Small stack invincibility

If there’s any constants in the universe, it’s the ability of the small stack to win every hand they play against me once they get down to their bust-point. As soon as they start having to go all-in to call an open, they can’t lose. I miss every board no matter my cards, they always hit something, or the dealer suddenly starts giving them premium hands. I’ve lost 4-5 games tonight where I’ve had my opponent beaten, down to their last 200-600 chips, only to double them up 3-4 times and give them the game in the last 5-6 hands.

What is up with that? I go from hitting two pair flops, trips, and hitting my draws to utter cold with hand that look like good enough hands to put someone with a 6:1 stack deficit all-in, and never once do I get the win, and I end up giving them the whole game.

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Don’t believe me, just watch.

AJs, I bluff down a huge pot on an 87825 board, my absolutely typical board to lose my shirt on with AJs but this time I get the fold for once, and get an early lead. Stacks are now 2700(me)/925(v1)/400(v2).

12 hands later, I strike again, hero-calling with 2-pair TT99 to a shove from the small stack who hit worse 2-pair 9977, on a board that looked like a likely straight. V2 eliminated, I go up to 3200, V1 has 625.

Mop-up time, right? Wrong. V1 takes the next 8 hands, as my cards go ice-cold and I either get raised off preflop, or don’t want to play the hand, and he gets back up to 1000, I still have an 2:1 stack advantage, and it’s not time to get worried, but now I have to wear him down again.

I finally get semi-decent cards, and raise QTo and he folds pre, stopping the bleeding.

We go back and forth over the next several hands, winning about 50/50, when he hits [two pair, 6633] rivering his 6, ( and then a [straight 6-T] where I blundershove middle pair into made straight (, and now it’s happened AGAIN. 5th game of the evening I’ve blown because I can’t put away the last player due to extended cold streaks and making one idiotic play.

I give up and just shove any junk, begging him to call and finish the game so I can go @%( away another buy-in on another game that will run out the same @#@ way, but he folds twice, then calls, and unfortunately for him I have been dealt AK on the third hand after showing junk 86, 82 the previous two shoves, and he’s calling with KT, and I actually manage to beat a hand that I dominate for once in my miserable life. It’s practically carved in stone that on Replay, you can shove twice for free, but the third is an automatic call.

I win the next three hands after that for a total of 800 more chips, taking a 2200-800 advantage, and it looks like I might actually win in another hand or two, but then he takes the next 5 hands, to crawl back to healthy, before he decides not to come in with the SB against my 92o in the BB, and stacks are now back to around 2:1.

But I get the next 3 hands, pulling in 1200 chips, and get him down to 625 chips again.

Mop up time, right? Nope, I go cold and lose the next 5 hands again, then I win one for a nice 600 chips, but then I put him all in with AQ vs 55, and of course I miss the board, he fills a boat, to get 1700 chips back.

Back to square one.

I end up winning this one in the end, but it takes a flush, a 4-on-the-board miracle after I shoved QJ and got called by an Ace that hits a pair of AAs on the turn. Finally a suck-out for me, flush over flush.

I end up winning the game making a bad call that rivers good for me, Tens over 99s.

I basically had to wear this guy 3-4 times, overcoming blunders and dead card streaks to finally get him, and I really had to get super super lucky to do it, and it’s been happening all night.

How typical is this? A lot of my games end quickly, but when I can’t put someone away and they wriggle out 3-4 times, it sure gets frustrating.

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The “small stack invincibility” myth is as persistent as it is goofy.

Unless 2 players have exactly the same number of chips, one of them is the smaller stack. In tournaments, only one player doesn’t get eliminated. Virtually everyone else was allin as the smaller stack and lost. Clearly, there is no invincibility associated with having a smaller stack.

Desperation shoving garbage and winning is more memorable than shoving a good hand and winning. This can skew perceptions, making it seem like short stacks win with anything.

A ;ot of people seem to overestimate the value of premium starting hands. For example, AsKs vs 7s2s. 72 is utterly dominated, and very little chance of a winning flush. (they could make a one card straight flush) But the 72 wins about 31% of the time… not as big a dog as one might think.

