Defending the Blinds in Poker Tournaments

Becoming a successful tournament player takes a wide array of skills but one of the most critical is defending the blinds. In an environment where survival is essential and stealing blinds and antes are imperative, a tournament player needs to know how, when and why they need to be defending their blinds properly. In this post, we’re going to share some helpful pointers on the how, when and why so you will be prepared next time you register for a tournament.

Why is Defending the Blinds Important?

To generate a decent ROI and ITM rate in mtts won’t just come down to luck in winning all in pre-flops or ability to play post-flop poker well. A big part of it is based upon your knack for picking up chips in “boring” or non-interesting scenarios. One of these scenarios is playing from the blinds, or big blind to be more specific. Contesting these pots are what will keep your stack healthy, ticking along and surviving the constant pressure from the increased blinds and antes. 

If you just play super tight from the blinds you are missing potential value and also giving your opponents an easy time. Even the most basic of poker players will recognise a weak tight big blind tendency and will abuse you every round.

By staying active in and protecting your big blind you will also deter some players from trying to steal from you. This is of great value as it means you will get more walks or play more blinds battles – which are fine when you’re the one in position.

How to Defend Your Blinds

Defending the blinds is achieved by one of two actions; calling a raise and playing post flop or 3 betting your opponent. Which option you choose should be based upon your opponents likely range of hands (based on seat and style), the amount it costs you to call, the stage of the tournament, your opponent’s playing style, the calibre of your opponent, the relative stack sizes and the type of hand you have. It probably sounds more complicated than it is so let’s take a look at an example to better illustrate.

Example of Defending Blind Defence & Analysis

Blinds: 1,000/2,000 and an ante of 250 at a 9 handed table. It folds to the cut-off who is tight aggressive but employs too much pot control post-flop. He raises to 4,500 and it folds to you in the big blind. He has 68,000 and you have 57,000.

Now let’s analyse the information we have already:

  1. Neither of us are short stacked yet (both > 28 big blinds)
  2. We are getting a great price to call (2,500 for a pot of 9,750). Some quick maths shows we only need around 20% equity to make the call.
  3. We have an opponent who is likely to be opening wide
  4. We are facing a moderately tough opponent but one who has a tendency to check post-flop a lot

Post Flop Play for Defending the Blinds

Armed with information above, we should be calling pretty wide here. We are a little too deep stacked to profitably 3 bet all in with anything less than top tier hands. Against this type of opponent, we know he will probably c-bet most flops if he misses but he will also c-bet if he makes a hand he will go with. A flop check from our opponent is likely to be mean a hand with showdown value or a bluff catcher like bottom pair or second pair. With these assumptions in place, we can now make some plans post-flop.

1) If we flop a draw we could try to check-raise and get it all in
2) If we miss entirely, we can check and consider barrelling turn and river if he checks back flop. There is no use betting just turn though as we know he probably is pot controlling
3) If we flop a medium strength hand, we can check/call flop and see how he proceeds on turn and river. Most TAGs won’t fire turn and river with these stack sizes unless he has “it”.
4) If we flop a monster hand, we can check/call flop then check turn hoping he has a hand. If he checks back flop, we can bet turn and put in a small value bet on river, enticing him to call with his bluff catchers.

Hands to Defend the Blinds with

Notice in the example above we didn’t even discuss hands – we already had plans based on the information we have. I know many of you will be specifically interested in what hands are valuable in blinds defence and which aren’t. First things first, the size of your opponents raise should influence your calling range. If they are open raising larger then 2.5 or 3 big blinds, you are getting weaker odds so you can’t profitably defend with the weaker hands. The opposite is true if they are raising smaller. A min raise from a weak opponent should be defended very liberally. After all, you can expect to win some pots post-flop which will compensate for your weaker hands too.

The images below are a guide on the types of hands you may want to call raises with. Please note that for simplicity I’ve not even gone into the player type, position or relative stack sizes. This is only on a standard assumption of a late position small raise (2.2 x bb). The hands in blue are certainly candidates for blinds defence and you could even mix in some other hands like the suited kings.

If you are not prepared to at least defend with the hands below, you may as well quit tournaments and play casino games at places that recommend.

