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Short Stacked Tournament Strategy – The Stop & Go

Short Stacked Tournament Strategy – The Stop & Go

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Short-stacked tournament play is every player’s nightmare. Ideally, one would never want to be in a position to have to resort to short-stacked tricks like the stop and go, but in real life, such situations will be quite frequent ones. The stop and go is not basic strategy, but it is nonetheless a rather simple and in the same time extremely useful concept. Beginners find it extremely difficult to tip-toe around with a short stack in tournaments. Mastering the stop and go will give these guys a more than welcome way to navigate the dire straits.

Before we delve any deeper into this issue, let’s make one thing straight from the beginning: the stop and go is meant to be used in tournaments primarily, and mostly when the player has a stack of about 5-10 BBs. The goal of the move is a simple one: it offers players the best chance of tournament survival, while forcing the opponent into a mistake. A stop and go can be considered successful when the player manages to make his opponent toss a hand into the muck past the flop, with which he would’ve made the call before it.

Poker players will agree that one of the worst things about being short-stacked is being bullied around by players with lesser hands, who gain this capability simply on account of their superior stacks. The stop and go represents an efficient way to fight back against such guys.

Let’s see the following example: with the blinds at 200/400 you’re in the BB with a stack of 3.2k chips and an A,Q and the hand gets folded around to the button. The guy in the button has position on you, he has the stack too: he has everything going for him, except for the pocket cards, which are probably weaker than yours. He has around 80k chips, so you’re really no match for him stack-wise. He knows that too, so he fires a $1.2k raise into you, basically leaving you with 2 options (since folding is pretty much out of the question here): going all-in immediately, or simply calling his raise. Most players would simply push all-in without a second thought and let the board decide the outcome. The problem with this approach is that the guy with the large-stack is likely to call such a shove with just about any two cards, given that he can certainly afford it. It would be the right move to make on his part too since preflop, no two random cards are particularly huge underdogs against a hand like A,Qo or even A,Ko. Calling will allow you to see the flop, and the flop adds a whole bunch of variables to the equation.

Now then, if you have reads on your opponent which tell you that he’s likely to fold it when re-raised preflop, by all means do it, but such situations are few and far between. The moment you make the 1.2k call, you pretty much commit to go all-in, which you will do on the flop. Any random flop will give you the opportunity to shove your remaining 2k into the middle in a meaningful way. After a random flop which completely misses his pocket cards, your opponent will be an even bigger underdog, and making the call at that point would be a mistake on his part, so if he’s any good of a player, he’ll be more likely to fold. Mission accomplished, and that right there is your successfully pulled-off stop and go.

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