Playing a short stack in a poker tournament is challenging but also presents unique opportunities if you make the right adjustments. When you have around 20 big blinds or less, you need to switch up your play to survive and thrive with limited chips.
Adjust your pre-flop play
The most important adjustment when you have a short stack is to tighten your pre-flop starting hand requirements. With fewer chips to maneuver post-flop, you want to avoid speculative hands and only play premium holdings. Here are some guidelines:
- Only play big pairs (AA, KK, QQ) and big Ace hands like AK and AQ. The best chance to double up is with these hands.
- You open-raise with these premium hands to build the pot quickly. Don’t just limp or call with them.
- Fold weaker pairs like 22-99 pre-flop unless you are in big blinds. Set mining with these hands gets you in trouble with a short stack.
- Suited connectors like 98s or 76s played in the late position or the blinds, but fold them in an early position. Connectors have implied odds value but need a big stack to maximize that value.
- Fold low pocket pairs like 55-22 from an early position when facing a raise. You probably don’t have the implied odds to set mine profitably.
- Avoid playing weak Ax hands like A5o or A7s unless it’s a very cheap limp. These hands don’t play well post-flop without backup equity.
The key is to just play the hands with the rawest preflop value like big pairs, and big aces, and raise them aggressively. You want your opponents to respect your raises knowing you have bandarqpremium holdings in your range.
Leverage your short stack with all-in raises
A short stack can be effectively used by raising all in. When applied properly, moving all-in generates tremendous fold equity to win pots while risking little. Here are some productive spots to move all-in:
- When facing a raise, re-raise all-in with premium hands like JJ, AK, and AQ. Many opponents will lay these down, allowing you to win the pot uncontested.
- Make standard opens with premium hands in late position, then follow up with an all-in raise on the flop to put maximum pressure on your opponents.
- Look for opportunities to squeeze all in from the blinds when facing multiple limpers. Your range is wide and you often force folds.
- Go all-in on the flop with straight or flush draws. You have enough equity to call it off and may force opponents to fold better hands.
- Don’t be afraid to shove as a semi-bluff with good drawing hands on scary boards where opponents are likely to fold top pair or overpairs.
With a short stack, your all-in raises carry less risk because you stake fewer chips. Use all-in raises liberally to accumulate chips through fold equity.