Tips for Managing a Tiny Chip Stack

When you are at the real money poker table, either in a poker tournament or a cash game, the choices that you make in your play will be dictated by the size of your stack of chips. The larger the size of your chip stack, the more freedom you have; when your stack dwindles, there may be situations where you only have one realistic choice.

One benefit about playing in a cash poker game is that there is frequently a maximum buy-in. If you find yourself on the losing end of a hand, you can still buy back up to the maximum and restore your stack. If you are in a cash game and have some skill, you should keep putting money in so that you can get close to the max buy-in.

Why? If you have money, you have what you need to take chips away from others. Chips are self-propagating: the more you have, the easier it is to make more. If you hit a full house, you want to have as many chips as you can in your stack.

But if you have a small stack of chips, because you’re either stuck in a cash game that doesn’t offer you the chance to buy more chips (or your cash stack is also dwindling), or because you’re in a tournament and looking to make a comeback, there are a few steps you can take to stop the bleeding…and start adding chips back.

Is the game getting aggressive right before the flop? You can buy in short and then try your best to go all-in either before the flop or on the flop itself.

A lot of players don’t view players with small stacks of chips as serious rivals and are often willing to pay you much more easily than they would if you had a bigger stack of chips. You will often see players with short stacks (15-35 BB) pushing every re-raise over until they either go bust or end up doubling up.

If your stack is a little larger, say 35-50 BB, then you’re actually at a level where you will find most online tournaments operating. You don’t have a lot of leeway when it comes to creativity before the flop.

You have to pay close attention to your hand selection. There is no freedom to base your strategy on implied odds; you have to go with what you see in front of you.

Your keys at this level would be hands such as Ace-King, Ace-Queen, King-Queen (top-pair hands), as well as big pocket pairs. When those hit the flop you have a fairly high percentage of winning. With your stack at this size, you have enough to raise pre-flop, make a bet at the flop and another one at the turn. If you do this, you won’t have much left for the river. So you’ll need to put your focus on hands which you can generally get in at the flop.

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