No matter how strategic you are, there will always be times when you find yourself with a short stack in poker. You could augment your stack with all the free WSOP chips you can win, but World Series of Poker Free Chips are no match for a bad beat on the table.
Having significantly fewer chips than your opponents is not ideal, but it doesn’t have to end your game. With a few smart moves, you can make the most of your short stack and give yourself a chance to stay in the game until you can rebuild your chips.
In this poker cheat sheet, we’ll explore strategies you can use to stay afloat when you find yourself short-stacked. Keep these ideas in mind for the next time you join a game of poker in a live tournament or an online game on sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room.
With these tips, you can make the most of your chips and stand a chance against even the most experienced opponents.
What is a Short Stack in Poker?
Let’s start this poker guide sheet with a quick recap of what we mean when we talk about a short stack in poker.
A short stack is a player with fewer chips than the average or standard stack size on the table. What’s considered short-stacked depends on the game’s speed, but in most poker tournaments, it means having less than 20 or 30 big blinds. In cash games, it means having less than 40 big blinds.
Being short-stacked can happen for several reasons. Maybe you’re a new player who hasn’t had time to build a big stack. Or perhaps you’ve played for a while but lost a few hands. Whatever the reason, being short-stacked can put you at a disadvantage as it limits the moves you can make.
This can be especially challenging in tournaments where the blinds and antes increase over time. With each new level, the pressure to maintain your stack or grow becomes more intense. But remember that poker is a game of strategy. Even with a few chips, you have a chance to stay in the game and potentially even win. It all comes down to how you choose to act.
5 Tips for Playing Short-Stacked Poker
Being short-stacked may narrow your options in a poker game, but this isn’t necessarily bad. It only means you have to play smarter.
Here are five tips to help you next time you find yourself short-stacked in a poker match:
1) Be more selective with your hands
When you’re short-stacked, you can’t afford to play as many hands as you would if you had more chips. You must be more selective and use value hands almost exclusively to open the pot. Additionally, you must be ready to go all the way with the cards you open with. This is especially true if you are playing from an early position.
Let go of smaller hands, and don’t be afraid to fold when you’re not confident in your hand. Remember that saving your chips and waiting for a better opportunity to grow them is better than losing them all at once.
2) Raise more aggressively, or go all-in
This might seem counterproductive, but hear us out.
Raising and shoving your full stack with a broader hand range can pressure your opponents to fold, giving you a better chance to take down the pot in a hand. However, you should consider adopting this strategy only if you’re playing from a middle position—the fewer players left in the round, the lower the chances of someone calling or raising you.
Additionally, consider adopting this move if you have a good card range, to begin with. Raising and shoving can be a good bluffing technique, but remember that there is always a chance that someone will catch you.
3) Steal the blinds more often
When you have a short stack, you should play more aggressively and try to get as much value as possible from the blinds. This strategy is especially effective when you’re playing from a late position.
You can play a broader range of cards when you’re the last to act in a hand. You can easily raise or go all-in with over half of all poker hands without contest from other players on the table. If you want to increase your stack even further, consider making a minimum raise with your best poker hands and saving a selection of your other cards for a re-raise or shove. This is because other players may exploit your minimum raise and call or re-raise it with a higher bet, even with weaker hands. Then you can shove and take down the pot.
4) Be aggressive with draws at the flop
Almost any Texas Hold Em Cheat Sheet would advise you to play high-potential hands like a flush draw aggressively when you’re short-stacked.
When you get such hands at the flop, raise or go all-in. You stand a chance to take down a big pot if your opponents fold, and even if they call or re-raise you, you’re still in the game with a good chance to make your hand.
5) Make conservative continuation bets
A continuation bet or c-bet is when you make a follow-up bet after the flop with a hand that you think has good potential. C-bets are a good way to intimidate opponents into folding as they imply confidence in a hand, whether strong or not.
Whether you flopped or missed a draw on the first street, keeping your c-bets small can encourage your opponents to call or raise you with a bluff or fold their hands. This gives you a chance to win extra chips.
We hope this short guide will help you the next time you play with a short stack. Remember to play wisely, selectively—and aggressively, when the opportunity calls for it—to give yourself the best chance of coming out on top. Good luck!