People are more likely to call a short stack shove with less than premium holdings. Why not? You want them gone, it won’t cost much to try, so go for it. If it doesn’t work out, just yell, “This site is rigged!”

If you are heads up and have more chips, don’t try to force it.Yes, you should use your chip advantage to apply a little more pressure, but don’t get carried away. Eventually, one of you will be allin as the short stack, and your elimination will prove conclusively that invincibility is a myth.

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Of course you are right, it’s not literally true that the small stack is invincible.

It’s less a matter of my trying to force an all-in situation to end the game and then losing 90% of them, and more that when they are forced all in preflop, whether literally by the size of the blinds, or because they’re following the “25% rule” that says if you need to put in 25% or more of your chips to open, you should shove.

I wish I could data mine my full hand history to compile real stats on the phenomenon. Then this would be proven or disproven. But in preflop all-in my showdown record is (ok, feels) terrible. Whether the small stack gets dealt a premium hole, or is coordinated to the board, or rivers their bottom card to hit a 3-out suck out when I have them dominated AK over A2, it sure seems like the twilight zone, a time of maximum variance where anything can happen.

In games where there’s 3000 total chips at the table, when you get someone down to their last 600, blinds are usually 50/100, and if they shove and win they’ll be back to 1200,nearly half of the total chips at the table. And if they shove 3-4 times in a row to steal 1.5BB, then they nearly get back up to the same point anyway. So there’s a lot of good incentive to call fairly wide, and that’s where the variance sneaks in.

It’s usually a lot better to make your opponent call your bet to go all in, than it is for them to shove and you decide to call. But either way, again and again the outcome often seems to fall to the underdog hand, which is allowed to win its share of showdowns, but with 30-40% odds seems to be a 60-80% winner.

It’s a lot surer thing to get to the all-in point postflop, because there’s more information about the hand, and you can get a sense of the true odds a lot better. But even there, if there’s a street still ahead, you can put your whole bankroll on it being better than 50% that if I’m ahead of you and shove, if you call that next card is going to give you the nuts. Shoves will get players to fold when they feel like they still have a future where they will have a better chance of winning, but when they have nothing left to lose, time and again, more often than not, they will hit against me, more than the odds seem to dictate. Then I wear them back down again only for it to happen again. Sometimes 3-4 times this happens.

So then when I get to a Turn or River with a strong hand that I have confidence in, I want to get all their chips in the middle, and leave them nothing to stage an improbable comeback with. I should try to better understand bet sizing to make putting them all in seem reasonable or inevitable by the time we get to the river, I guess. Or figure out how to implement a “mop up” strategy that is effective in small stack games like 3-Max and MTT final tables where the blinds are 5000/10000 and effective stack sizes are <10BB no matter who has how many chips.

I don’t want to go all woowoo on you, but I suspect your are manifesting your own chaos. You expect to lose, you believe that nothing you do can or will change anything, and the system responds by fulfilling your expectations. This isn’t just supernatural mumbo jumbo, it’s science, though not well understood.

On a quantum level, everything is connected. We are all parts of one big thing. it’s all entangled, including the pRNG and your consciousness. Expectations, when fueled with emotions, can and do manifest. I don’t want to get too far into the weeds with this, but positive expectations yield positive results.

"It is now well known that the precepts of classical physical theory are fundamentally incorrect. …the most essential difference concerns precisely the connection between physical states and consciousness. " - Henry P. Stapp, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

If you have the time and interest, check this out… Attention, Intention, and Will in Quantum Physics



There is a big element of luck in poker short term. Your gunna hit massive pockets of bad luck. This often results in TILT, lack of confidence, uncertainty & second guessing, bad play.

V2 has rivered 2pair TT77 also flopped pair & flush draw Vs your turned better 2pair TT99 & not V2 9977. Unimportant.
Also stack sizes are probably 2200, or 2400ish my calc, V1 625 after winning.

