How to play A Small Stack in Online Poker Tournaments

Something that every poker player will encounter at some point in their career is dealing with a short chip stack in the later stages of a tournament. There are many ways in which you can find yourself in this situation. These include losing a big pot, suffering a bad-beat or simply having no playable hands while the blinds catch up with you.

This article looks at some of the important factors involved in playing situations where you are the small stack. Correct play – along with a ‘never give up’ attitude – can get you quickly back into contention for a major prize! With less than 10 times the big blind the number of ‘moves’ you are able to make is extremely limited. In fact your decisions will be made before the flop.

With a short stack you are not able to raise and then fold. This is because the ‘pot-odds’ that you are offered to call any subsequent raise are too good. Any hand that you legitimately raised with becomes an easy calling hand if you are re-raised. For this reason any hand that you play and do not wish to ‘show down’ should be played with an all-in open raise. This will maximize your chances of winning those important blinds and antes while you are waiting for a premium hand.

Considering when and whether to try and steal the blinds with a short stack involves two important factors. Firstly, your ‘position’ at the table. If the majority of your opponents have already folded then you have an opportunity to steal. However, when you are one of the first players to act there are many potential hands which are strong enough to call behind you – caution is thus advised.

Secondly, the chip stacks of the players yet to act is an important consideration. Large stacks may call with weak hands because they can afford to lose the chips. Smaller stacks may call because they are ‘desperate’. The ideal opponents are those with medium stacks, here losing a hand against you would damage their chances in the tournament. They thus need a very strong hand in order to call.

To summarize, short-stacked poker tournament play at all about pre-flop decision making. Steal blinds from opponents with medium stacks when in late position at the table. Since you would be committed to call any re-raise it makes sense to get the maximum leverage for your remaining chips by moving all-in where possible.

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