The blinds are increasing, the cards are cold, and your chip stack is dwindling. Many players find themselves in this situation throughout a tournament. The difference among these players is how they try to recover from these dire straits.
Some players will try to get clever and steal a few pots. This tactic works fairly well, as long as your opponents don’t pick up a hand. Others continue to wait for a good hand to make a move on. That move can work as well. But, when nothing is working and your chip stack is shrinking, you eventually have to just push the chips forward. Timing is everything when you make this move, and is often an elusive quality.
The first thing I do when picking a time to go all-in is choosing a round during which I go all-in. The size of the big blind relative to my chip stack is the deciding factor here. Normally, I will commit myself to going all-in during a round when my chip stack is four to seven times the big blind. Any higher, and I can afford the luxury of waiting for a hand. Any lower, and everybody at the table will have an incentive to call.
During the round in which I have already committed myself to going all-in, I first try to pick up a hand. However, if I don’t pick up any decent hand to go all-in with, I will always go all-in, without fail, under the gun. At this point, I figure that I am going to have to get extremely lucky to survive, as if I wait for the big blind, any players who limped in will have the odds to call with just about any hand. When you’re all-in you want to play against as few hands as possible to limit the number of cards that can put you out.
Going all-in under the gun helps to achieve that goal. By acting first and going all-in here, you force the other players to make a decision. Many conservative players will fold here, assuming that you have a good hand. Sometimes, they may even throw Ace-Rag away, which will definitely help you out. This leaves you facing a small amount of either decent hands, or players willing to risk a very small amount of their stack to knock you out of the tournament.
Assuming you don’t have the best hand, which in most cases, you won’t, the only thing left to do is get lucky. I’ve gone all-in under the gun with any hand I’ve picked up, including 94o, 82s, and Q5o. Most recently, I tripled up with 97s when I caught a 9 and beat my opponents’ KJ and A10. I got knock out a few hands later when I picked up KQ, but that is irrelevant to this article.
As I said earlier, once you’re down to this situation, you need to get lucky, so the best thing you can do is knock as many hands out of play as you can. Going all-in under the gun is in my opinion, one of the best ways to do that. I’ve had success doing this, especially in shorthanded games. This has led to under the gun being my favorite position to go all-in at when my chip stack is low. So next time you’re short-stacked and facing a swift defeat, give this trick a try.