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Quick Tips for Playing the Short Stack Better in Poker Tournaments

27 June 2016, By: compncards
While most of us prefer to be the chip leader or the table bully, the reality is that you will have to work a short stack at some point in most tournaments.

Playing the short stack is never fun but, if done properly, it can get you back into the game and give you a fighting chance to make the final table. 

Here are a few tips for playing the short stack.

How Long Can You Wait?

First, you need to figure out how long you can play before you're either blinded out or have too few chips to threaten anyone. 

If you have less than three rounds left in your stack, you need to find a hand quickly and double up. 

The exception to this would be in games such as super-turbos where the stacks are so short by design that three rounds will hurt anyone's stack. 

You strategy will depend primarily on how long you can wait, but the sooner you can act, the better.

Selecting a Hand

The hand you'll try to double up with will depend on a few factors and they are not always based on hand strength. 

If you pick up a big pair or a big ace, then naturally you'll want to move in with that type of hand.  You may even choose to do so with just about any pair or any medium strength ace. 

Otherwise, you really want to be the first person opening the pot. While your stack may be small, if you're the first person to open the pot this will still be seen as a sign of strength. 

Medium stacks will probably stay out of the way unless they have a big hand. 

Playing heads-up in the blinds can be a great advantage for a short stack. If you are the big blind, the small may try and steal with just about any hand. 

In this case you could reasonably go all-in with just about any hand with a queen, king, or ace and still be in the lead the majority of the time. 

Other Considerations

Pay attention to when the level is about to change and how that will affect your stack. This is especially important if there are antes involved. 

If you're about to go into a level that has an increased ante, this will drain your stack quicker even without you being in the blinds. 

At the same time, if you are just about in an "any two card" situation and the level is about to change, you may want to wait and move in when the antes are higher. 

As long as you're not in the blinds, this will guarantee a larger pot in most cases should you win. 

Next, what is your position at the table? If action is folded to you in late position and you have a reasonable hand, move in. 

Also, you do have the option of taking a few hands off if you are on the button to see if you can catch a better hand. 

Battle While You Still Have Fold Equity

You may have heard other players talk about "fold equity" during a hand.

Fold equity represents the chips you can gain during a hand if your opponent folds. It's correlated to the amount of their stack it will take for them to call.

For example, you are in late position with 12 big blinds and the button and blinds both have between 20 and 30 big blinds.

In this scenario, your have significant fold equity because it will cost them a significant portion of their stack to call you.

They can usually only call you if they have reasonable holdings.

However, if you were down to just 5 big blinds, your fold equity is greatly diminished and that player with the 30 big blind stack could almost call you with any two cards.

As such, you want to get your stack into play when you have sufficient fold equity. Sometimes this may mean shoving with less than reasonable holdings.

However, when used correctly, fold equity can help get your stack healthy again.

As you can see, playing a short stack isn't just about catching a big hand and doubling up. It's about looking for key situations to get your money in with the best chance of picking up chips. 

Play a short stack smartly and you will see your tournament results improve.

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