Short Stack Poker Definition

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In this course, GTO Master, Michael Acevedo and Jonathan Little teach you how to play short-stack poker from a game theory optimal (GTO) perspective. A math based poker player who bravely fights players with larger stacks. #poker #short-stack #2+2 #bravery #courage.


Any stack that has more than 20 big blinds is not considered a short stack in tournament poker, since you have the flexibility to do a lot of extra moves without committing your entire chip stack. We will not be talking about chip stacks that are bigger than 20 big blinds in this article at all once this intro is over. Short stack poker is an eventuality in many tournaments you play. It’s an inconvenient reality due to the blinds, antes or losing key showdowns. You may skirt by playing an average and big stack well, but you should want to play short stacked poker well. It will help you in the long run and can turn tournaments you gave up on into winners.

Short Stack Poker Definition Dictionary

Categories:Poker NewsPublished by: Joseph Pregler

20 Big Blinds to 30 Big Blinds

One of the most important skills to being a successful tournament player is the ability to play a short stack. No matter how good you are at some point in most tournaments most players, if not all depending on the structure, will find themselves in this short stack area. Being able to successfully use the options a short stack gives while avoiding some of the pitfalls of playing a short stack will improve your results in tournaments.

First, let’s define what I mean by a short stack. You have a short stack when your stack is 30 big blinds or less. Many believe the definition of a short stack is to have the smallest or one of the smallest stacks at the table. While that may be a relative definition, this series will be on the absolute measurement of a short stack instead of the relative measurement against the other stacks. This first article in the series will look at chip stacks between 20 and 30 big blinds.

There are not many “rules” when playing poker. There is a saying that “every rule in poker has an exception, except for this one.” I like to personally call them guidelines, understanding that for every guideline, there are always exceptions to the guideline. However, one such guideline, I would prefer to call an absolute rule: It is a mortal sin to blind out in a tournament. Yes, at 30 big blinds you should start taking steps to avoid blinding your stack off. This article and the next few will give you ideas that will help you avoid blinding off in tournaments.

When you are first to enter the pot with blinds in this area, the raise sizing should be 2x to 2.25x the big blind. By making the minimum raise, it leaves you with a more flexibility post flop before you reach the pot commitment point. However, it is still large enough to get the stacks in when you flop a strong hand.

When opening with these stacks, there are some who say you should not have a range of hands that you are willing to open the pot with and fold to a re-raise. I disagree. If the table is playing in a way to make any play profitable, you should not take that play out of your playbook. You must always take what the table is giving you.

That being said, in early position, I would generally raise with about 77+ and AJ+. At this stage, I cut out speculative hands that I may typically play in early position out of my range. Especially, the suited connectors that require some post flop creativity at times to show a profit. However, if the blinds are playing tight and my image is one that will enable me to steal the pot quite often by the flop, I would still give these hands a shot every once in a while. If I need to balance my range, I will raise small pairs and suited connectors about 25% of the time, if my image is good for this type of play.

In middle position, my range of hands depends on the blinds and the game flow. My tightest of ranges might be something like 55+, AT+, KQ, KTs+, QTs+, and JTs. If I can get away with stealing the pot often, I will raise many hands that play well post flop in case I am called. This would include hands like all the small pairs, suited connectors, suited one gappers and suited aces. In general, if the table is playing a loose aggressive game and re-raising often and are capable of making moves post flop, that is reason to go with the tighter range. If the table is playing tight and/or fit or fold post flop then that is reason to start attacking the blinds liberally.

From late position, your decision should be determined on the playing tendencies of the blinds, the game flow and your image. If they are too tight, folding any hand in late position is leaving money on the table. However, that being said, I will usually fold the worst hands in late position. This gives the appearance when you fold in a steal spot that you are being discriminating in your hand selection and if you steal every time it folds to you, most opponents will eventually adjust.

If the blinds are the type that will play back at you with re-raises on a regular basis, then it is important to know that you should not open a range wider than what you are willing to play 50% of your hands to the re-raise. I will show in a later article the purpose for this number, but for now, just trust me on the math.

If I get called and do not win the pot with my continuation bet, I am willing to get all my chips in with hands as strong as top pair. When I have a draw and fold equity, I would be willing to shove if given the opportunity. More marginal hands are opponent dependent.

This is the area where strategy is most affected by these stacks sizes. Calling with speculative hands is no longer an option. Even with a min-raise with 30BBs stacks, you are only getting 15:1, which is the minimum required to set-mine.

Your 3 betting strategies will vary at this stack size. You have two options with these stacks. First, you can make a standard re-raise of 2.25x the size of the open raise. If the blinds are 400/800 + 100 with stacks of 20k and your opponent raises to 2,000, you can raise to 4,500.

