Push 'em Provides Chance to Sharpen Short-Stacked Strategy
In a Push 'em game, ace-eight will likely be among the range of hands with which you'll be making those all-in shoves.
While clearly more of a gambling game than regular no-limit hold’em, Push ‘em will provide opportunities to employ some strategy and thus give an edge to players who can smartly play their short stacks.
There's a new game debuting on Betfair Poker this week called Push 'em, a variant designed to provide action in a hurry. A no-limit hold'em cash game, Push 'em requires players to buy in for exactly five big blinds -- no more, no less -- making the chances of facing an all-in confrontation soon after sitting down quite high. While certainly not as complicated strategy-wise as typical no-limit hold'em, there are a few ideas to keep in mind that can improve one's chances of leaving a Push 'em session a winner.
Push 'em will be offered at a variety of limits at Betfair, from $0.05/$0.10 up to $1/$2, with all Push 'em games being six-handed. For example, when sitting down at a $0.25/$0.50 Push 'em table, you'll be buying in for exactly $2.50, with no option to buy in for more or less. In other words, you can go ahead and give all players my nickname -- "Short-Stacked" -- when they start their Push 'em sessions.
One necessary modification from typical NLHE strategy will be to open up one's starting hand requirements considerably. Since folding even one orbit's worth of hands will cost almost a third of your stack (1.5 BBs), it's likely you'll need to choose a hand quickly with which to push your chips in the middle.
That's not to say you can't follow a few broad principles of hand selection and even employ some other strategic thinking in Push 'em.
Pocket pairs only come around once every 17 hands or so, which usually means if you are dealt one, you will have the best hand preflop. In Push 'em you should be ready to commit your stack of 5 BBs whenever dealt a pocket pair, either by open-raising all in or calling others' shoves.
Even if you are dealt the lowly 2-2 and someone has shoved ahead of you, it's going to be worth calling with your 5 BBs. Against a random hand, pocket deuces generally rates a tad over 50% to win, and even against the wide range of raising hands in Push 'em -- say any pocket pair, A-x, K-x, and Q-x -- PokerStove tells us 2-2 is still going to be close to even money to win by the river.
Any ace, king, queen
You're going to be glad to pick up big cards in Push 'em, including any ace, king, or queen.
Most players will probably be comfortable shoving with any ace or king, although some might hesitate before committing with Q-x. However, if no one has opened the pot and you are dealt Q-x, it is probably worth a push given the probability you'll have the preflop edge. Obviously a call in this spot will likely mean you'll be behind with five cards to come, but more often than not callers will hold A-x, K-x, or pairs from J-J to 2-2 and your queen will still be live (if not your kicker, too).
I would consider pushing with a queen, though I would hesitate before calling with all but the better Q-x hands (e.g., Qs-Js). With an ace or king, though, I'm going to call with my stack of five BBs.
Not long ago we were discussing the significance of suitedness in no-limit hold'em. One of the ways suited cards have value is as drawing hands, with a flopped flush draw potentially giving a player extra leverage after flop. However, since essentially all of the decision-making in Push 'em is going to occur preflop, there will be fewer opportunities to take advantage of having flopped a draw.
Thus while suitedness does add a few percentage points to your hand's value, pushing with 7s-5s shouldn't seem that much more of an option to you than going all in with 7d-5c. Like small connectors, suitedness really is more of a concern in games where there are post-flop decisions to be made -- likely not the case in Push 'em.
The significance of position will be relatively minimized in Push 'em thanks to the fact that players are essentially reduced to the single all-in raise move before the flop. Without post-flop play, position will only matter once -- not four times like in hold'em hands that aren't decided before the river.
I wouldn't place that great an importance on the difference between an all-in push from the player sitting under the gun and one from the guy on the button, although pay attention to your opponents as some will allow their position to dictate just how wide they'll go with their opening ranges.
Hands that get folded around to the cutoff or button will present opportunities for blind steals for players in those seats. The player in the small blind may want to open his raising range a little further, too, should the entire table fold before it is his turn to act. And with the stacks as short as they are, blind steals will be more of an issue in Push 'em than in deep-stacked NLHE games.
While there will be fewer decisions per hand in Push 'em -- with almost all being of the all-in-or-fold variety -- you will still come to notice some players approaching the game differently than others, and thus as in all poker games you should be ready to adapt your game to what others are doing. There will undoubtedly be no shortage of maniacs, ready to gamble with any two cards. There will actually be nits (relatively speaking) at the Push 'em tables, too, who fold more than they should. Take note, and adjust your own decision-making accordingly.
You may even see some trying to limp or make minimum-raises occasionally before the flop. (The limp-reraise with a big hand will prove a popular play for certain players.) And of course for those who are able to accumulate chips and build stacks greater than the starting 5 BB, you may see some even-looser-than-usual calls or raises, or other out-of-the-ordinary plays.
While clearly more of a gambling game than regular no-limit hold'em, Push 'em will provide opportunities to employ some strategy and thus give an edge to players who can smartly play their short stacks and push around not just some chips but opponents, too.
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