Sound short-stacked play is key to tour­na­ment suc­cess

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - POKER - By Jonathan Lit­tle

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.

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