Players were pretty passive for the most part.

I would look to raise heavy or shove the turn Vs the flop bet & weak turn bet. Shove is pretty noob but players will call drawing often. The bet looks weak & betting 2 streets often shows reluctance to fold & willingness to call. Get it in good. Dangerous flop, draw heavy, plus your 2pair is vulnerable. So many cards on the river put you to a tough decision.

I feel a lot of hands prob call like obviously straight & flush draws, maybe strong JJ* AJJ etc, J7 & J8 and I think most hands that have you beat will bet stronger on the turn.

I would be more inclined to gamble he is weak on this hand rather than your first AJs river bluff, which has SDV. Im guessing the first hand your AJ suited was hearts?

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Well, I don’t think that if I sit here and think about an eggplant hard enough that an eggplant could possibly appear before me, a physically real eggplant that I could cook and serve to guests. But I do see how my actions and choices can shape the future and deliver exactly the outcome that I don’t want.

Before hole cards are dealt, heads up, I’m about 50-50 to win any particular hand. When I see the cards I’m dealt, it gives me information, and I can get some sense of how strong my hand is against any two random cards, and thus some idea of how likely I might be to win a hand.

HU, I do not need to, and should not, be waiting for a premium or monster hand to be willing to go all-in, if I’m holding a big stack advantage over my opponent. I need to be willing to tolerate some risk and maybe make a call with a less than ideal holding to do so. I need to, precisely because my opponent is desperately down to under 10BB, and if it’s 3BB to call a raise, their best option is to re-raise all-in, rather than just call. When it gets down to getting their last few blinds, maybe it’s better not to keep the pressure on them, and remove opportunities for them to jam me. Maybe I should switch to a passive/trapping strategy, and limp/call more than I raise. But this might just allow them to sit for a few more hands and have a better chance of catching a pocket pair that they can shove and have a reasonable chance of doubling up with, or trapping me if they happen to flop well.

So what happens is, I play someone, either 3-Max or HU, for 10-15-20 minutes, and over that time, through some combination getting better cards, making better decisions, bluffing, or luck, I’ve managed to outplay them to the point where they have their back against the wall. Things start out even, and we trade a +/- 1-3BB advantage for a while, until we have a hand where we both think we have it, the pot gets big, and one of us wins a big pot and takes a good lead. This is usually me, because I’m pretty good, but not always, because no one’s perfect. I get outplayed less than I bluff the wrong hand or get sucked out on, but sometimes I do get fooled. The how isn’t all that relevant to this line of thought though. Sometimes there is no big hand, and it’s just the weight of a bunch of small hands that I win more than I lose, and it adds up over many hands.

Once I’m up, I can just continue to play my hands well and win a few more small pots, as I’ve been doing, that is until my opponent feels desperate enough to switch to an aggressive strategy and shove any hand they’re playing preflop. Then I have to decide, are they just desperate? Did they just get QQ+? Am I holding something good enough to call with or no? A lot of hands that I’d consider playable, but not good enough to call a shove with, I might ordinarily just muck and wait for a better hand. But if the shove is only equivalent to 3-4 BB, and I’m sitting on 20-25+BB, it’s a lot more reasonable to call wider and accept the variance. I might catch something, he might catch something. He might have fooled me into calling his pocket Kings with QTo or J9s, or he might get me to call his pocket 55s with AQo and the board misses me like it does half the time, or I’ll pair my Ace on the flop and watch him river a set. Or I might win the hand, and the game ends, and it’s all as expected and so quickly forgotten.

But when I lose the hand, where I fail is the “accept the variance” part of it. I don’t accept the variance, and instead I get angry at the non-existent gods of indifferent chance. I decide, OK fine then, I’ll put him all-in again on the next hand. He just got back up, he won’t possibly call, and I’ll at least get back 1.5BB. So I shove; of course, he just got JJ or AQ, and it’s a mandatory call, I maybe have something, or maybe was tilt-shoving some junk like what he just beat me with, but it’s not good for the gander. I lose ahead and then lose again behind, and now I’ve just screwed myself and am the short stack in dire straits. Well, now it’s muck-or-shove time for me, and when I do it, I’m not so lucky, and I bust out.

