Playing a 20 BB Stack

December 14, 2009 |

If you frequently read poker articles, watch poker strategy videos, or simply watch professionals on television; you are probably well aware of the 10 BB (big blind) rule in poker. If you are not then let me give a brief insight into pokers golden rule. The 10 BB rule comes into play when you are in a tournament with only 10 big blinds (obviously, right). When you are in this situation, the rule is that you are either to move all in with your short stack, or simply fold. There is no grey area in this situation. Well, what about the 20 BB stack? What are you supposed to do when you are this situation you may ask. How are you supposed to play certain hands and situations? I have some theories on the 20 big blind stack, and hopefully they can help you along the way. Let me give you my opinion on some situations that I have come across.

Like I said earlier when you have 10 big blinds you really only have two plays to make. All in or fold. The 20 big blind stack gets a little trickier than that. For this article we are going to assume that every situation has 9 players which is the standard for most multi table tournaments. First off I am going to discuss playing from ‘under the gun’, and early positions. Now some of you may disagree with what I say, but let me try to explain myself the best I can. When playing from an early position with only 20 BB, you have to make your best decisions when you are in this situation.

Let’s say you are dealt AQ, AJ, 88 or better in early position. With hands like this I feel it’s okay to open 2.5x the big blind, and play the hand from there. If you are faced with a raise you must be cautious. Study the person who is making the raise against you as this will help you make a tough decision. If the players stats are ‘fish’ like or if he has been playing extra aggressive then your 88, AQ may be good in this spot. If the player has been playing tight then maybe your AQ or 88 is dominated by a stronger hand, and it’s best to get out of the way. Now let’s try some different hands from early position, and see what kind of solutions we can come up with.

When you are dealt hands like AK, JJ or better then it’s defiantly okay to make a standard raise like you did with the hands I mentioned earlier. But I also have a theory behind a different kind of play. When I am dealt AK, JJ, QQ, or sometimes KK, AA; I prefer to simply to move all in. I do this for a couple reasons. I would move all in with JJ, QQ, or AK because I do not want to see a flop with my stack. For instance, if I were to open with either of three hands I just spoke of then I am risking missing the flop. When I raise with JJ, QQ, I am taking the risks of being out flopped by weaker calling hands; hands like AJ, KQ. If I were to move all in then those hands would most likely fold, and I would scoop the pot. If I were to get called by a stronger hand when I move all in, then I just tip my hat to the other player for waking up a with bigger monster. I don’t mind moving all in, because 20 BB isn’t many chips to messing around with in the first place.

Now I would like to discuss playing the 20 BB from the button, cut-off, and the blinds. When the action is folded to you, and you are sitting in one of these positions then I feel that moving all-in is a very effective tool. Hands like AJ+, 77+, and possibly even A 10 are greats hands to make a move all in with. Much like the situations earlier, I do not want to see a flop when I only have 20 BB and a hand like AJ. I would much rather take down the blinds by moving all in and if were to get called behind, I normally wouldn’t be in that bad of shape to ship the pot. Yes, sometimes you may be dominated when making this move but to me that’s just being unlucky. With 9 players at the table, AJ is usually the best starting hand. When you only have the blinds to deal with you already increased your chances of holding the best hand. This is why I feel the all in can be used effectively when you are holding only 20 BB in chips. Also, if you are in the blinds with 20 BB; this is great spot for you to move all in on players that are raising your blinds from late position. If a player consistently raises your big blind from the cut-off or button, then maybe it’s time for to take a stand with a mediocre hand.

I hope some of these tips will come into play when you’re in your next multi-table tournament. Remember, if all else fails, just run good.

Craig Fleck

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