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Playing to Win with a Short Stack

In some games of Texas Holdem, your chip-count may be small in relation to the blinds. Whenever this occurs, you must have a strategy for staying in the game. Despite having a relatively meager number of chips, you should never simply count yourself out, because even short stacks sometimes win.

The Disadvantages

Whenever you find yourself with under 40 big blinds in a no-limit game, your chip-count will generally be too low for bullying or advanced plays. Shorts stacks force you to make tough decisions about the flops, because the odds of arriving at the river betting round with an adequate chip supply are narrow. Since you cannot wager more than you hold, you won't be able to get the greatest return from your hand. Therefore, even a monster hand will yield less returns when there is a short stack in front of you.

Your Best Chances

In order to maximize a short stack, you must play strictly with big cards like Ace-Kings and Ace-Queens. Only the cards with a probable chance at hitting the flop will do in these cases, since you cannot really expect to make the turn. Once you score a big hand, you can raise and bet as though you hold a big stack. You should also be aggressive and put your chips in the middle, since your stack will be supporting your hand if you enter the pot. Playing with short stacks gets easier with practice, though it's best to avoid cash games without a full buy-in.

Short stacks occur now and then in tournament settings, so you must be prepared to handle them. The most important thing to do is play a solid game, because even with a short stack you are still capable of winning.