raise the chips because the blinds and before you are going down chips, be in a good position and push all your chips to be able to duplicate, take advantage of those weak players, try to see many times the flop but without risking many chips and detect those bad players who pay without linking anything, and take advantage of that moment and be able to climb as fast as possible, since most online tournaments are turbos, slow tournaments are more likely and more time to increase your chips without playing many hands, just waiting for the right moment to throw your chips to the sky.
 
SPANKYSN

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I like the chart showing how to play at the three stages of short- stackedness (is that a word?). It is too easy to get so frustrated and ship it at once, especially if it was a bad beat that put you in this position. I have, on rare occasion come back from the dead....didn't really have any strategy; just got lucky. There was one time when I was in the vertically challenged category. My face was downcast. I knew that I had to get aggressive, but so did the rest of the table. I got lucky with the best run of three hands I ever had...AA, doubled up, AK, doubled up again and KK...hit it big (4 callers) because nobody could believe that lightning could strike 3 times in a row.
The chart gives me the guide to channel my emotions properly.
 
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asedu

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The only thing that I would add is at curent state of the game it's not 10BB went you are short... it's often much higher. For exmpl. it's common for players at ABI20+ to shove for 25bb with much worst hands than ~3%. Game is changing/evolving and it will be too nitty to shove/3bet only something like ... say KQs+, especially against regs who atleast try to play GTO, beacuse their shoving ranges.... well thay can be a biut loose to say the least.
 
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Quads2017

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I have been told the <10BB all in shove, but it may be that I have been forced to that by playing the other two stages wrongly. It is great to have the advice for playing >20<30 BB's and >10<20 BB's.
I guess I was playing the Big stack envy too loose ending up in the Vertically challenged stage and then playing to small bets pre-flop or even limping too much.
Let's see how this works playing freerolls!
 
MattRyder

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The article was valuable in terms of general concepts. I think though, that like most articles of this nature it tries to boil things down to a few simple rules which really can't be done. I'd much rather just be left with the concepts for me to decide how to apply.

I watched the video. It made my head hurt. Way too much math for a situation where nobody is giving what you do or don't do any real thought.

IMHO the best short stack strategy is not to get that short in the first place. Once you're to the point where any bet is going to be called, you're in a crap shoot situation, and the thing that matters the most is luck. If you get lucky, you can turn the whole tournament around and make it to the final table as the article says. But your AQ (for example) HAS to hold up against the any-two that you're going to get called with a lot of the time.

The categories listed in the link give me a little concern. Anybody who's been at a final table knows that 20 - 30 BB isn't a short stack, it's quite normal, and even sometimes very healthy.

The article suggests when to stop limping. I try to NEVER limp into a hand, ESPECIALLY when I've got a real healthy stack. That's not to say that I never limp, but I certainly don't do it as a rule determined by my stack size.

It also says when to forget about defending your big blind. I rarely 'defend' my blind, but I do make an aggressive move sometimes in the blinds with good cards against one or MAYBE two tight players.

If I'm short and happen to be in the big blind at the time and get a good hand there's no way that I'm not going to go for broke in that circumstance (UNLESS we're one or two away from the bubble, and then only maybe).

The article also says to only play 'monsters' when you're 'vertically challenged'. I would submit that's how you got to be short in the first place, i.e., waiting for a monster.
 
playinggameswithu

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When I get to 8 BB it is fit or fold poker.When I am at 10-15 BB I can play premium hands 99+ but I think at 25-35 BB there is still plenty of poker to play.If I am over 150 I just sit out as the risk is too great for my stack.
 
Bev

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This was very interesting, and had some good points.
For beginners the guide :
Big Stack Envy 20-30BB Tighten up, play big hands and position, eliminate set mining with small pairs (<77), stop bluffing, forget about defending your big blind.
Vertically Challenged 10-20BB Only play monsters, be willing to go all-in on a pre-flop re-raise, increase pre-flop bet sizing, no limping or blind stealing, stop set mining with middle or small pocket pairs (<JJ).
Small stack complex <10BB Shove first playable hand.
This is great advice for them - however, once you get too low, and you keep getting crappy hands, you may have no choice but to bluff.
My theory is that software rewards aggressive players - I know as I have lost to many times with good hands , to aggressive bad ones.

