Timidity is not for Short Stacks

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Imagine you’re in a Texas Holdem tournament or Sit and Go, and you are starting to get close to the money. Unfortunately for you though, you are one of the shorter stacks, and your prospects for making the money are grim. You are, however, in control of your destiny for the moment as the blinds are not yet crippling your stack and are merely an unwelcome nuisance. What do you do in this situation? Do you sit back hoping to pick up a great hand to double up with? Or do you play aggressively, fighting and clawing your way back up into contention?

While sitting back and hoping for a great hand will give you a good chance if you do double up, it is also a more unlikely situation. You’ll be folding many more hands, and it will become obvious to the other players at the table what you are trying to do. Then, when you do pick up a good hand, you will receive very little for it, and the frustration will mount as the blinds continue to rise and your chip stack starts to disappear.

Instead, playing aggressively could be the solution. You have enough chips left that the blinds aren’t seriously crippling you at the moment, and this means that you also have some chips to spare. If you have developed a tight table image, you could take advantage of your less than ideal chip stack to win some easy pots. As your chip stack goes down, if you’ve been maintaining a tight table image, your opponents will tend to think that you will become even tighter, playing better hands while trying to squeeze as many chips out them as possible. Therefore, even though you have a smaller stack, they will be more afraid of what you could be holding when you raise. Of course, you should still be wary of the players who are loose and aggressive, as they are very good at creating headaches.

For instance, say that you’re in the small blind and have a hand of A-5 suited. Action has been folded around to you, and the chip leader is in the big blind. While not normally a good hand, this is a spot where you should raise, as you have only one opponent to force out. Many players become timid when facing the chip leader, even with a good sized stack. The chip leader is not going to want to risk giving you more chips, so they will usually raise enough to force you all-in if they picked up a good hand, or they will fold. This is a small risk, small reward situation. You can easily extricate yourself from the hand if the big blind pushes back, while you have the potential to win a small pot, giving you momentum and confidence as you try to fight your way back to respectability. If you would have been timid and folded here, you would have gained nothing, while losing a small amount of chips from the small blind.

In another example, say you are on the button, and two limpers have entered the pot before action comes around to you. You are holding A-10 offsuit, a hand that can be easily beaten by another ace with a better kicker, but still a good hand for someone running low on chips. Do you fold and hope for a monster, or do you make a move? In this situation, with two limpers who probably are not very confident in their hands, and the blinds, who could have anything, still left to act, this is a good time to be aggressive. GO all-in here and pick up the blinds along with two additional bets from the limpers. Winning the pot right here will give you a nice bit of spare change for your chip stack, and if someone does call, you should have a good chance against any hand that does not have you dominated. Being timid is not an option here. You have to make a move for the pot in this situation.

If you wait for a big hand, and do manage to pick up a monster, you have gotten enough luck to make a stand, but you still need to get the other players to put their chips into the pot. Oftentimes you will end up with a cheap pot as your payoff. Instead, by being aggressive, waiting for good position and decent cards, you can pick up pots that will allow you to boost your chip stack. Never be afraid to go all-in when there are chips to be won. Courage is a big part of poker, and you can’t abandon it when things are going bad.

One Response to “Timidity is not for Short Stacks”

  1. Poker News Summary

    Something a lot of players struggle with, is the knowledge that going all in might make them lose everything. So instead they wait, and wait, until there is nothing they can do any more. You mustn’t be afraid to lose, or you’ll never win.


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