short stack poker tips and strategies

Strategies for Texas Holdem Poker » Short Stack Poker

A short-stack in no limit Texas Hold'em is based off of the terminology for pancakes, of all things. It's referring to your stack of poker chips visible on the table, and most often applies in online gaming situations. If you're running at significantly fewer chips than your table mates, you're playing what's called short stack poker. Short stack poker puts you at a significant disadvantage; everyone knows they can call you safely, and your raises aren't as likely to force someone else out of the pot.

Because of this disadvantage, short stack poker makes it easy to make ill advised decisions that will only make this disadvantage more pronounced. We're going to cover what to do if you're the person who's short stacked, highlight strategies you can take to minimize its impact, and learn when to strike – there's an entire integrates short stack strategy to cover. The second part of this article will deal with broad strategies to use when you see someone else at the table is short stacked and how to capitalize on their weakness.

The first tip is from Douglas Adams: Don't Panic. Everyone experiences bad beats and suck outs, and it just happens. Know when to call it quits and know when to stop throwing good money after bad. A second part of "Don't Panic" is to keep your table image and table persona in mind, and don't be afraid to run the flop or use semi-bluffs to get through the hole. You don't want to be the weak fish in the circling sharks, and having a short stack is a pretty obvious tell.

The second tip is to think strategically. Your problem zone is when your stack is less than eight times the value of the big blind. You want to make your move before you get to this level, and when you get a tell on weakness in other players at the table. Poker is all about working from incomplete information to your advantage.

Third, poker of any sort, and especially a cash game, is not a game for weaklings. You don't want to be picky. Make your move with pairs, or any two high cards, or a solid Ace. There won't be any calling at this stage; it'll only happen if you're holding premium cards. You're either all in, or folding – if it's going to be all-in, you should be the initiator.

Conversely, there are some patterns of behavior you should avoid when working through short stack poker. Don't be hesitant. You will lose more surely by being overcautious in small stack poker than you will by playing assertively. The best way to avoid being short-stacked is if your poker strategy has you go all-in before you become short stacked; your strategy is to feed on the blinds.

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The second behavioral mistake is a miscalculation on when to make your move; it's common, it happens, and when you're in a short-stack situation, you don't have much margin for mistakes. Again, keeping your stack size large enough is very important, and minimizes the impact of small miscalculations. In general, you want to push in late position at the round; while some players have great success in pushing in at the early position at the table, most do not, and that's a function of the importance of your Texas Holdem starting hands.

Now, if you see someone else with a short stack at the table, there is some assessment and poker strategizing to do – this is a player showing a weakness. This is a player who's vulnerable to elimination, and this is a player that you should watch carefully – you want to make sure they're eliminated when it's beneficial to you, not the person to your left.

Look at the kind of player you're facing in this situation, particularly in a tournament. If you're facing a tight, aggressive small stack poker player, you can bet that they have a good hand when they go all in. This makes your decision making loop simpler – unless you're sitting on a monster hand, just fold.

Manic small stack poker players are a bit easier to read, but they make your poker strategy decisions a bit more ambiguous. They're probably holding a hand of pure junk, and they're looking to get lucky. It's important to draw on what you've seen them chasing before to assess what they've got to threaten you with now.

Some common poker tells to consider: A recent big hand or someone who's ridden the flop just right, probably has them betting on adrenaline (which is never a sound strategy). If they're mostly playing loose (chasing a flush or a straight), then you can generally guess they're going the same way. A manic short stack puts a premium on you having a better hand; you probably do, but keep an eye peeled for other information you can use in making your assessment…and there are times when it's better to be a live hyena than a dead (and eliminated) lion.

Always be willing to fold if you don't have a good hand, and like any kind of poker, be willing to fold early if you have to. Don't let the scent of an elimination force you into making bad decisions to try to wipe out a short stack player; eventually this will catch up with you. On the other hand, later in the tournament, after you've already placed in the money, you can afford to be a bully on the short stack players – you're already ahead of the game, so a sit and go poker strategy works – short stack players have a harder time as the tourney format progresses.

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