Trying to use too much aggression to beat someone in poker is like swatting house flies with a howitzer. You swing wildly, and even if you manage to hit, you blow a huge hole in the wall. But most likely the fly isn’t even in front of the muzzle when the gun goes off. So rather than offer to double-up the opponent a second time, I should instead just continue to play the same strategy against them that gave me my edge initially.

Well, I do that sometimes, and will get back to the same point where they’re down to their last 600-800 chips, and start playing muck/shove, and I’ll be damned if I don’t go 0-2 in the clutch and have him double back up to health again. Well, by now the blinds are going up, and at this point we’re at a point where outcome will be determined less by skill and more by luck. 200/400 blinds with 2000/1000 stacks, there’s no room for error, and barely any room for simply not getting dealt a playable hand. So at that point, the game ends basically a coin flip, but after I’ve worn my opponent down to his last couple blinds multiple times, it feels like I’ve beaten him several times, I’m clearly outplaying him in the game overall, and yet 1/2 the time or better they end up getting lucky and winning, or getting lucky and then I beat myself going on tilt.

So that’s a reasonable picture of what’s likely going on, I think. But what to do about it? I can’t expect a player with their back to the wall to play passive, can I? If they start shoving, I can only fold or call, right?

Well, one way to avoid the situation is to find ways to get them to come all-in when he’s not the desperately short-stacked player, and we’re in a hand where I’m up significantly but not yet decisively, and holding a very strong hand on the Turn or River and think it’s very likely the better hand.

Well, ok, but how do you do that? If they aren’t calling bets, it’s tough to get them to call when you bet big. If you try looking weak, they might put in more chips, or they might just check down to the river and watch you take a minimal pot with a straight or better. Faking them out can work sometimes. Trapping is great on a hand where you flop two pair+ and they decide to bet big with position and a pair because they think you have nothing but don’t want you to draw out on them. Betting big enough early enough in the hand that going all-in to call a river bet is more or less demanded by the pot odds is another way to do it, but you can really only do that with high pocket pairs if you get a player who’s willing to call, thinks you’re bluffing, or has something potentially scary themselves. In other words, a lot riskier, and more likely to blow up on you.

I guess that’s about where I’m at right now. This feels like a situation that I can (and should) study and find a better strategy for. And maybe one way to beat the situation is to find ways to get into it.

I watched your entire game from AJs to win. I was surprised you won based on your small stack invincibility hypothesis & presumed you were angry over a loss.

A lot of what I saw wasnt that crazy. It was fairly standard really. QcJd Vs Villains: Ad9c was lucky & yeah the outcome looks spectacular espec considering V has a club. Its not that extraordinary tho.

AQ Vs 55 coin flip. More poker.

You both had a fair share of standard luck IMO for a single game. I know as you said your not getting cards & thats bad luck, but HU I think its necessary to make a little of your own luck. Good chance V also isnt getting cards either.

I think V was prob taking advantage mid game at one point or less likely was getting a lot of luck with starting hands & jus being aggressive.

The T7 was strange & optimistic.

Good win anyway & entertaining watch, especially you commentary whilst playing.

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Re: my “commenatry” in that game you watched, lol, uh, yeah, I was pretty frustrated by that point, having just been through about 5-6 games in a row where this same thing kept happening.

Here’s the hand history of another game, a HU 25k SNG that I just won.

