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Playing Against Short Stacks in a Poker Tournament

Throughout a poker tournament, you will be surrounded by players with varying chip stack sizes. You will face big stacks, medium stacks and small stacks. How you act in many situations will be determined by the size of your opponent's stack relative to your own. Playing against the short stack is one skill you will have to master.

How to play against a short stack is one of the more welcome problems in poker. You cannot be eliminated by them, and they can be eliminated by you, so you have some power over them. How can you use this to your best advantage during the tournament?

If you have a large stack, you should welcome confrontations with shorter stacks. This is not to say you should enter every pot with them, but often you will encounter a situation where you will raise, the short stack will go all in, and you will have to decide whether or not to call. If the call would cost less than 10% of your chips, you should always call, since even if you have a little bit the worst of it, your chances of eliminating a player and adding to your stack make it worthwhile.

If you are a medium stack, you should be aware that the short stacks may be looking for a place to move their chips in, especially if the blinds are getting high. Thus you should be wary about bluff raising if there are too many short stacks around, especially if their stacks are not quite so short that you can't be hurt by them. This especially applies to blind stealing. It may be that a short stack in the blind is pot committed and would have to call your raise with any two cards.

One play you might want to make is an attempt to isolate the short stack. For example, a short stack limps in or makes a small raise and another player calls in the mid to late stages of a tournament. You are in late position with pocket 7s. This may be a time to raise enough to put the short stack all in. Ideally, the short stack will feel pot committed and the caller will find the raise too rich to continue in the hand. If the caller comes over the top and re-raises you, you can safely fold your hand with the expectation that you are behind.

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