As more and more players drop out of a poker game you will have to be more aggressive as the average quality of starting hands goes down. The trick to short-handed play is to balance aggression and caution, so that you do not throw chips away for no purpose. If you are a short stack, you will be wanting to be patient while looking for a suitable all-in hand. If you have a decently-sized stack you will want to keep an eye out for opportunities to take chips and build up your stack, nad if you are the chip leader, you will want to bully the table and drain your opponents of their chips.
In a recent nine player sit and go that I was in, I had built up a solid stack and was a huge chip leader, holding approximately 60% of the total chips in play. The second stack held abot 20% of the chips while there were two short stacks, each holding about 10% each. While the short-stacks were small compared to the other stacks, the blinds had not yet reached the point that the short-stacks had to go all-in or fold. I also found myself in an interesting position, with one of the short-stacks on my right and one of the short-stacks on my left.
This provided a perfect opportunity to be a bully, as we were only one spot away from the money, so I knew that the short-stacks would not be going all-in unless they absolutely had to. The medium stack was also being cautious, wanting to take chips away from the smaller stacks but not wanting to tangle with my big stack. Consequently, he would usually only play when I was not in the hand. I started my campaign of bullying by concentrating primarily on the player to my left, raising almost every time I had the small blind and they had the big blind when the action was folded to me. They did not call my raise even once, and I was stealing several big blinds on the power of my chip stack alone.
I would only raise from the button if I had at least one face card, as I did not want to let the medium stack grow any more powerful. We ended up reaching a standard balance, as neither of us would enter a pot when the other was already in unless we did have excellent hands. This allowed us to avoid any unpleasant confrontations on both our parts.
The stack on my left was getting dangerously low and would have to think about going all-in on the first decent hand they saw. However, they could still justify not going all-in because the short stack on my right had also been atrophying at the same rate. The battle for the money was a contest to see which stack could die slower. It was the stack on my left who would fall, reraising me all-in with A-5. I called with my A-8 and my dominating hand held up for the victory.
Three-handed play only lasted one hand, as the stack on my right went all-in with K-10 and was defeated by my JJ. My luck continued to hold out, as I ended the game only two hands later when I drew KK and my opponent pushed all-in with J-10 suited.
In short-handed play, I was able to use the power of my huge stack to bully the table and siphon off chips from the other stacks, forcing them into making the unpleasant decision of whether or not to go all-in when there was another stack just as weak. My stack continued to grow and was easily able to dispatch my opponents when the money had been made and they were less restrained about pushing all-in.
Aggression is a key in short-handed play, especially when you are the chip leader.