When playing in online poker rooms, the person with the fewest number of chips at the table is generally known as “the short stack.” It’s an unenviable position to be in and one that is far from ideal. However, if you are a regular poker player you will surely have found yourself in this kind of position for one of two different reasons.
The first one (and most likely) will be due to the fact that you’ve found your chips slipping away over the course of the game you’re currently playing. Whether that’s through bad luck or just poor decision making, you’ve ended up giving the majority of your chips away to your opponents.
However, if you decide to enter a tournament that has already been running for a little while, it’s more than likely you will sit down at the table in last place. Either way, you need to think about how you’re going to add to your pile of chips quickly. A strong strategy for playing from the short stack can turn an average player into a strong one.
The principal issue of finding yourself with few chips (most notably in tournaments) is that the space you have to maneuver yourself has all but been taken away. When playing Hold’em, you will find that most of the chips are bet on the turn and the river (rather than on the flop and pre-flop). Therefore a player who finds themselves in the position of the short stack is unlikely to find that they can afford to play much past the flop round.
With this in mind, when you find yourself with few chips you should make sure that you play big on strong hands that have a good chance of coming out on top rather than taking a punt on marginal hands such as small pocket pairs or suited connectors. These sort of speculative hands are best played with a deep stack of chips mainly because you could easily find yourself being re-raised and also because the odds of you landing your straight/flush are fairly low. With a big pile of chips, you can afford to lose a small percentage because the potential reward is so high. That luxury is taken away from you when your chips are running thin on the ground. Taking a punt on making an improbable hand is likely just to decrease your stack of chips yet further.
Rather than doing that, try to play big suited hands (cards that stand a chance of hitting top pair once you see the flop).
The players around you can also have a big impact on the way that your strategy needs to be implemented. Let’s say for example that you’re sat at a table where the players are acting in a very loose and aggressive manner. In this instance, make sure you stay patient and don’t throw your chips into the pot until you have a solid hand to back them up with. If, on the other hand the players behind you tend to be quite tight, then you can relax your starting requirements slightly and throw your chips into the middle of the table with slightly weaker hands. Don’t wait too long though and try to be the first to get your chips into the pot.
Short stack strategies should generally come into play when you find your chip stack is worth less than 40 big blinds. They need to be played with a clear head and a brave heart, but are ultimately very rewarding when they come off.