When to Defend

We’ve covered why and how so now we need to handle when to defend the blinds. Basically, you want to defend when your stack size permits and when the odds of calling with your hand versus the opponent is likely to be profitable in the long run.

A hand like K7 off suit against a tough player who has raised 3 big blinds is unlikely to be profitable for you, particularly if you’re under 25 big blinds. You’re not getting amazing odds to defend, you’ll be out of position against a tough opponent and your hand doesn’t play well post-flop either.

Jack nine suited with 40 big blinds against an average opponent who has raised the 2.2 times the blinds will yield a positive return in the run. You will easily have enough equity to continue and you will have a better chance at winning some pots without contest post-flop.

Defending the big blind is more of a middle and late tournament strategy concept. In the early stages, you can play more conservatively if you prefer. There are no antes involved and giving up 25 or 50 chips is insignificant. The more experienced and competent you are post-flop, the earlier the stage of tournament you will probably defend. I recommend waiting until the antes kick in before actively defending your blinds. Until then it’s not as important.

If you are keen to improve your tournament play, why not join our training video membership? There are plenty of tournament videos. Membership is only £6 per month and you can trial it for free too.

4 Bet Poker – The Basics

4 Bet Poker

In an ever-increasing aggressive poker environment, new moves and strategies must be introduced to keep yourself ahead of the competition. The 4 bet is just one of the many plays you can use to counter aggressive opponents. In this article, we’ll look at what a 4 bet is, how to use it and considerations to factor in.  

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question 

What is a 4 Bet? 

A 4 bet is where there’s been a pre-flop raise, a re-raise (aka 3 bet) and then another raise on top. The 4th raise hence 4 bet.  

What Does a 4 Bet Mean?

Generally speaking, a 4 bet preflop is a significant sign of strength. You’re basically telling your opponent you have a monster hand like aces or kings and prepared to commit pre-flop if need be. Therefore, you are representing pocket aces or kings. This can be widened when the pre-flop raises are later position, but it is what your opponents think you’re representing when you do this. 

Years ago, it’s fair to say a 4 bet was aces, kings or big slick. However, as online poker has become more aggressive, people are more inclined to try bluffs and exploit opponents who are very aggressive pre-flop. As with any bluff, there are factors you need to consider before trying this play. 

Things to Consider when 4 Betting Lightly

A 4 bet is usually made for value, there are times to consider doing so as bluff. Context is everything in poker, as it is with the 4 bet.

How Active is Your Opponent?

Before throwing in a 4 bet willy nilly, you really need to weigh up how active your opponent is. What’s the HUD stats tell you? Does he have a high 3 bet %? Is he very aggressive? It’s all well and good trying to put a 4 bet in but if it’s against someone who is only 3 betting the best hands, there’s no point trying a bluff is there?

What’s the Stack Sizes Like?

As with most poker decisions, the stack size of you and your opponent are a relevant factor. If your opponent’s 3 bet has essentially pot committed him, then there is really no point trying to pull a 4 bet bluff. Secondly, if he’s pot committed he’s unlikely to have done it lightly in the first place. However, if effective stacks are deep, you have more flexibility and potentially get away with a light 4 bet.

What is Your Table Image Like?

In live poker, table image goes a long way. People are one tabling and will pick up on things far easier than if they are 4 tabling. If your table image is poor, it makes a 4 bet bluff much harder to get through. Do you really think someone will fold a decent pair or big ace if you’ve been seen showing down bluffs or making light re-raises?

Whilst online poker has less emphasis on your table image, people use HUDs and will notice if you’ve been active pre-flop too. Therefore, your 4 bet is more likely to work if your perceived image is solid.

The Positions Involved

The positions of the players involved in the hand are possibly the more important part to factor. An under the gun raise, followed by an under the gun +1 3bet is almost never a bluff. Conversely, a cut-off open and button 3 bet is far more likely to be wider ranges. This is an incredibly important thing to bear in mind when deciding to 4 bet bluff or not.

Do You Have Blockers?

Holding a hand containing an ace or paint cards like king queen are useful. They provide blockers to your opponents possible hands and make hands like pocket aces through to queens less likely.