Your other option with re-raising with these stacks is to shove all in. Whenever your opponent opens for 10% of the effective stack, shoving all in is always a suitable option. Let’s look at the math of a spot such as this. The blinds are 400/800 + 100. You are the big blind with 24k. The loose aggressive button raised to 2,400. If he is going to fold 75% of his range if you shove all in, you can raise all in very wide here:

(75% * 4,500) + 25%([49,300a] – 23,100) = 0 solve for a.

In that equation a = 19%. That means you only need 19% equity to break even on a 3 bet shove in this spot. Any hand you shove will show at least that much equity against his calling range. Of course, I would not personally shove 100% of the time, but the math shows you can be pretty liberal in these spots.

Casino tables rentals los angeles. When you add in a call in between you and the opener, it just sweetens the pot that much more. This is why the squeeze play has become so popular in the recent years, because it is a very profitable play.

How do you choose between the small 3 bet or the 3 bet shove? It depends on game flow, the opponents, whether you need to be creative with my hands or can attempt to level my opponents. It is hard to give rules such as if a then b, or if c then d. You have to be able to evaluate the decision based on all of the information available and make the best decision. But just know both options are available to you.

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Calling is still an option with these stacks as well. However, you should dial up your 3 betting pre-flop at this stage. Calling should be an option for those in between hands that are not ahead of your opponents range, but not really behind much either. For instance, if they are opening 10% range of hands, hands like AJs and 88 are hands that play well against his entire range, but play poorly against a calling range if you shove, and when you factor that they only opened 10%, these hands might not get enough fold equity if you 3 bet.

Another really good option with these stacks is to call with a premium hand to induce a squeeze play. The way this works is if a loose aggressive player opens from the hijack and there are aggressive players in the blinds, just flat with hands like AA or KK hoping that the aggressive players in the blinds re-raise all in and you can pick of f the re-steal attempt.

The first thing that should be realized is that with enough limpers, shoving over the limpers is a possibility with these stacks. For this play, you will need to understand the concept of effective big blinds. To determine the effective big blind in the pot, you count the total amount of chips in the pot, including the blinds, antes, and the calls of each limper. When you determine the total chips, 2/3 of that total is the effective big blind. For instance, with blinds at 400/800 + 100 with 9 players dealt into the hand, and there are 3 limpers in the pot, including the small blind. In this situation, there is 900 in antes, your 800 posted for big blind, plus 3 calls for a total of 2,800, making a total pot of 4,100. 4,100 multiplied by 2/3 gives us an effective big blind of 2,733.

Now that we understand effective big blind, we can profitably shove 10x the effective big blind from the blinds with a wide range. In the above scenario, we can shove 27,000 profitably. Let’s assume each player is limping about 40% (usually larger for the small blind), would have raised with the top 5% of hands and will call off with any hand he has in the top 10% of hands. Using this information, we can solve the following equation:

61% * 4,100 + 39%[(57,300 * a) – 26,200] = 0, solve for a

In this equation, a = 31%. This means any hand we shove, needs 31% equity to break even when we get called. Since we do not want break even spots in tournaments, we should look for the range of hands that will give us an edge. For this example, let’s set the edge at 33% equity against the range of hands when we are called. When we run the assumed call range through the equilab hand range calculator, we get the following range of hands:

22+, Ax, Kx, Q3s+, QT+, J3s+, J8+, Txs+, T8+, 9xs+, 96+, 8xs, 85+, 7xs, 75+, 6xs, 64+, 5xs, 53+, 4xs, 43, and 32s. This is a total of 67% of hands that show a profit by shoving from the big blind under these circumstances. You can figure these numbers out for yourself based on the ranges you expect to see in your games for each stack size.

This play is usually predicated upon the range of the first limper. If he is a player who will raise his strong hands, but limp with his marginal range, then it is usually a safe bet that you will have enough fold equity, as most of the players who limp behind will also have a marginal range. Beware the player who likes to trap and will limp in with premium hands.

Another option with stacks of this size and limpers in the pot, is that you can still limp behind with speculative hands (small and medium pairs, suited aces, suited connectors and suited one gapped connectors) if the players left to act are not taking advantage of limpers and raising liberally. If the players will attack limps, just let these hands go.

Playing 20 big blinds to 30 big blinds stacks will put you in some profitable spots. It is important in poker to identify these spots and be able to pull the trigger. You do not have to take every spot, but make sure you are taking enough of these spots as they arise.

Joseph Pregler plays regularly in live tournaments on the East Coast and enjoys sharing his wisdom and experience to novice and intermediate players. You can follow him at

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