When you’re playing a multi-table tournament at one of your favorite online poker sites, it’s never fun getting into stack situations that leave you with a plethora of awkward decisions; can I open here, or is someone going to pick on me and three bet? Or should I just shove 44 UTG? I only have 13 big blinds left, isn’t it time for a move? Those questions are very tricky and table dependent to answer, but there are a few things you can do to help deal with the awkward stack phase of a tournament,
First and foremost, make it a goal to find a way out of the awkward stack phase as quickly as possible. When you have an M between 4 and 9, you’re in that valley of stacks that can’t really do much more than resteal shove and open/call or even just open shove. Most of the time, this is where aspiring tournament players completely collapse as players. They do one of two things routinely; tighten up until the find a monster hand to shove with, or immediately begin looking for any excuse to shove all-in and blind steal until they get back above M10.
The super tight method is guaranteed to keep you stuck in awkward stack limbo until the end of the tournament, especially if you’re playing at US friendly online poker sites which tend to have stiffer competition that will attack your stack relentlessly. If everyone folds to me on the cutoff and I have 89h and a M5 stack (t15,000 at t1,000/t2,000) I’m getting my stack in there and hoping to take down the blinds and pick up 20% to my stack. If I do get called, I have a robust hand that plays well against many of the hands that may be looking me up in this spot, like dry aces, broadway hands, and small pocket pairs, giving me a fair shot to double into a playable stack. If I keep folding hands like that, when I finally do find a hand an orbit and a blind increase later, I’m happy to shove 1010 with my last t12,000, but with the blinds up to t1,500/t3,000, I’m going to get called lighter, and doubling up still leaves me with an M right around 5; putting me right back where I started.
The hyper aggressive shoving method does one thing that helps and one thing that hurts a lot; you’ll start stealing blind the first one or two times you do it. Then you’re going to begin to get looked up with a much wider range from that point on in the tournament, meaning if your table doesn’t break, your ability to steal will be almost completely worthless from that point on. Being able to steal blinds while mixing in good hands is a nifty play to have in your arsenal, and while blindly shoving all in three consecutive hands in a row to boost up your M helps, getting called by A8 when you’re shipping with A2 is a bad scenario; if you had a tighter image when you shipped the A2, you’re ore likely to get by the A8 and the nightmare dominated scenario that you face there. Be aware of your awkward stack, and play aggressively, but with a degree of caution with it, and you’ll find your way out of it.