Shortstack tournament play

Since I am writing this article during the WSOP I figured I would make a foray into a tweet about live tournaments. I ab...

Posted Apr 30, 2013


Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

Since I am writing this article during the WSOP I figured I would make a foray into a tweet about live tournaments. I absolutely love the structures of the $1500s at the WSOP. You get just enough chips to play (average is usually 30-40BBs post ante) and giant prize pools.

As a cash game player I feel like I have a gigantic advantage playing against most in the field post flop and since min raising has now become almost the standard open sizing you can actually get involved with hands and force people to play poker. Amazingly though most of the absolutely horrible mistakes that I have seen made actually have to do with people when they get short stacked. I was able to maneuver to 16th place out of a field of over 6300 players during the Million Maker at the WSOP so I saw a lot of all-in situations. I was also very short (under 12BBs) several times during the tournament and was able to work my stack back up without ever being behind in an all-in situation. Your ability to play under a 15BB stack in these types of tournaments is absolutely critical to your success.

It may seem like a simple concept but if you have under 10BBs and someone raises in front of you you are basically calling off your chips by moving all-in as you rarely will have any fold equity. This means that against a reasonable opening range ace rag type holdings are really garbage as you are never going to be that far out and front and you have no chance to make the opener fold. It was stunning how many people did not understand this concept. Several times I would see guys with 10 BB stacks or less ship over the top of a raiser with a hand like A4os only to really hope that the opener would have a hand like KJ. And of course A4 is not that far ahead of KJ. Another common mistake was to see people basically call all-in or (move all in with less than 8 BBs) with so called "pretty hands" like J9s or 75s. These hands have very little value in a five card run out. I saw people play tight for hours and hours just to punt their stack off and make a huge mistake under 10BBs. 

The simple fact of the matter is it is easy to learn how to play the short stack and it is one of the most important skills to have if you want to be successful in tournaments.

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