So, keeping an eye on what is flopping out helps when you are down below 10BB.

That way you can at least try to get back up with a mediocre hand. Then, you may also try just raising enough to get the others to fold, and try to slowly built up. ( I have done that to)

If you are way below 10BB - you haven't got much choice but to shove and then pray :)
 
mtl mile end

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The most important contextual factors to consider are:

Your position in the hand and (stackwise) on the table
Relative stack size on your table (and relative position)
Tournament position and pace - Are we on the bubble? Has it become a shovefest?

As always, the general advice of the article is sound. The video wouldn't play smoothly for me, but I'm assuming it contains the same sage advice.

It's hard to sum it all up into hard and fast guidelines. I have been on tables where the chip leader has 10-12BB and nobody seems to notice, min raises from out of position that fold to 8BB shoves, etc. There is a "Centroll" on partypoker where you start with 5BB - it's OK if you bust, you can rebuy for $1 !!(and get <5BB). Some people think that they are Stu Unger and get crazy near the bubble with their short stack (and they're almost never Stu Unger).

If others acting after you in the hand are shorter than you, be aware that your PF raise may be reraised or shoved. Shorter stacks are also vulnerable to steals (especially PF) because they don't want to bust. Big stacks need to respect your actions if you are short and playing like a rock (which you should be <10BB).

My best advice - bluff shove the hand you get dealt right before you are dealt pocket Aces twice in a row. Show the bluff after everyone folds. This should assure at least a double up. :idea:
 
zam220

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The main feature of the game with a short stack is that we are forced to switch to push / fold, because we have not enough chips to play postflop and we need to find the situation to open all-in hoping to steal the blinds or to double up your stack
 
BentleyBoy

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I really enjoyed reading this article as a refresher for how things can be in a tournament and how players will be reacting to their relative stack size and stage of the tournament. On the whole I agree with much of what is said in the article and I also agree with the comments above from Matt Ryder (and others) about trying to understand why you are short stacked in the first place (notwithstanding this will happen to us all for various reasons in many tournaments.

From the article, I particularly like the quote from Matt Vaughan. So often do you see players get hit in a big pot and find themselves short stacked, simply to go all in next hand with ATC and hope for the best, like all hope has gone. All hope is not gone, but have some patience (within the time you may have left before you are blinded and ante'd out) and pick your spot carefully. Don't act on the rebound...unless of course that monster has just landed!

BB
 
Debi

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You guys are really doing a great job of actually reading the article and either giving feedback on it - or stating your own thoughts on the topic.

That is exactly what we are looking for - keep up the good work!
 
TeUnit

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If your short stacked I think you really need to look for your spots ie, will the villan in the bb fold to a min raise, who will a stop and go work on, who is going to spite call me,math call me,icm call me,or clown call me etc.
 
Amanda A

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I'm also wondering what's more important - having a good hand but being in early position when there are a lot of players left to act who could wake up with an even better hand or having a pretty mediocre hand but being in late position where everyone has folded to you. The first maximizes the chance of winning if called the second maximizes your chance of not getting called. Late in a tourney when the blinds are high and you are nearing the money bubble, picking up the blinds can improve your stack by a big percentage, so under those circumstances maybe the second alternative is better then?
 
Alucard

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The more I read these CC articles, the more I feel they need some new editing according to the game is evolving in modern day poker. I'm no expert but some of the stuff seems very outdated or against the modern day play.

For an example
"Let's say you have 15 BBs on the button and it folds to you. If you shove and both blinds fold, you have gained only 2-3 BBs. Risking your entire tournament life with marginal cards just to pick up 2-3 blinds is not a sound long-term strategy."

This is very wrong in my book. Good marginal hands have decent equity vs many ranges & there are only two players left vs getting some chips back to your stack. So this is a definite shove in my book and many modern day pros will say the same.

If you play this passive in the modern day game where everyone studies push/fold charts & makes +EV decisions, it'll be really hard to be profitable.

