Short Stack Poker Strategy


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Short Stack PancakesBeware the short stack!

You’ve played well throughout the entire poker tournament and are about to make the money.  All you have to do is survive and a payout will be coming your way.  However, you want to place farther in the money, so you’re looking to build your stack in your effort to place better.  This can be very dangerous, as the short stacks are desperate and looking for the slightest chance of doubling up.

There are two kinds of short stacks, the ones waiting for a big hand, and the ones looking to win with whatever garbage they’re holding.

Big Hand Short Stacks

This kind of short stack you can count on to have a decent hand when they go all-in, so they make your decision easy, as you will have to fold unless you’re holding a monster.  These short stacks are likely to have a pocket pair of some sort or two face cards, hands that have a good chance of taking in a pot.  Unless you have a monster, avoid these situations.

The best way to recognize these short stacks is to know how they’ve been playing throughout the tournament.  If they’ve been tight, not playing much, and have seen their stacks slowly dwindle away, you know that they’ll have a good hand.  Also, if they’ve taken a few hits, but have been folding constantly since, there is a good chance they’ve finally found a hand.

Reckless Short Stacks

These short stacks are the kind who are just trying to get lucky.  They’re holding garbage, and are simply hoping that everyone will fold or that they can pull off some miraculous comeback.  They could be holding K10s or they could be holding 94o.  These stacks could have anything, so it is imperative that you be able to tell that they could have anything.

There are no firm rules on how to recognize these short stacks, but there are some hints that could point them out.  If they’ve been playing a lot of hands, chasing draws, and just generally being loose players, it is possible they are being reckless.  If there was just a big hand which the short stack lost, it is possible that they are going on tilt, so be aware of this possibility.

These reckless short stacks can be more dangerous than the ones who have waited for a hand.  You have no idea what the reckless ones have, but you know generally what sort of hands the patient short stacks have.  If you are calling the patient ones, it is quite possible that one hand is a heavy favorite over the others.  On the other side of the coin, when calling the reckless ones, it is more likely to be a crapshoot, with both hands holding live cards.

The Solution

The simplest way to face the short stacks is to always have a good hand.  Don’t risk your chips against a reckless stack just because you’re sure you have a better hand, because if he hits and you don’t you’re going to lose.  The patient stacks will have good hands, so monsters are required to call them.

Never risk your chips and your position in the money to knock out a short stack unless you do hold a great hand.  You’ve played a good tournament and are almost at the money.  Don’t jeopardize yourself by trying to knock out the short stacks without holding a great hand.

Once you place in the money, than you can choose to terrorize the short stacks on a whim, as you will have officially had a successful tournament.


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