Final Thoughts

4 Betting is going to be for value the vast majority of the time. Please don’t go into your next session 4 betting all over the place as you will lose money, guaranteed. I hope this article gives you pause for thought next time you’ve been 3 bet or seen a 3 bet ahead of you. Weigh up the context of the hand. Facing opponents that are active, prone to pre-flop aggression, deep stacked and likely to respect your 4 bet, go for it. If you have very few of these options, don’t get involved.

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d enjoy our article on min raising, small ball or 3 bet?

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“M” Poker Ratio for Tournaments

M Poker Ratio

Tournament poker can be very complex can’t it? There are so many aspects to tournament poker and very few all encompassing strategies. This is where “M” can help you. It’s a tournament poker concept that was named after the late Paul Magriel Jr, a professional poker player and author. In this article, we will explain the meaning of M poker, highlight its value in tournaments and hopefully provide some food for thought for you moving forward.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What does M-ratio mean in poker?

M Ratio is a measurement of how healthy our stack is relative to the blinds and antes. It’s basically a measurement of how long you can last before being blinded out of the tournament.

How Do I Calculate M-Ratio?

To calculate your M poker ratio. You simply divide your stack by the blinds and a full round of antes. So, if you have 25,000 and the blinds are 600/1,200 with an ante of 60 at a full ring table, your M would be 10.6 (25,000/ 600 + 1,200 + 540).

M poker

How Tournament Poker Strategy Changes Based on Your M

The value of knowing your M is that it helps your overall mentality, at a given time in the tournament. In theory, the healthier your stack, the more flexibility you have. You can play aggressively or conservatively. Dan Harrington’s tournament poker books identified various zones in which the value of M fit into. These zones help define the strategy one could employ to help their chances.

Value 20 + [Green Zone]

Wouldn’t it be lovely to always live in this zone? This is deep stack poker playing and allows you to pick and choose the hands you play. You can play suited connectors, set mine and make speculative plays. A little hit to your stack won’t cripple you.

Value 10 to 19 [Yellow Zone]

The blinds and antes put a bit more pressure on you here. You can’t get away with quite as many speculative calls but you’re still doing ok. No need to panic yet in this zone.

Value 6 to 9 [Orange Zone]

You can’t waste any chips here. Flat calling raises is out of the question. Every steal represents a decent increase to our stack so first in mentality is paramount. We won’t have to open shove just yet though.

Value 1 to 5 [Red Zone]

Time to start shoving. We have very little fold equity and need to get our chips in. It’s better to be the one shoving but either way, we need to be all in or folding.

Value under 1 [Dead Zone]

No fold equity and very little chips. Even a double up won’t be of much value. This is the zone we want to avoid at all costs as we are going to have to get lucky several times.

Final Thoughts on M Poker Ratio for Tournaments

Knowing your “M” is a great way to measure your stack and assess how you’re doing. It’s a really useful tool for tournament players who perhaps don’t realise how deep their stack size is. Sometimes you see tens of thousands and think you’re doing well. In reality, you may actually be desperate and need to be playing push fold poker.

I can attest to the value of using M in tournaments. I used to always have my calculator with me, working out what my M is and how I should be playing. With experience, you know it intuitively and there’s less need to stick to it religiously.

It’s also worth pointing out that “M” poker was coined decades ago and primarily for poker in casinos. Live poker was often slower and deeper stacked play. In online poker, stacks are generally more shallow and blinds go up quicker. The strategy still holds up pretty well today but it’s good to be aware of it’s limitations too.

If you are looking to improve your tournament game and open to poker training, why not trial our poker mentor service? You can also email me directly at or book in a free 30 minute consultation by clicking below.

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d be interested in reading our ITM poker ratio or tournament poker strategy article?

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Pocket Jacks – Tips for Beginners

Pocket Jacks

It has to be the hand players complain the most about. I’ve had many discussions with players over pocket jacks. They’ve ranged from questioning whether they should be folded to a 4 bet to should they be played for set value only. Many players seem to have a phobia about pocket jacks. I think a lot of it stems from players stubbornness, an unwillingness to fold strong hands. This causes them to lose more than they should with a strong, but very beatable hand. This article will cover everything a beginner needs to know about a pair of fish hooks in Texas Hold’em.

