The wobbly foundations of the short stack strategy

One thing that makes poker such a fascinating sport is that it evolves every single day. I am not talking about its growth outside the tables, which is big here in Brazil. I'm talking about the adaptation capacity needed because of the game's dynamic. It is important to be aware of these changes in order to be a winning player, because chips are won by taking advantage of the breaches and that comes from the details.


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If some play works today, it may not be so lucrative some months down the line. And something that is good right now can get even better with some strategic adjustments.

A simple example of this evolution is the reduction of the initial bet. It used to be minimum three times the big blind (3x) before, but players realized they were putting too much money to represent the same action or strength, so today it is more common to see raises of around 2-2.5x times the big blind. And it gets closer and closer to a minimum raise as the tournament goes deeper.

It was based on these details that I developed my short stack strategy back in the time I was grinding Sit-and-Gos.

Challenging the norm
A very common thought in the poker world is that if you have 10 big blinds or less you are almost dead and have to go all-in with almost any two cards. I've always thought it is absurd, especially for online poker. Of course, your actions are very limited with 10BB, but there is no sense at all to risk your tournament with a weak hand just because you got a gap on the button. To make the decision of going all-in you have to analyse more information than just the number of big blinds. There are some stages in turbo tournaments that the biggest stack in the table is smaller than 10BB!

The foundation of the short stack strategy is survival. Having few chips is bad, but having none is worse! You must have heard of the chip and a chair story! I can't think how many times I've won or watched someone win a tournament after having less than one big blind...

Knowing that, the first thing that you should remember to do is not to get desperate. Next ask yourself, "Even with 10BBs, can I hurt most of the guys of the table with my stack? And if I double up, am I really back in the game?"

If the answer is yes, it means you still have some strength and can wait for a good spot to put all your chips in the middle with the best chance of being a favourite. Or you can even min-raise and fold if you think the villain has a better hand.

Aggressiveness is one of the best weapons on poker, but there is sometimes when the only thing that matters is surviving. If you are the last one to leave the table, it means you are the champion.

Caio Pessagno is a member of Team PokerStars Online.

Caio Pessagno
@PokerStars in Team PokerStars Online