Basic Short Stack Strategy

Whether you are fairly new to poker, have played for a while with no training or direction, or are simply looking to rebuild your game, then the basic strategy is an excellent starting point for you. My goal is to provide you with a solid foundation based on core fundamentals with a “walk before you run” philosophy. No matter what your background is, the basic strategy is designed to overhaul your game instantly and get you on the right track to winning poker.

This easy-to-follow strategy allows you to begin playing immediately, and is designed to train your mind to think like a professional. The mere repetition of checking, betting, raising, or folding via the charts will begin to ingrain the fundamentals of correct play into your game. Several common leaks will be immediately fixed by using the basic strategy:

1. Poor positional play
2. Calling pre-flop raises incorrectly 3. Limpingweakhandsinallpositions 4. Passive play
5. Overplaying/underplayinghands

Keep in mind that the basic strategy is limited in its scope and will not by itself make you a winning player. It is not intended to be used long term or permanently by anyone. It is merely designed as a tool that gets you off and running toward building a sound poker game and will make the transition to more advanced and complicated play much smoother. I strongly advise against attempting to use it above the micro levels. That is not my purpose for developing it, nor should anyone expect it to take the place of diligence and hard work.

The strategy relies on charts that have you using a static method that plays the same, no matter the table dynamics. Ultimately, any rigid poker strategy will make your game exploitable to astute players. Nevertheless, at the micros, such a limitation is not as big a concern as just about any tight value-based system will work very well against non-attentive or inept players.

If you are an intermediate or advanced player who is familiar with using a HUD and forming reads on players, you may skip the beginner strategy altogether. However, if you are new to short stacking, I advise at least giving the beginner charts a spin before moving on. Mastering the basic strategy will lessen the learning curve of the intermediate strategy significantly.

Basic Charts

I have consolidated the entire basic strategy into two simple charts that cover both pre-flop and post- flop play. When it is your turn to act, you simply refer to the correct chart depending on what stage of the hand you are in. The charts will tell you what action to perform, whether it be check, bet, or raise. They even tell you how much to bet.

In order to use the charts effectively, you are required to have some general poker knowledge. For use of the pre-flop chart, you will be required to have some understanding of starting hands and positions. For the post-flop chart, you will need to be able to classify the strength of your hand.

No matter what your skill level is, you will want to spend some time learning how each chart works. Don’tworryiftheylookconfusingatfirst,asIwillwalkyouthroughhowtousethemstep-by-step. I will also provide numerous examples and a quiz to get your feet wet before you take them to actual play.

Let’s look at the pre-flop chart first:

Abbreviations: For raise sizing, x means times the big blind. For example, 3x means 3 times the big blind. So if you are in a .05/.10 game and the chart tells you to raise 3x, you would make it .30. Axs means all suited hands that include an Ace.

On any given hand, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Find your hand in the far left column. If your hand is not listed, you will never be playing it unless you are given the option to check in the big blind.

Step 2: Using the row your hand is located in, identify the situation you are facing in column two. The pot will either be unopened and folded to you, unopened with limpers, raised, or 3- bet.

Step 3: Find the column corresponding with your position and perform the action in the appropriate box. If facing a steal, use the “Vs Stl” column. If the pot is reraised before action gets to you, only commit with QQ+ and AK. If facing an open shove in the big blind, call with tier 3 and better hands (77+, AJo+).

While looking at the chart, take this short quiz in order to familiarize yourself with it. Answers are found in the appendix.

  1. You pick upA♦Q♦UTGina.05/.10game. What do you do?
  2. UTG limps. You pick up 8♣8♥ in the CO. How do you proceed?
  3. You are playing 20NL and pick up 9♣6♣ in the small blind. It folds to you. What is the correct play?
  4. You open A♠Q♦ in the HJ for 2bbs. The SB 3-bets to 6bbs. What is the correct play?
  5. Three players limp. You are in the SB and look down at a pair of fives. What do you do?
  6. You look down at 4♥4♣ UTG. What amount do you open raise to?
  7. It folds to you in the SB, and you look down at J♦8♠. What’s the correct play?
  8. You wake up with K♠K♣ in the CO. There are 2 limpers; what do you do?
  9. The player in the HJ raises to 3bbs, and the SB 3-bets to 11bbs. You have J♠J♦ in the BB; what’s the best play?
  10. There are 2 limpers, and you have A♥8♥ in the SB. Do you limp or shove?
  11. It folds to you in the SB, and you have K♠Q♠. What do you do?
  12. You have 7♥7♠ in the CO, and the HJ player has limped in. What’s the correct move?
  13. The Button raises to 4bbs, and you pick up A♣A♠ in the big blind. How do you proceed?
  14. You have 3♠3♣ in the CO after the HJ limps. What to do?
  15. It folds to you in the HJ, and you have K♣J♥. What’s the best play?
  16. You are in the big blind with 6♣6♥, and the button open shoves. The small blind folds; do you call or fold?
  1. You are in the small blind with 2♠2♥. Two players limp before it gets to you; what do you do?
  2. It folds to you in the small blind in a 5NL game, and you raise to .15 with A♦T♦. The big blind 3-bets you to .40; how do you react?
  3. The player in the cutoff raises to 3x, and you have K♦Q♠ on the button. What’s the correct play?
  4. In a 10NL game, the UTG player raises to .30, and the cutoff 3-bets to .90. You pick up A♣K♦ on the button; what do you do?