Pocket Jacks Odds

Over-card will flop57%
Ahead of smaller pairs80%
Chance of beating a higher pocket pair19%
Beating a random hand77%
Against two over-cards52%

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

How Often Will I be Dealt Jacks?

You can expect to be dealt pocket jacks approximately 0.45% of the time or 1 in 221 hands.

Why Do People Hate Pocket Jacks?

Players like poker to be simple, straightforward and easy. Sadly, this is rarely the case, particularly when you hold pocket jacks. People don’t like being in awkward situations and have tough decision. That’s logical isn’t it? Do you want easier decisions or tough ones? It’s a no brainer. When you’re holding a pair of jacks, a higher card will flop over ½ the time. The problem with this is that people like big cards. They are the most favourable hands to play in Texas Hold’em. Therefore, people get concerned, and rightly so to some extent, that their jacks are already beat.

Tips How to Play Pocket Jacks

Exercise caution and pot control

If you lose lots of money with jacks, try playing a bit more careful. Perhaps you’ve been overplaying them. If it’s an early position raise, perhaps just flat call and take a flop? If you’ve flopped an overpair, perhaps just flat call on the flop instead of raising? Pot control can be a fantastic thing. You can bluff catch, bet for value later and save money if you’re beat too.

Consider the information first

Context is extremely important in poker. Rather than thinking “I’ve got pocket jacks, I’m doing X”, consider who is raising, what position, how many big blinds etc. You don’t need to rush to judgement. Take your time and consider the facts before making a rash decision.

Don’t worry about folding

If a dreaded over-card comes and you’re facing lots of aggression or been check raised, don’t be scared to fold. You are the only one that knows your cards. By the same token, if you’ve 3 bet a tight player and he’s jammed a deep stack, don’t be scared to fold just because you have a relatively big pair.


Pocket jacks is a strong hand in Texas Hold’em. There are only 3 higher pocket pairs so you rate to have the best hand before the flop most of the time you get them. Obviously, you need to be wary in a full ring, deep stacked game, but jacks should win you money in the long run. If you’re losing with this hand over a lot of hands, you need to reassess how you are playing them. We offer a hand history review service that can help you? You can book a session for £90. We’d be happy to look at this with you. Just email

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you would like to read our articles on pocket kings and big slick.

Min Raise Poker – Pros and Cons

Min Raise Poker

Open raising the minimum gained popularity a few years ago. It is twinned with the small ball tournament poker strategy that gained fame through Daniel Negreanu. Whilst it’s an effective and popular strategy for tournaments, it is widely accepted to have little to no merit in cash games. This article will focus on the pros and cons of min raise poker in tournaments.

Pros of Min Raise Poker

Cheaper Bluffs

Open raising for the minimum allows you to pull off cheaper steals. It’s great taking down a pot with little to no resistance and bluffing for the minimum is even better isn’t it? By min raising you can sometimes steal the blinds with a poor hand and get away with the cheapest of bluffs.

Shorter Stacks – Accomplishes the Same as Big Betting

If you have played many tournaments you will know that a lot of is played with shorter stacks than cash games. It’s not uncommon to play an entire tournament with between 15 and 30 big blinds. Open raising the minimum can be just as effective as open raising for 3 big blinds so why would you risk more? It’s common sense to risk less.

It Still Gets Respect

When online poker was booming, min raise poker looked the weakest thing ever. This has not been the case for a long time. People don’t perceive a min raise as weakness anymore. On the contrary, it can be seen as inviting action, particularly from early position.

More Poker Playing

Open raising double the blinds allows you to play more poker. It stands to reason if you are open raising 2 big blinds instead of 4 than you are going to be playing for smaller pots and have the potential to be involved more. This is definitely a pro if you are a better player than most at your table. After all, you want to play more hands with weaker players, right?

There’s Less Variance

The min raise poker style is likely to yield less variance in tournaments. Why? Well think about it, if you are min raising and playing more pots post flop, you are less likely to be involved in all in or fold mode. You are adopting a style that is risking little, not open raising for large % of your stack and committing your tournament life.

