Playing a short stack in a multi-table tournament

This article discusses the tricky subject of having to play short stack poker in multi-table tournaments (MTTs).

Before strategies are discussed we must first define what exactly a short stack is. There are two main types of short stacks. The first type is when you have less then 10 or 15 times the big blind and the other players in the tournament still have a comfortable ship stack, in which case we can say you have a short stack as you are in serious danger of elimination and desperately need to double up your stack.

The second type of short stack is when you have a short stack in relation to the other players on your table and in the tournament in general. In this case, you are not short stacked in relation to the blinds, but short stacked in relation to the other players. The danger here is not so much elimination but being so short in comparison to them that it will be tough to have enough chips to win the tournament.

Now that we have discussed what exactly is a short stack this article will look at various strategies that should be used when short stacked.

You should be aware that your number one aim when short stacked is to double through. The best way to achieve this is to find a premium hand such as TT, JJ, QQ, AA, AK or AQ, and then go all in with it pre-flop. If you get called, you have a good chance of having the best hand and doubling up. If you do not get called you at least have picked up the blinds and increased your stack.

Generally speaking, when playing short stacked in MTT's, you are more likely to get called by an opponent with a bigger stack, and so stealing in this situation is a bad idea. That is only go all in with hands that are strong heads up. If you start to get really desperate you should go all in with any ace or king no matter what the kicker is.

Another key thing to remember is do not attempt to limp into any pots. If you do, a smart opponent will raise enough pre-flop to set you all in leaving you with a big dilemma. The general rule is if you are not happy to go all in with it, then do not play it.

This no limping rule even applies if you have a big hand such as pocket aces. By limping in, you run the risk of allowing someone in the pot cheaply and having him or her out flop you. By raising the pot, you are likely to get called especially if you have been aggressive as a short stack in the tournament.

The other thing to remember is never let yourself get so low that you will be all in when the blinds get around to you. It is much better to go all in with a marginal hand before the blinds hit you then be forced to call out of the blinds when short. The reason for this is simple, when you call you have no chance of picking up the blinds and hence must win by a showdown, which is obviously harder to do.


We have prepared a number of articles to help you play the games better. Regarding poker, we have an article about Poker tournament tips which will put you in the right direction if you play in the world series of poker or any other tournament. For example one tough situation is when you need to be playing with a short stack in a tournament and knowing the correct strategy will certainly help. Scared Poker mistakes shows errors that maany beginners make. Poker Variations explains the various poker formats while poker tells explains one of the crucial weapon of poker, reading poker tells.

We also have room reviews such as the PokerStars review, the Full Tilt review, the Bodog Poker review and a bio of Sara Scott who is a sponsored pro at Party Poker. These three online poker rooms are our top recommended rooms.

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