In poker, the player with the smallest number of chips at the table is know as “The Short Stack.” It’s obviously not a great position to be in, and given the choice no one would want to occupy it. However, as poker players we don’t get given that choice and no matter how good you are, if you’re a regular tournament player, you will have found yourself labelled The Short Stack at some point in your career.
Players generally find themselves in this position for one of two reasons. The most likely one is that you’ve slowly been leaking chips over the course of your current game. Whether’s it’s down to bad luck or poor decisions, most of your chips you started off with are now sitting in front of your opponents.
The other way you might find yourself as the short stack is if you’ve joined a tournament late. If your opponents have been playing for a while, then it’s more than likely they will have built up their chips and as someone just entering the tournament, you will be needing to catch them up.
Whatever the reason for you being the short stack though, you need to have a successful strategy for picking up chips and making sure climb up the tournament ladder nice and quickly.
The main problem with finding yourself low on chips is that you suddenly have a lot less room to maneuver. This is especially true if you’re playing in a tournament. When playing Hold’em Poker, the majority of the chips in any one hand will be bet on the turn and the river. This is a problem for you, the short stack, as it means that you’re unlikely to be able to afford to see many cards after the flop.
Bearing this in mind, you need to make sure that you don’t end up playing marginal hands which are just going to end up with you hemorrhaging more poker chips. Forget about small pocket pairs or suited connectors – the chances of you making your straight/flush aren’t particularly high and you run the risk of being re-raised by one of your opponents. These hands are better off played with a deep stack of chips.
Instead play big on the strong hands that you’re pretty confident will see you come out on top. Obviously your starting hand requirements will need to come down every time the blinds go round the table, but it’s important to try to be patient.
You’re looking for cards that are most likely to hit top pair on the flop. Big suited hands, for example, are definitely worth playing.
Be very aware of your position at the poker table too. The players on either side of you can have a large say in the way that your strategy should be implemented.
Let’s say for example that you find yourself in a position where the players around you are playing in a very loose manner. Patience is more important than ever here as a strong hand will be rewarded much more highly based on the likelihood of you getting a call.
If you’re surrounded by tight players though, then relax your starting requirements and aim to try to steal a few blinds to bolster your chip stack. When going down this route though, I’d highly recommend trying to be the first to get your chips into the pot.
I’d suggest strategies such as those mentioned above should come into play when you find your chip stack is worth fewer than 40 big blinds. At this point, play with a cool head and a strong heart.
Nobody like’s being the short stack, but when it’s a very rewarding feeling when you find that you have fought your way out of that position and put yourself back on the straight and narrow!