Big stack, card dead, high blinds, and baby stacks desperation shoving every hand

About a week ago, I found myself deep in a SNG with most of the chips at the table. On three or four separate occasions, I either failed to win, or in one case, failed to even money. With a stack between 12,000 and 18,000. I could not win the table despite an overwhelming stack advantage, because just as the bubble collapsed, and the blinds crept up above 400/800, I found myself drawing very cold for an extended period of time, probably a dozen or more 3-handed orbits where the typical hole cards were unsuited rags, and the very best hands that I was dealt over the stretch was A6s, Q3, and J7.

And literally every time I had the button and therefore would have been first to act and could have possibly raised a hand to steal, I had the worst junk hands of all, the 72, 83, 62, good for nothing but a naked bluff or to give away a big fraction of my chips if I got called, so I would have to fold.

Normally when you’re “card dead” it doesn’t last very long, and the remedy is to simply wait it out. At a full table, it’s only 1.5BB to see 9 hands, but 3-up it’s 3x as expensive to see the same number of hands, and that’s not counting the increases due to the blind structure of the SNG format.

In one of the three games that this happened to me, I had close to 20k in front of me, and two short stacks with about 1800-2k each took turns shoving preflop every single hand, rarely if ever playing each other for a pot, just stealing blinds from me and trading theirs back and forth with each other. It felt like a collusion situation, where both players were clearly ganging up on me while playing each other soft.

I expected that sooner or later, I would get a pair and could shove back, and knock one of them out, and then deal with the other, but by the time one of them had busted, the other had a stack close to mine. I ended up calling their shove quickly once the 3rd place finisher busted, expecting to see garbage in their hands, but on the hand i called they actually had it, AQ, and I was beaten, lost it all, and had to settle for 2nd. I think what I called with was J9s, nothing great, but the best two cards I had seen in about 15 minutes, by far – I had gotten A6s on the first shove, and had thought about calling there. But of course, the first time someone starts desperation shoving, you tend to give them credit for having a high pair. But they only had 1800 chips, I had them stacked about 10:1, and it would have been a relatively safe call for me. If I has known that I was about to go card dead for 25 hands, and would be facing a shove on every single one of those hands, I would have called.

This isn’t a hand review question, but rather a question about how to handle this type of situation, strategically. I felt quite helpless due to the lousy cards, but should I have gone for a naked bluff from the button to stop the bleeding, if even for just a hand? I can’t think of what else I could have possibly done, other than call with the one or two hands where I had a weak broadway hand, and pray I was up against absolutely nothing.

I asked this question last week, and the moderator merged it into the “Today’s ridiculous hands” thread, which has now been closed. I never got an answer to my question, so I am re-asking it again here.

How can a big stack handle this situation: being deep in the SNG, card dead, facing muck or shove strategy who is shoving every other hand, in concert with the other short stack who is doing the same, when you’re seeing nothing higher than 93o for 20 hands straight? With 10:1 stack advantages, how wide do you need to call your villain when they shove any two cards?


Better to be the shover than the caller, and with bad cards that job is increasingly difficult. You also can’t let 6 or 7 orbits go by without doing anything either – that’s an invitation for constant stealing, or as you mentioned, collusion.

At 10:1 your shove or called shove range should be fairly wide, I would think.

I’d have probably used those to make a stand in this scenario. As you decrease opponents, those higher ranked cards that can pair up become more important (i.e. your range will shift from multiway hands like suited connectors to high cards with lower and lower kickers).

If you miss and double one of those stacks, you’re still going to be about 4:1 against one opponent and 8:1 with the other. If they aren’t colluding, the 4:1 stack might back off and let you focus on the 8:1. Hell, you might even get called by both of them and knock one out, leaving you with a single 3:1 opponent.

tl;dr, you’ve got to stop the bleeding with non-ideal holdings at times. A high card with a poor kicker might be the only thing you get with showdown value.


Thanks for the response, Fozman. It agrees with how I felt about it after it happened. I didn’t call with A6s, figuring it was early, still 3-up, and I could afford to wait on a better hand. That was, again, the very first shove in the sequence, it’s usually a good idea to give that one credit for being a legit monster. By the time I saw Q3, I was down to maybe 12k-14k, or so, and V had grown dangerous already to around 6k,so I thought better of it, still thinking that soon I’d see a pair or two painted cards. It just never came for me. You never know how long a drought will last, but had I known those would be the best hands I would see, I would have played them. Especially the A6s, when I could most afford to lose one.