There are three sub charts built into the chart, depending on the situation going into the flop. Since you will never be calling a pre-flop raise using the basic strategy, you will either go to the flop as the pre-flop raiser, or it will be a limped pot (LP= Limped Pot).

  1. Initiative: As the pre-flop raiser use this section whether you are acting first, checked to, or bet into.
  2. LP Option: In limped pots, use this section if you are first to act, or the small blind has checked to you after the flop.
  3. LP Facing Bet: Use this section in limped pots when facing a bet.

For post-flop play, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Choose the correct section based on the situation.

Step 2: Identify the value or tier of your hand, and choose the correct row. Step 3: Perform the action in the corresponding box on a street-by-street basis.

Each street is set up in an X/X format. Before the slash is your action, and after the slash is your reaction. For example, let’s say you get to the flop in a hand, and the chart says BET 1⁄2 POT/JAM. If it is your option, you would bet half the size of the pot. If you were bet into, you would shove all-in. If your bet were to get raised, you would shove all-in or call a shove. Donk bets or leads when you went to the flop with initiative should be handled by the “if raised” action. The “LP Facing Bet” section is not in the x/x format, as it always requires a reaction and never has you acting first. ~ means that you are betting or raising with the intention of shoving the next street no matter what comes.

Take this short quiz as practice to sharpen your understanding of the post-flop chart. Use the chart as you go and record your answers. Answers are found in the appendix.

  1. You are playing 10NL. It folds to you, and you raise the button to .20 with 8♦7♣. You are flatted by the small blind; the pot is .50. The flop comes A♥4♠8♣. The SB checks to you; what is your play?
  2. The blinds are .25/.50. You are in the big blind with T♣9♣. Three players limp, and you check your option. The pot is 2.25, and the flop comes 9♦T♦5♥. You are first to act; what do you do?
  3. In a $50NL game, you open for $1.00 in the cutoff with J♥T♣ and get flatted by both blinds. The effective stack is $15.00. The flop is T♥9♣2♥ with a pot of $3.00. Both opponents check. You decide that you have a tier two hand, so you check the chart under the “Initiative” section and see thattheappropriateactionistobet1/4stackontheflopwithaplanofshovinganyturn. Youbet $3.50, and after the small blind folds, the big blind min-raises to $7.00. What is your play?
  4. You raise A♣Q♥ under the gun and get flatted by the button. You lead for half pot into a K♠Q♦7♣ flop, and the button raises. What to do?
  5. You open for 2bbs with J♠7♠ in the small blind and get flatted by the big blind. The flop is T♥7♦2♣, and you lead out for two big blinds. The big blind calls, and the turn is a 3♣. You bet 3 big blinds, and the big blind calls. The river is a J♥, giving you two pair. What to do?
  6. TheHJ,CO,andSBlimps. YoucheckA♠3♠fromthebigblind. Theflopcomes6♠J♣2♠,and the small blind leads out for pot. What do you do?

7. The UTG and HJ players limp. You limp 4♥4♠ in the SB, and the BB checks. The flop is 4♣7♦T♦. You bet full pot and only the HJ calls. The turn is the A♦, and you bet 3/4 pot. Once you get called by the HJ, the river is the 8♦. What is the correct thing to do?

  1. You open for 3bbs with A♥J♥ from the HJ and get called by the small blind. The effective stack is 39 big blinds on the flop. The flop is 2♥7♥7♣, and it checks to you. You decide to c-bet. How many big blinds do you bet?
  2. You open 9♥8♣ in the small blind and get flatted by the big blind. The flop is A♦8♠4♣. You bet 2 big blinds, and the big blind calls. The turn is a 9♣, and you fire 3/4 pot. The river is an A♥. What is your line?
  3. You open A♦K♠ UTG, and get flatted by the cutoff and button. The flop is 8♣4♠2♦. You lead out for half pot, and only the button calls. The turn is the 2♥. You check and the button checks. The river is a Q♥. What do you do?

You should now have a firm grasp on how to use the basic charts. For more practice, I would suggest loading up some play money tables and playing a few hundred hands. You want to make sure you have a good feel for the charts before moving on to real money tables. The following FAQ should clear up most of any remaining questions you may have.

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