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Playing The Short-Stacked Ninja

Poker Strategy RSS / / 23 March 2012 / Leave a Comment

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Ninjas. What would they move all-in with?

Ninjas. What would they move all-in with?

Most people are aware that once their stack reaches 10 big blind then they basically only have one move in their arsenal and that is to move all-in or fold but what about 15 big blinds? Or 18 big blinds or 20 big blinds?

When a poker player enters a tournament they envisage themselves being armed with so many chips that they can play any way they want and even if they make a mistake it will have no lasting effect whatsoever on their chances of winning.

For the most part this never happens and players often find themselves sat there with between 15-20 big blinds and without a clue how to play with such a stack. Most people are aware that once their stack reaches 10 big blind then they basically only have one move in their arsenal and that is to move all-in or fold but what about 15 big blinds? Or 18 big blinds or 20 big blinds? What do you do with this stack? The answer, like most matters poker related is it depends.

In my recent deep run in the Grand Series of Poker (GSOP) Grand Slam I found myself with a stack of between 12-20 big blinds for the last 90-120 minutes I was in the event, which actually helped me somewhat because it is quite easy to play this stack size as it takes a lot of the skill out of the equation. You are no longer looking to play post-flop poker any more simply because you cannot afford to raise, be called, miss the flop then have to fold. Your remaining chips are just too precious, if they are lost then your tournament is over.

Observation Is Vital

When your stack size starts to dwindle and you find yourself sliding towards to dreaded 10 big blinds mark then you need to be even more aware of your own image and how your opponents have been playing too. If you have a completely crazy image then anything you open-shove 10-20 big blinds deep is going to be snapped off so you need to tighten up your shoving range but if you have a tight image you can get away with pushing a slightly wider range; but don't make it too wide.

In the aforementioned GSOP tournament I was down to 15 big blinds and had been dealt KcQc under the gun. Over the past hour or so I had hardly played a hand so anyone observing my play will have pegged me as a complete nit! We were also nearing another jump in the payouts and the table had not been calling off too lightly. All of this bundled together equalled one thing -shove! Nobody called and I picked up the substantial blinds and antes.

Later in the tournament I found myself in a similar situation except this time I had KsQs in the cutoff with a stack of 17 big blinds. Now instead of moving all-in when the action folded to me I simply made my standard raise. "But why?" I hear you ask; because the players and scenario had changed somewhat. For the past four or five orbits the only move I had made was all-in so my standard raise of twice the big blind should have set alarm bells ringing, especially with my stack size. Also, the big blind had started to show a tendency for three-betting on a regular basis so my raise made with the intention of calling off the rest of my chips if and when he came over the top of me. Unfortunately he opted to just call this time and we lost a few more chips when I hit a king on the river only for villain to show me Kh9h having flopped a nine and rivered the same king. Maybe if he'd been dealt Kh10h he would have come over the top and we'd have been in a great position to double up.

The next time you are short-stacked at the table try not to panic and if need be and a good spot does not crop up before the blinds hit you then don't just shove any two cards under the gun, pay the blinds and hope for a better spot during the next orbit. Yes it means you are more likely to be called and it also means that if you do double up then your stack is not as substantial but I would rather be moving all in with any two cards for seven big blinds with just the blinds to act than shoving 10s6c from under the gun with nine opponents to act just because I had 9 or 10 big blinds.

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