Cons of Min Raise Poker

More Multi-way Pots

Unfortunately, you can expect to play fewer pots heads up if you are min raising. You may think this is ok but mathematically speaking, the players involved, the lower your chances of winning the pot. It’s easier to knock one player our or have the better hand than 3 isn’t it? Multiway pots aren’t ideal, particularly if you are playing shorter stacks.

Opponents Can 3 Bet Cheaper (and lighter?)

This is anecdotal but I believe it to be true from my own experience. It’s true on the best bitcoin poker sites and real money poker sites. In many games, players are more inclined to 3 bet a min raise than a standard open. They know their 3 bet is costing them less. Consider the example below:

Open raise size at 500/1,000How much does it cost your opponent to 3 bet?
3,0008,000 – 9,000
2,0005,000 – 6,000

Consider, in the scenario above you are raising from early position. Your opponent thinks you’re weak and wants to 3 bet you. If the raise is 3,000, he knows it will cost at least 8,000 and may be put off. An opponent will be more inclined to 3 bet if he knows it can be achieved for 5,000 or 6,000.

It Gives the Big Blind Great Odds

Any poker player with sense will defend their big blind very wide against a min raise. This is especially true when there are antes. This is not a con for me personally – I want to play poker heads up in position. However, you are helping them play better, inviting them in with a very wide range of hands that can outdraw yours. It’s generally not a great idea to give good pot odds to your opponents. You want to force mistakes and min bets rarely accomplish this.

More Pots Out of Position

In a full ring game, min raises from early or middle position will often find you playing poker against someone in late position. This is far from ideal as you will be acting before them every round post flop. Decision making needs to be impeccable to turn a good win rate post flop when you’re playing with fewer chips than cash games. The truth is, min raises often get called by competent players in the cut-off or on the button.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are reasonable arguments for and against the min raise in poker. If you are thinking about adopting this style, please make sure you are consistent. There is no use min raising with weak and making it 4x with pocket kings. Even the most basic of players will pick up on this transparency. Instead, be consistent and committed to the style. Ensure you are not adopting a min bet style post flop as the two are widely different.

Poker from the Small Blind is the Worst

Small Blind Poker

Whether you are playing short-handed or full ring, you know the positions of the poker table. You probably have them grouped in your head “early, middle, late position and the blinds”. Have you given much thought about the small blind? How much do you win there? What strategy do you employ? Playing from the small blind is difficult for several reasons whether you know it or not. This article will explore why it’s challenging and why I think it’s the worst spot at the table.

Battling with the Big Blind

Blind battles are prevalent in both cash games and tournaments. The psychology involved in blind battles is almost as important as the quality of your hands. The problem is that being out of position from small blind puts you at the disadvantage. When it folds to you in the small blind you know you are getting a fantastic price to play the hand, regardless of your hand. This leads to many players opting to raise with junk in a bid to steal the pot. Here’s the problem, any half decent player knows this and is liable to defend or 3 bet with impunity. Then we are getting into the “I know that he knows that I know” to infinity…. This can potentially lead to a lot of unnecessarily large pots and lost money.

First to Act Every Round

You want to act last when you play poker don’t you? Well playing from the small blind means you are first to act, on every round of betting post flop. This is less than ideal to put it nicely and completely sucks to put it truthfully. You can’t pot control, extract full value or gain information when you are the first one to act all the time. You can throw in a check raise or try to trap an aggressive player but other than that, you’re pretty limited in what you can do. Gus Hansen’s style of donk leading into raiser’s is an interesting strategy but rarely the optimal play.


Of the 6 or 9 spots at the table, the small blind will be the one you lose the most money or win the least. Unless you’re very weak at some other spots at the table, then it’s almost certainly going to be the worst position from a win rate perspective. There are ways to mitigate your loss or help improve your win rate though. Without delving too much into technical poker here is a quick guide to help you:

  1. Throw away the hands that look pretty but play awful heads up e.g J 8s
  2. Adapt to who is in the big blind. If it’s a nit, steal. If it’s a LAG, play solid
  3. Play careful, let the strength of your hand do the work
  4. Limit your bluffing, when you don’t have someone checking to you, it’s harder to narrow ranges

Stealing the Blinds – How to do it in 2020 & Beyond

Stealing the Blinds

It’s one of the most important skills to develop as a tournament player – stealing the blinds. Players don’t seem bothered about stealing the blinds early on. However, soon as the blinds and antes rise and represent more value, the best players are fighting over them. It’s a skill that will help your in the money rate and ultimately your long-term profitability in tournament poker.

