10 More Essential Hold’em Moves: Push/Fold Strategy

Chips
When you're shortstacked you have to make every chip count.

There’s no simple fix for becoming a winning poker player but there are a handful of simple, easy-to-execute poker moves that can make a world of difference to your bottom line.

By fine-tuning these tactics you’ll have more tools to put to work at the poker table. You’ll be able to better understand your opponents and how to manipulate them, and that will translate directly to money in your pocket.

We already wrote the book on the 10 Essential Texas Hold’em Moves and now we’re back to bring you 10 more.

Today we’re looking at how to play shortstacked by using push/fold strategy, sometimes called “all-in or fold”.

By cutting down your options to just two simple moves you’ll give yourself the best chance of getting back on your feet and making a deep run in the tournament.

By moving all-in and folding at the right times you will:

  • Use your stack effectively to pick up blinds and antes
  • Avoid losing valuable chips by limping or raising only to fold later in the hand
  • Make your double-ups count
Chips
Don't let a short stack stop you from doing big things.
 

The What: Push/Fold strategy is exactly what it sounds like: Reducing your list of options to either moving all-in or folding your hand before the flop.

The Why: When your stack gets below 10 big blinds you can no longer afford to spend chips by limping or raising, only to fold later in the hand. By only moving all-in or folding you can make full use of what few chips you have.

The Where: All-in or fold strategy is used in tournaments and sit and go’s, where shortstack situations are common due to rising blinds.

The When: Push/Fold poker strategy comes into play when you have 10 big blinds or less.

Push/Folding the Right Way

As a beginner poker player you should always try to make your decisions as easy and straightforward as possible.

All-in or fold strategy takes that idea to heart and by understanding a few simple concepts you’ll be able to use it to make better decisions when you’re shortstacked in poker tournaments.

The definition of “shortstacked” changes depending on who you ask but it’s generally accepted that if you have ten big blinds or less, you’re short.

You should know how big your stack is relative to the blinds AT ALL TIMES but ten big blinds is an especially important benchmark to be aware of.

Pro Tip

To better understand your stack size taking into account blinds and antes, learn to calculate your M-Ratio, a model developed by former world champion Dan Harrington as part of his Zone System.

Why is All-In Better than Raise?

As a shortstack your biggest concern is survival and the best way to do that is to avoid confrontation.

Jakastack
You need to be familiar with playing the shortstack.
 

Imagine you have ten big blinds and it folds to you on the button. You raise a standard 3x and the big blind looks down at T J.

Many players would call your 3x raise with that hand, but fold had you moved all-in for the full ten big blinds.

Unless you have a monster hand like pocket aces or kings, it’s preferable for your opponents to fold and for you to take down the blinds and antes.

Stealing Your Way to a Big Stack

Instead of trying to double-up with an all-in when you’re short you can build your stack by using position and aggression to win the blinds and antes.

In an ideal world all your opponents would be tight-passive players that fold everything but the biggest hands, regardless of rising blinds and dwindling stacks.

But your opponents understand that they can’t afford to sit around and wait for a hand that may or may not appear, and so should you.

Consider these important factors when deciding to move all-in or fold:

  • You should always be the first player into the pot unless you have a premium hand and want to get called.
  • The better your position, the more hands you can shove with.
  • If you’re up against loose players or big stacks in the blinds, tighten up your shoving range. If the blinds are tight and only calling with premium hands loosen up.
  • Unless you have a monster hand winning the blinds and antes is preferable to risking elimination.

Push/Fold Strategy on the Bubble

The most important exception to basic push/fold poker is when you’re on the bubble of a tournament or sit and go.

Because of the massive equity difference between bubbling and making the money you need a much bigger edge to justify risking elimination with an all-in.

This concept is best illustrated by the math formula known as the Independent Chip Model (ICM) but as a beginner all you need to know is that if you’re moving all-in or calling all-in on the bubble, you should have a very good reason.

If you think you’re flipping a coin just fold and wait for a better spot.

Read More Essential Texas Hold'em Moves:

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