"It's also time to reconsider your posture when it comes to defending your big blind. If you've got less than 30 BBs left, don't waste any more chips calling with junk from the big blind, no matter what the pot odds might indicate."

This is also quite wrong. Profitable players defend very light in the modern day poker. One of the most important things is your table image. If you only play your good hands defending, raising & 3betting very good players will have a very fun time playing against you. They'd easily steal pots with very crap hands & will know when to back down when you show aggression unless they've better.
So as everything you need to balance your ranges & try to fight for every blind there is.

But of course in the later stages of the tournaments most people are short stacked so there'll be many shoves, shove calls so it comes down to the push/fold charts that are created for the purpose of playing the long term profitable game & of course luck.

So study good push/fold charts make +EV decisions & evolve with the modern day game.
 
RidersFan

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There are some good guidelines in this article to base your short stack game around.
The one thing that I did take issue with was with the strategy from playing a 10bb stack, when your this short you’ve run out of time to wait for hands like AQ+ and JJs+, I don’t see the point of folding down and doubling up to 10-12bbs because you haven’t really changed you situation in the tournament.
 
thylmanoid

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If you're having difficulty with deciding which hands you need to shove/fold pre-flop (short-stack complex) there's a very useful program that trains you on this, based on mathematical probabilities.

https://www.snapshove.com/
 
PsychoVas

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Very good "short-stack play for dummies":p article! In fact I have used those guidelines too. But as always in poker, "it depends". I mean that there are some more concepts to take into cosideration when playing short-stacked.
"Fold Equity" is one of them, which actually increases according to your image at the table. I mean that there are times I don't shove my 12 or 11 BBs, because a standard raise seems more powerfull, being the nit that I am. Most of times, a shove looks like a move to scare people off, so, more experienced players will call with a wider range, putting you on low pocket pairs, having no trouble flipping for your chips. On the other hand, a standard raise looks inviting, ergo more dangerous...;)
Another concept is "stop and go". A call pre-flop and a donk-shove post flop might be a better move sometimes.
Limping is almost never an option, even with a huge stack, as you never get any info on what others might hold, making post-flop assessments impossible.
Cheers!
 
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rjbregib

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I have literally got up and walked away from the table so that I was not tempted to continue playing. Online I have found that I can have AA, be short stack and if I go all in I always lose in that situation because online it always seems the goal of the algorithms is to get you out.
 
ebellari

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depends on how short you are, i mean if you are short stack like 4 r 3 times the big blind you can not call with a pair of deuces or even 88. may be a pair of aces or kings, may be a A.K
is not the same as if you were 15 times the big blind,

i try too to limp into a hand and see a flop for cheap and even with not a good hand, and each time it make me just loose more chips, and makes players see flops, i will stop limping :D

i think its a just a matter of time till players will learn more and more about poker
 
kena3000

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It was a good article. I often got short-stack in a tournament. i have been playing like the article recommends but sometimes variance take you out. Yesterday i got out with AQs 9BB all in preflop BTN, against 2 Villains, Co and BB, CO had just limp, and BB called with J8o, CO called with A4s, Flop hit J, BB won. I have played tight, but sometimes with a good hand i semi bluff and lose half or 3/4 my stack. I will stop doing that for exchange.
 
lilu80

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When my stack is less of M8 stack my strategy I play only push or fold.
I like play open push, not call. I take into the position and the size of the stack:

EP - Early Position, when stack M8-M6 I open push with range 8%-12%;
when stack M5-M3 range 13%-20%.
MP - Middle Position, when stack M8-M6 range 10%-20%;
when stack M5-M3 range 20%-30%.
LP - Late Possition, when stack M8-M6 range 23%-33%;
when stack M5-M3 range 30-43%.
I play open push very loose from SB, when stack M8-M6 open push with range 53%-60%;
when stack M5-M3 range 64-73%.
Compatible with ICM ;)
 
Hackerosito

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We all go through this situation in a Mtts, I prefer to have a Pair in hand or Cards connected to be in late position or button, raise the bet or go there to try to double, As advice, I never pay an all in unless they are KK or AA letters, I have always criticized players who, being close to the collections, slow down the tournament by consuming time, I advise them to better try to fold or get chips, why settle?
 
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