When I started playing online, it was a secretive thing that was not discussed. Most players did it without divulging the information. Even in live tournaments, you’d steal from the button, the big blind would show just an ace and you’d muck… but claim a better hand. Things are a little different now but it’s still a critical skill to learn and implement on European, Asian and USA friendly poker sites.

How Can I Keep Stealing the Blinds?

Sometimes stubbornness and being relentless is a good thing in poker. I see players attempt a couple of steals, get 3 bet and go into a shell. They have the mentality that they will tighten up, hope to get 3 bet again, yet still get paid. There are worse things to do but it’s not great strategy in my book (I haven’t actually authored a book yet!).

I always tell players to continue with what you think is right. People seem to forget the beauty of the small open raises. It allows you to raise more frequently as you need a lower success % for it to be profitable. Why bother raising so small if you are only doing it with the top 15% of hands? To answer the question though, we can try several things.

3 Bet the Cut-off from the Button

Players know that the button is the prime spot for stealing, so many players are widening their range from cut-off instead. It looks like threatening doesn’t it when you see a raise from there? Guess what? A lot of players know this and are effectively “stealing the button”. A simple counter play is to 3 bet from the button. The beauty in this play is that cards are almost irrelevant and it has a high success rate. Yes, there are players that pick up on this if you do it too much but these are few and far between. This works best against those who have demonstrated a lot of activity from the cut-off but even against solid players it can be profitable.

Consider a tight player in the cut-off with A-9. They will gladly open raise this but fold without question. The best part of the 3 bet in this spot is that most people are less inclined to play 3 bet pots out of position many will just fold pre flop.

Min Raise from Early Position

This is a tricky play that should be used sporadically and only with the right table makeup. A min raise from early position screams strength to most online players. They respect early position and the min raise too. By opening raising the minimum from under the gun, you are telling the table you want action and this sends alarm signals. You might be surprised how often this play will get through. Sometimes you get the big blind defend but even then, it’s ok, you have the perception of strength and position. A continuation bet will work a high amount of the time in this situation.

Attack the Small Blind

A great spot to pick up chips is actually in blind battles, specifically if you’re the big blind. The psychology involved in blind battles is fascinating but it boils down to aggression and position. If the small blind raises, you know, that he knows, you have a random hand and is likely stealing. Now you know that, you can just 3 bet him and likely win. What if he limps? Raise again, you know he probably would have raised himself if he had something so just bet and pick it up. Blind battles are less about hand strength and more about wanting that pot.

Take the Nothing Pots

Online poker may not be as easy as it was, but there is still a heck of a lot of favourable spots in tournaments. There is an abundance of nothing pots around. Pick them up throughout a tournament and you will increase your chances of success. It doesn’t take much, just bet at them and see.

Most players are not giving the game enough attention. Perhaps they see a 4 big blind pot and don’t care or maybe they are watching Netflix. They are probably playing too many tables and only playing their cards. Take advantage of these nothing pots. I mean the pots where it’s a limped pot, it’s checked round and maybe you’re in the big blind with nothing. Take a stab and win the free chips.

Don’t Stop Raising Your Button

The last tip I can give is the simplest of all. Don’t stop raising your button. Soon as you stop, you’re beat and only waiting for luck to help you. People may 3 bet you, but they won’t every time. If they start 3 betting too much, that’s fine, they are risking more than you are. You can choose to take a stand with a lesser hand and make him show you better or you can play patient.

The reality is, the small open raise is still incredibly profitable from the button. A competent post flop player won’t mind the blinds calling and is also happy to steal the blinds. Either way, you’re golden in the long run. Keep opening your button and don’t give up.

Stealing the Blinds Summary

Blind stealing is essential to being a successful tournament player. It reduces the variance and ensures you’re not just relying on good cards to see you through. The best tournament players are looking for profitable scenarios, not just profitable cards. This means thinking on your feet, adapting and perhaps being innovative. This may mean 3 betting the cutoff, trying a tricky minimum raise from early position or pounding on the small blind. These are all little strategies that you can incorporate into your game to help you have a better chance of surviving the increasing blinds.

