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When speaking of short stack play there are generally two kinds: the first one is when you are in a ring game and the other one when you play in a tournament. These situations needs to be addressed separately and we’ll do so in this article. But to be short stacked in a cash game is generally less of a problem because in a cash game you can always buy some more chips between hands, something that’s seldom permitted in tournaments. The exception is of course rebuy tournaments but not even in those you are usually only allowed to rebuy within a specific timeframe, usually the first three levels.

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In a ring games:

At most poker sites there are, as you probably know, three different betting structures, fixed, pot and no limit. To be short stacked in fixed limit usually makes less of a difference than if playing in a pot or no limit poker game where it is important to be able to bet heavily to push out any drawing hands. But on the other hand, if you yourself are short stacked and you have a drawing hand after the flop you can use this to your advantage. If you are first to act you can go all in and by doing so you either win the pot right there by scaring away other players or if you get called, you get to see both the turn and the river cards for free, with a flush draw or an open ended straight draw you should win about 1/3 of the times you get called. The same play can be used if you are late to act and you have a couple callers in front of you. Just go allinand If you don’t hit your card you make another rebuy. Your allin will probably be remembered by other players who will call your next allin as well and you can use this by having a solid hand next time you push in all your chips to win some money. That’s how you play poker.

Notice that you need to have a legitimate drawing hand for this play to be successful in the long run, just an inside straight draw by it self wont be sufficient. Your hand needs to be better than that. For instance a fairly good hand would be an inside straight draw combined with two overcards which would probably give you 10 outs and slightly more than 40% against someone holding top pair. Remember that in poker the concept of pot odds apply.

In a tournament:

While playing a tournament getting short stacked is never a good thing but is however inevitably and will happen from time to time. This is how poker works. You can consider yourself short stacked when you don’t have enough chips to last 10 rounds. The cost of 1 round is calculated by adding both blinds (big and small) and the ante (if any). So if you have a 800 chips and the cost for a round is 150 (big blind 100 + small blind 50) you are considered short stacked. Interestingly enough at some poker sites you start “short stacked”? in some rebuy tournaments, this is to ensure a lot of action and thus a lot of rebuys.

A tactic many aggressive poker players employ in tournaments is to never let themselves get short stacked. They instead go allin with almost any marginal hand before this happens. The reason for this is that they feel that its not worth to wait for a better hand if they don’t have enough chips to win a pot that’s big enough to ensure their survival in the game.

But if you find yourself short stacked you shouldn’t get desperate. Instead you should carefully choose a moment to make your move. If you are in early position and get a pocket pair 7s (or better) or AT or better you should make a big raise. Be sure to raise at least 3 times the big blind. If you don’t have chips enough, well, then I guess that you just have to go allin. Actually, if you have like only five big blinds left, you should go allin with any hand that contains an ace or a king (no matter how bad the kicker is) or any pair from any position. But you shouldn’t call with a bad hand like that, its better to raise and if you are lucky enough no body picks up a hand that’s good enough to call with. In reality what happens in most of the times when you are in these situations is that some big stack calls with any two cards just to knock you out of the tourney. This is actually not so bad since you most of the times are a slight favorite or a somewhat of an underdog, and sometimes that’s all you can ask for.

If you sit in late position and there are no callers then you should raise with any hand to pick up the blinds, again raise with at least 3 times the big blind. But if there are any callers before you, you need a good hand to call with or to raise. Good calling hands in these situations are low pairs and suited connectors. If it has been raised you need a premium hand to call or to reraise, because early position raises indicates good hands. Such hands are AK, AQ and all high pairs. But if you are very short stacked you should call with any pair (remember that even a pair of twos are a slight favorite against a hand like AK) or with any Ax or Kx, at this juncture you simply cant afford to be to picky.