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Suited aces offer a lot of utility in shove/fold situations, either as a big stack to call or a short stack to double up. You have flush potential, a hard to beat two pair, set or boat, or simply the best pair or high card if no one hits.

Yes of course, you’re going to be way behind against a monster like AKs, but consider how likely that will manifest. If you think about when you’re in a jam and what you would shove on a very short stack, any suited ace is going to be ahead of a lot of it.

But yeah, we’re in agreement… you’ve gotta get in front of it before it snowballs and you lose your lead.


I’ve thought of one other tactic that might help in this situation, but I’m not sure I like it.

When shoved on repeatedly, if you can’t call, use your entire clock to slow down the game.

This is frowned upon, I know but then, so is shoving every hand, and collusion + soft play. I still don’t like it, but in the specific situation I’m describing, it could help.

The way it could help is that if you slow down the game, you are playing fewer hands. As the clock runs out the blind levels advance faster relative to the number of hands played at that blind level. I’m not sure that it will really help, as the blinds aren’t very relevant if someone is shoving every hand. But my thought is that the increasing blinds will hurt the smaller stacks more, faster than they can hurt the big stack, and the delay tactic may force the two small stacks to play against each other at some point, and once one eliminates the other, you’re at least finishing one place higher, and maybe heads up you can take more risk calling wider on a shove from the remaining small stack, or maybe no longer a small stack they can drop the muck-or-shove tactic and allow you to see a flop or raise them. It still doesn’t help you with getting better cards, but nothing can change that.

Anyway, that’s about all I can think of.


*This is an extract from the Community Playbook:

Slow Play

A time clock is provided for every player on every hand of poker. At Replay Poker, we believe each player should have adequate time to make a play based on their personal strategy. Some players need more time than others. We ask that all players be patient and not make rude comments or post a series of “z”s in the chat line to express their impatience. We also ask players not to use the time clock as a method to retaliate against or provoke others. Intentionally running out the clock slows the game and makes the experience unpleasant and painfully boring for all players.

I would therefore ask that the above suggestion is not implemented.

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Right, that’s why I say I don’t like it. I was not thinking about using up the clock as retaliation, but as a tactic to take advantage of the mechanics of the blind structure. I wasn’t sure if it would still be considered against the rules if it were done for a reason that wasn’t retaliation. Considering that bingo play and collusion are also against the rules, and may have been factors in at least one of the games I’m describing herr, what is the appropriate way to handle? If you want, I can submit the start of the series to and have them review it.

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I am not suggesting any player wantingly break any Rule, and I agree there should be rules. I think players should adhear to the spirit of the rules. Rules too subjective are hard to enforce/play within, as are rules not specific enough.

This is where some “rules” , while generally applicable on say a Ring table, are not in say a SnG/MTT, with increasing blinds, auto rebalancing, and random seats.

Take for instance 6max, where there are 2 tables left. One has 3 ppl, One has 4 ppl. One table is paying blinds faster than another, because no hand-4-hand has been implemented on Replay like most other sites. Whether its to make the final table or make a bubble, sometimes slowing down play is a strategic move, not just trying to upset someone or disrupt play.

Take for instance a final table (9max) , where there are 2 superstacks. While they prolly won’t be playing any big pots between themselves, they will certainly if possible, keep pressure on the small stacks. This is not direct collusion, altho someone watching could say they are working together. Its part of Tournament play itself, get rid of the small stacks 1st … then go after the big stacks, if you’re one of those big stacks.

Whether its NL or 15 sec timers, those are Rules too. You cannot give players Rules that they then cannot avail themselves of. IE- You cannot say yes you can go all in, but you can only do it for these 3 reasons or 3 times in a row… or yes you get a 15 sec timer, but again you can only use the clock if you’re actuallly trying to decide what to do.