If you enjoyed this article and want help with your tournament game. Feel free to trial our poker mentor service by email.

Image Source: Amanda Jones at Unsplash

Short Stack Poker Basic Tips

Short Stack Poker

Most poker players don’t want to play short stack poker. They know their edge increases on their opponents as their stacks do. Whilst a strong player can still have an edge with shorter stacks, it takes time and a lot of volume for it to bear fruit and help one’s ROI. Some players prefer playing a short stack. They know their push fold charts off by heart and decision making is easy. After all, your decisions are often limited to move all in or fold. Easy game huh? This article will look at some tips to help you play short stack poker well in the future.

The Stage of the Tournament

Some players will tell you that short stack poker strategy does not change, regardless of the stage of a tournament. I couldn’t disagree more. You’re not going to win every tournament, that’s a fact. Adjusting your strategy sometimes will help your ITM, ROI and ultimately your bankroll. If you are short stacked at Level 4, on the cash bubble or eeking up the final table money, your strategy should change. Everyone is playing poker to make money. Shoving A-9 off suit with 11 BBs at Level 4 seems fine because you’re far from the money and it’s a +EV move. However, it isn’t necessarily profitable to do on the bubble of cashing with 100 people left, or if you are close to making another $1K on a final table.  

First In & Fold Equity

An obvious tip when playing short stack poker but one never to be forgotten. Being first in is far more advantageous than calling all in. Fold equity is probably the most key concept to playing a short stack well. This is especially true later in the tournament with antes. Picking up a round of blinds and antes is essential to playing a short stack.

I would rather shove K8 off from small blind than Ace Ten from under the gun.

I know when I shove from early position on a full ring table, I am likely to get called. We must get our shove through the entire table or hope to get called by worse. When I shove from the small blind, I know it’s a random hand I am against and the chance of picking up the blinds and antes are increased significantly.

Calibre of Opponent

This is often overlooked by tournament experts but a useful tip to remember. If you are on a table of fishes, you should look to minimise your risk, stay in the game and chip up risk free where possible. Against experts, you can’t expect the same ease or comfort. Tournament professionals know how wide you are shoving and have adjusted their calling ranges. They won’t want to double you up lightly if you are a strong player but will also be keen to bully you so long as you short stacked. If you have your cards turned face up and have a 50% chance against an expert, you should take it.

If you are on a fishy table and are 52% to double up, you probably should turn it down. This may seem controversial, but you can sometimes chip up to average or better without being all in and called. I have accomplished this countless times in low stakes online tournaments.


Short stack poker is an eventuality in many tournaments you play. It’s an inconvenient reality due to the blinds, antes or losing key showdowns. You may skirt by playing an average and big stack well, but you should want to play short stacked poker well. It will help you in the long run and can turn tournaments you gave up on into winners.

This article has looked at a few easy to refer to tips. Consider the stage of tournament and whether it’s more profitable for you to be patient, whether you are first in or calling off your stack and whether the opponents at your table are generally bad or not. By adding weight to these factors, you will make better, more informed decisions that will help you make money.

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What Hands to Fold in Poker (2020)

Introduction to Folding

Knowing what hands to fold in poker doesn’t come easy to most players. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably concerned that you play too many hands, call too many raises speculatively or on the contrary, play too tight and need some guidance. We can’t all play like Phil Ivey or Tom Dwan and expect play a wide range of hands profitably. This article will give a basic guide on what hands to fold in poker.

Playing Situations, not Just Cards

Before I get into the hand groups you should be folding. Let me preface it by saying that, as your experience, table awareness and proficiency in Texas Hold’em develops, you will look for profitable situations instead of just playing solid poker hands. This is something I always tell players I mentor. But this article is designed to help those of you who are having difficulty with pre flop hand selection and want some general advice on what hands to fold in poker.

Ace Rag

Ace rag is almost definitely the most overplayed and overrated hand in Texas Holdem. Even professionals will occasionally overplay the ace if they’ve been dealt junk for hours. The truth is, unless you are in position or shorthanded, these hands are unlikely to make you any money or help build your stack much.

