Sound short-stacked play is key to tournament success
This hand from the final table of a live $500-buy-in tournament illustrates some mistakes that many players make when playing short-stacked.
With blinds at 5,000-10,000 plus a 10,000 big blind ante (where a single player essentially antes for the entire table), everyone folded to the small blind. The small blind had 120,000 and was the shortest stack at the final table, but there were a few other players with between 15 and 20 big blinds. The big blind was a loose, aggressive player with 50 big blinds.
The small blind looked down at Jh 3d and decided to limp.
I strongly dislike this play. J-3 is a junky hand, and despite the excellent pot odds (5,000 to win 30,000), it is not strong enough to play. From out of position with a stack of 12 big blinds, you’re likely to face aggression from the big blind, who is capable of forcing J-3 to immediately fold. Even if you get to see a cheap flop, you will usually flop nothing or a junky made hand that will have a difficult time confidently playing for all the money. There is merit in simply conserving your stack and waiting for a better spot to invest your chips.
The big blind checked his 10h 2c.
I am fine with this check, but if you think the small blind would probably raise with a strong hand, his limping range may be susceptible to being pushed around. If I had been the big blind, I would have made it 28,000 with the intention of folding if the small blind went all in.
The flop came Kh 6h 2s, giving the big blind bottom pair. The small blind bet 20,000 out of his 110,000 remaining stack.
Again, I strongly dislike this play. On a K-x-x flop in a limped pot, the big blind is likely to have either a pair or flush draw that is never folding, or queen high or a worse unpaired hand, which will almost surely fold to any bet. Most ace-high hands would have raised or gone all in preflop. For that reason, if you decide to bet the flop with J-3 as a low-equity bluff, you should make a small bet — say, for instance, 10,000. If you think your opponent will call a 10,000 bet every time, perhaps add a touch more, making it 13,000 or so.
The big blind pushed all in, forcing the small blind to fold his J-3.
I’m fine with the all-in move. There are plenty of hands you want to protect against (Jh 3d has 30 percent equity), and if you happen to be behind, you have five outs to improve.
This may seem like an innocuous hand, but the small blind lost 25,000 more than he should have in this pot. Even if he had limped and then bet 13,000, he would have lost 7,000 less.
It is important that you study and master short-stacked poker if you want to have any chance of success in tournaments. Sometimes you simply have to make a disciplined fold.