Lets say perhaps a player has 1250 chips left , blinds are 300/600 +60a. That player can “survive” the blinds paying 660 and 360, but should blinds increase to 400/800 +80, that same player will get caught by the blinds. Slowing the game down is strategy here, so that player will be forced to play any 2 cards on thier SB with thier tournament life on the line, by the blinds increasing before they get to this player.

Collusion must be proven to be direct collusion between players.
NL itself allows for all-ins ( ultimate agression / bingo )
Timers have been adjusted as to NOT impede gameplay, 'cause otherwise they would already be adjusted downward.

None of us want to play poker under “the thought police” situation, basically told how to play ahead of time. Nor will/should Replay penalize a player who PAYS replay for chips, then plays fast/loose … losing them , and every night buys another $20 of chips.

If I read a book on “Tournament play”, and it says do the following 10 things, I expect to be able to do those 10 things as long as they are legal or find another site to play on. If 3 ppl are following these suggestions but have no direct contact with each other, its pretty hard to claim collusion, when infact its just 3 smart players, playing smartly. The person/people that wrote the book are assuming basic rules of poker and tournaments are in effect so thier advise means something helpfull.

Lets take the ultimate example, shall we…
In online poker normal tells are absent, all thats left is

  1. How you bet ( in what situation/posistion )
  2. What you bet ( amount of your bet )
  3. When you bet ( # of seconds it takes you to decide )

If my table image is, the faster I bet the more confident I am in my cards … and then I take a longer time to act. … Ohh heck yeah sometimes I’m provoke’n others into raising me, thinking I’m weaker than normal. Bazinga !! Sometimes I think xtra then fold.

We constantly talk about bubble strategies, yet we all know usually if there’s a few superlow stacks still hang’n around, play usually slows down approaching that bubble. It seems to return to more normal after the bubble pops.

Sure, CoC & ToS exsist, every site needs both and we all should try and not be disruptive players… Likewise don’t join a slo timer table, then complain when someone uses thier clock if fast play is your norm. Don’t play NoLimit (NL) if you are uncomfortable call’n someone’s all in, try PL, but don’t then complain about it. Certainly don’t play unlim-rebuys, if you don’t want to face uber-agressive players, then complain.

Most Sattalite ticket promotions/MTTs, players who excell at making bubbles/tickets, aren’t just think’n about it when it gets to hand4hand, they prolly have been thinking about it for awhile before that. There’s a point where you decide, you have enuff to make the bubble so it won’t be a total loss, and you play it that way.

When it comes to timers, ReplayPoker can only decide on what thier length is. There will Always be ppl that say they are too long or too short, no matter what Replay does.
When you give 1 player 10 seconds, you have to give everyone the same 10 seconds, thats just how it works… I’m sry to say. Its not a big deal really, unless you have a few ppl on each of multiple tables, slowing all the tables down. Yet that is usually the end result of marathon style promotions, where players try and play too many tables @ same time… lololol… Rules affecting rules affecting rules, hmmm.

Thats the problem with a dbbl edge’d sword, its dbbl edge’d and cuts both ways.
In a game where psychology is used, hard to then outlaw psychology.


All good points

Kate in reading,there is a particluar player who sits on two tables (200/400 blinds omaha table) and slow plays every single turn,so much so now players leave the table in disgust.Very often the player doesnt even call just disappears on his turn so the clock runs out but the player is not even there…and comes back after a few minutes and this is repeatedly done for hours…
to say that he plays within the parameters of the rule is correct,but if you have to consider the decorum of play,how fair is it to run the clock each and every time and on two tables simultaneously…
And this player hits for a few hours not few minutes…i did complain to support about this matter but nothing was done about it…what do you think?

Hi Jazzy,

Well as this is playing two ring tables it certainly appears to be the reason for running the clock, but i don’t think it can be interpreted as deliberate slow play, it just seems that he has difficulty in coping with playing two tables. As this is not contravening any rules I am afraid the only thing you can do is exercise patience! I cannot say I like it or would enjoy playing the game in this situation but unless the rule regarding playing multiple tables is changed I don’t think there is much that can be done about it.

Guess you are right…no laws have been broken…and excersing patience not one of my virtues lollllllllll
thanks for your input…

just one more thing…this goes on when the player is playing even on one table…every single turn…and sitting there for 2/3 hours…believe me a total killjoy…

good post sassy…