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We have all been there, left sitting at the table with a stack of seven big blinds or less hoping that our luck will change. At this point, many of us will be tilted, wanting to shove all-in to either end the misery or to quickly double up before it’s too late.

Playing with a very small stack is fairly straight forward since you’re in an “all-in or fold” situation as any raise you make commits you to the pot. But there are still ways to gain an edge or make a mistake in this spot. This article will give you three important tips for playing in a poker tournament with a short stack.

1. Don’t give up

Try your best to stay positive and patient. Although it’s easy to feel like you are almost out of the tournament, the fact is that you are still in it and you should be focusing on your chances of keeping it that was rather than the risk of going out.

Be disciplined when it comes to which hands you shove all-in with. It’s only when you are down to three big blinds or less that the over-value from the pot, and the loss of any fold equity means that you need to move all-in with any two cards. In this spot you want to look for a chance to get your stack all-in versus a single opponent, since it will be a lot more difficult for a weak hand to beat several opponents.

2. The mini monster

When your stack reaches the depths of three-to-seven big blinds, you will need to shove a wide range from most positions and given that your opponents are aware of this, plus the pot odds they are getting on a call, you will get called much more often when you shove all-in than you would with something like 10 big blinds.

It’s in situations like these when maximising your fold equity becomes extra important because it vastly improves your chances of winning the hand, and there is actually an alternative to shoving all in. That is to make a small open raise instead of just shoving all in when you hold a weaker hand. Yes, you are clearly pot committed to any raise here but the idea is to make it look as if you have picked up pocket aces or another monster hand and are trying your best to look weak in order to induce action. Some opponents can pick up and fold some hands that they would otherwise called with against an all-in shove.

It is true that you take the risk that some players doesn’t pay attention to your stack size and call your bet with a very marginal hand. This is pretty much the reason why you would want to make this small bet even with aces.

In order to balance the risk versus reward ratio here you should aim to make the small raise with a weak hand only when you are up against players capable to pick up on a bet sizing tell like this one.

On the other hand, the times you do hold a monster you should only be making this bet against players that are weak enough not to pay attention to your bet sizing tell.

3. The stop-and-go

The stop-and-go move is about calling pre-flop with the plan to shove all in on any flop. The reason for making this play is that when you face a raise pre-flop with a stack of six or seven big blinds, your opponent will be prices in to call a shove all in, so basically you don’t have any fold equity in this spot.

However, by just calling the pre-flop open, with decent sized bet left to go all-in with on the flop, there is a chance your opponent has missed the flop and therefore give you a chance to take down the pot without getting to showdown.

You can make this move with the same range of hands you should be shoving with pre-flop, just make sure you are up against one or maximum two players.

What are your hints, tips and strategies for playing with a short stack in a poker tournament? We’d love to hear them.

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