They don’t play particularly well post flop and you are unlikely to extract 3 streets of value if you make top pair. Sometimes when you think you will, you end up finding yourself beat by a bigger kicker.

Low Paint Cards

This may surprise you but the Queen Jack and King Jack hands are not as powerful as you think. Granted, you have two paint cards and have the opportunity to make straights. But, if you are calling raises with these hands, particularly against early position open raises, you are going to find yourself outkicked or against a higher pair.

If a strong player is opening from under the gun and you are tempted to play Queen Jack from the small blind, think again. The range of hands you are likely to be up against have Queen Jack in bad shape.

To make this clearer, if you are against an Ace Jack, Ace Queen or King Queen, you are approx. 25% to win the hand in a showdown. Let’s also not forget you do not have the pre flop lead.

Low Connectors

Hands like 4-5, 6-7 and 3-4 are hands to fold in poker. I make a distinction from suited as they play much better. The offsuit low connectors are unlikely to help your ROI. You may have seen some professionals call raises on High Stakes Poker with these hands. That doesn’t mean they were right to and it doesn’t mean you should. Unless you make a hand stronger than one pair, you are unlikely to feel secure with low connectors so just throw them away.

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Nit Poker is Losing Poker

What is a Nit in poker?

First of all, lets understand what nit poker is. A nit is a negative word that describes the tightest and most risk averse poker players around. It’s a term that can be heard in poker rooms all over the world. It can often be heard when a player loses action or folds a big hand and derides the opponent by calling him a nit.
A real nit is an insect that can be found on children’s heads. They are itchy, irritating and suck the blood out of the head. I am not sure why this was twinned with the most prudent of poker players? Nevertheless, this is what they are.

Nits Are Predictable

A nit is very easy to play against for several reasons. You know they won’t be bluffing; you know they only play a small range of hands and you know they won’t gamble. Poker is a game of missing information, with a nit, by process of elimination, you have a lot of information already. They play their range of hands and they play them the same way most of the time.

If you are playing predictably, you are making it easier for your opponents. This is contrary to what you are trying to achieve. You want to be difficult to read and to enforce errors from your opponents.

Nits Miss Out on Value

Due to the cautious nature of a nit, they will miss out on value a lot of the time. Even an intermediate player will be prepared to fold a strong hand if a nit is putting a lot of money in the pot. They also miss out on value by checking back hands they should be value betting or playing flop and turns cautiously when they should be betting and inflating the pot for value later.

Nits Are Restricted to Lower Stakes

A decade ago, nit poker may be enough to get you moving up the stakes. By employing a cautious style against players who multi-tabling and not paying attention, one could still have a decent win rate and move up stakes. This is simply not the case anymore. A nit can’t crush the mid stakes. As a result they are restricted to the lower stakes games. Players are better now than before. The game is always evolving and getting tougher. It’s survival of the fittest to get to the higher stakes. The fact is, nit poker won’t cut it in today’s poker world.

Nits Are More Likely to Get Bluffed

The range of a nit is well defined before you even get to a flop. An experienced player will know the range of hands you are playing from all positions at the table. As such, on certain board textures, they will abuse a nit. In deep stacked cash games, a nit may hold:


A nit will often fold this to a lot of pressure. An astute player reads them for a one pair hand, and liable to fold to big betting. The worst part is, the nit probably thinks they have made a good fold in this spot. In fact, they’ve been outplayed and lost money.

Nits Lack Ambition

This is a debatable point. It’s meant from a theoretical and intellectual point of view. Anyone employing a strategy that involves playing under 15% of hands are not very ambitious, in my humble opinion. Strong poker players are profitable precisely because they have played many hands in different scenarios. They are able to adapt to difficult situations.


I don’t mean to pass judgement on nit poker. I am simply highlighting the drawbacks of the nit poker style; how it is unlikely to generate much money in 2021 and beyond. There are games where nit poker will win you money and that’s fine. I am hoping to reach players out there that are keen to improve their game. I want them to understand that they can increase their earning potential and poker ability by modifying their strategy. My intention was not to upset anyone who identifies as a nit.

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