STT Considerations - part 2

This article was posted on November 30, 2007

The second part of an STT tournament will usually be a short handed frenzy. I've heard people talk about short handed and long handed STTs. That kind of beats me why, because every STT (except heads-up ones) has both a short handed and a long handed stage. If you're not a good enough player you won't be around to see the short handed phase, but that doesn't mean it's not there.

Anyway, short handed STT play is no rocket science. The fewer people there are left around the table, the more aggressive you have to be, for several reasons. First of all, if the game becomes short-handed, that means it's nearing its final stages, which also means that it's probably been going on for a while. In an STT that also means that the blinds have reached some pretty scary sums by that time. That pretty much has everyone with their backs against the wall, except for the chip-leader, but he can't afford to rest on his laurels either.
The fact that everyone is forced to fight it out, will spark some pretty aggressive little battles. While I do stand by my statement that going all-in in a tourney bears some pretty bad implied odds, I must admit that at this stage, you'll probably be forced to make that move sooner or later. This is actually the best time to provoke an all-in with a positive expected value hand. Sure, you will need to get a tad a lucky too, but as Doyle Brunson himself once said: it's about luck too, don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

Another reason to turn into a maniac has to do with the nature of short handed play. With fewer players, there will be fewer hands at the table that can potentially gang up on yours. Don't be surprised if you see the other guys take down pots on a pair or even a high-card.
Last but not least, you'll be forced to play hard by the circumstances: if you aim to win the tourney and not just finish ITM, this is the best time to build up your stack (because of the odds short handed play bears) or even to attempt to snatch the chip-lead.
If you're really under-stacked, you need to get up from the floor as fast s you can or you'll be dragged outside and dumped before you know it.

The very last stage of the game is my favorite part. It's a heads up confrontation between the eventual winner and the eventual runner up, out of which I'm not going to further detail in whose shoes you'd rather be. This heads-up stage requires some very sharp poker skills, because it's going to be one of the most demanding situations you've ever found yourself in. The play is extremely fast. Nowhere are there as many hands/hour played as in Heads-up games.

That'll mean that whatever mistake you make, you'll find yourself rejoicing in the runner-up position really fast. The mistakes made here will have far bigger repercussions than anything you can possibly do at a full table. The extremely short-handed nature of the game means hand values further plummet: K, x is a hand you definitely want to see the flop on, but sometimes J,x will have to do too. If you're a maniac who likes to see flops, 'you're going to enjoy this stage of the STT.

While you're playing all those hands and seeing all those flops, remember: you have your opponent's undivided attention, and he'll be reading you all the time. Now, if you're a good player, that's going to be a treat for you. You can continuously exploit what your opponent thinks of you, and have him spinning like a mad dog chasing his tail in no-time at all. The goal is always to get him into an all-in on a hand which presents you with better pot odds than him. If you have stack superiority, it really all comes down to a cat and mouse game, and only an extremely vicious streak of bad luck should be able to get you off-balance.

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