When to Shove a Short Stack: 5 Things to Consider
Maybe you've taken a bad beat or perhaps you're just running badly. Regardless, your stack is beginning to dwindle and you're desperate to get chips.
One skill new poker tournament players find trouble developing is finding the right spot to shove with a short stack. Picking the right time to shove can make the difference in giving yourself some breathing room or busting out.
Here are five things to consider when deciding when to shove with a short stack.
1. How Many Big Blinds?
Nowadays, most players consider a stack of fewer than 20 big blinds to be a short-stack that is shove worthy. If you think about it, there's a lot of logic in this way of thinking.
First, when you're under 20 big blinds, a standard raise is going to take around 25% of your stack or more depending on the game.
Unless you can take a pot down with a pre-flop raise or a continuation bet, there will be many pots where you'll have at least half of your stack in on the flop.
You're going to be pot- and stack-committed to most any hand that you play past the flop, so it makes a bit more sense to shove with a stack of under 20 big blinds.
2. What Are Your Hole Cards?
In most cases you want some type of reasonable hand when you decide to shove. While you aren't always going to have premium pairs or A-K or A-K, there are other hands that aren't terrible to shove with.
Most any suited ace is reasonable to shove with along with two face cards and most combinations of a face card and an 8 through 10.
In some situations, such as when you're under 10 big blinds, you may have to go with any hand where you can find the best spot.
3. What's Your Position?
Obviously the later you are in position when you make your shove, the better chance you have of getting through and picking up the blinds and antes.
Being in position will also give you a good idea of when maybe you should wait another hand.
For example, you pick up K-J and the tightest player at the table raises from UTG+1. This is not an ideal shove spot.
However, if you're in the hijack with relatively snug players in the blinds and action is folded to you, SHOVE!
4. What's Your Table Image?
Table image can play an important part in getting your shoves though, and sometimes called when you want them called.
For example, if and shove, chances are it will get respect provided you didn't shove into the chip leader.
Adversely, if you've been playing somewhat loose at the table and pick up aces while short, there's a good chance you're going to get someone to call your shove.
5. Be First to Act Whenever Possible
Finally, when you're a short stack, you want to find a spot where you're the first to raise. This gives you the best chance to either get your hand through or have just a single caller.
A great example from personal experience was in a WSOP Circuit event a few years ago. I was down to about 12 big blinds and picked up A-10 offsuit on the button.
My plan was to shove with this hand and take my chances. However, there was a raise and a call ahead of me and the caller was a relatively strong player. I folded and after the initial raiser shoved with A-8, the strong player called with A-K.
The very next hand I was in the hijack and was dealt Q-9. Action was folded to me, I shoved and the big blind decided that Q-8 was a good call. That double allowed me to survive and I lasted about another three hours in the tournament because I picked the right spot.
By evaluating the available information at the table and picking the right time to shove a short stack, you can give yourself the best chance to survive and make a comeback.