  • It took 25 minutes and 81 hands to win.
  • V was an extremely passive and fairly tight player who I think raised me a total of five times the entire game.
  • I don’t think I lost a showdown, which is pretty incredible. And I sucked out on the final hand, pocket 88s rivering a full house to beat trip deuces that he had flopped. On the final hand, when he shoved I figured he might have hit with a T or 2, and either way I was behind, but it was about 50% likely he was shoving two overcards. If I lose, it’s a scenario similar to what this thread is discussing: I get someone nearly beat and then they become “unbeatable” with their back to the wall, and I have to grind them down again… this time I managed to suck out and win it without having to do that. I think if I’d lost this hand, having mentally gone through everything I did to write the post above, I would have been better able to accept this and continue outplaying him go wear him back down again and get the win. He does not win against me using this strategy, unless he adjusts abruptly and I don’t catch on to it, I’m taking him down.
  • The biggest pot he won the entire game was 360 chips, in one pot, and 240 in a couple.
  • He actually won 37 out of the 81 hands, a lot closer to 50-50 than you’d think from watching our stacks change over time, which just goes to show it’s not the quantity of hands, but the size of the pots that wins games.
  • I was never behind in this after the first hand, and it felt like a very, very easy game to win. Overall a pretty unremarkable game that only required basic fundamentals to win.
# Hand Pot Winner Time
1 Full House, Twos over Eights 1,580 Chips puggywug half a min ago
2 #608637027 200 Chips hirancher less than a min ago
3 #608636840 1,200 Chips puggywug 1 min ago
4 #608636782 100 Chips puggywug 2 mins ago
5 #608636738 100 Chips hirancher 2 mins ago
6 #608636678 200 Chips hirancher 2 mins ago
7 #608636639 100 Chips hirancher 2 mins ago
8 #608636584 100 Chips puggywug 3 mins ago
9 #608636545 100 Chips hirancher 3 mins ago
10 #608636512 100 Chips puggywug 3 mins ago
11 #608636371 200 Chips puggywug 3 mins ago
12 #608636263 200 Chips puggywug 4 mins ago
13 #608636221 100 Chips hirancher 4 mins ago
14 #608636128 200 Chips puggywug 4 mins ago
15 #608636023 200 Chips puggywug 5 mins ago
16 #608635962 100 Chips puggywug 5 mins ago
17 #608635918 100 Chips hirancher 5 mins ago
18 #608635796 200 Chips hirancher 5 mins ago
19 #608635745 100 Chips hirancher 6 mins ago
20 #608635626 400 Chips hirancher 6 mins ago
21 #608635540 400 Chips puggywug 6 mins ago
22 #608635480 200 Chips hirancher 7 mins ago
23 #608635439 100 Chips hirancher 7 mins ago
24 #608635387 100 Chips puggywug 7 mins ago
25 #608635235 240 Chips puggywug 7 mins ago
26 #608635102 240 Chips hirancher 8 mins ago
27 Pair, Fives 120 Chips puggywug 8 mins ago
28 #608634813 360 Chips hirancher 8 mins ago
29 #608634648 600 Chips puggywug 9 mins ago
30 #608634617 60 Chips puggywug 9 mins ago
31 #608634434 240 Chips puggywug 10 mins ago
32 #608634335 240 Chips hirancher 10 mins ago
33 #608634298 60 Chips hirancher 11 mins ago
34 #608634228 60 Chips puggywug 11 mins ago
35 #608634088 120 Chips hirancher 11 mins ago
36 #608634003 120 Chips hirancher 12 mins ago
37 #608633937 120 Chips hirancher 12 mins ago
38 #608633779 360 Chips puggywug 12 mins ago
39 #608633672 240 Chips hirancher 13 mins ago
40 #608633602 120 Chips hirancher 13 mins ago
41 #608633476 240 Chips hirancher 13 mins ago
42 #608633407 80 Chips hirancher 14 mins ago
43 #608633349 40 Chips hirancher 14 mins ago
44 #608633265 80 Chips puggywug 14 mins ago
45 #608633156 160 Chips puggywug 14 mins ago
46 #608633107 80 Chips hirancher 15 mins ago
47 #608633031 80 Chips hirancher 15 mins ago
48 #608632897 80 Chips puggywug 15 mins ago
49 #608632859 40 Chips hirancher 15 mins ago
50 #608632800 40 Chips puggywug 16 mins ago
51 Two Pair, Fours and Kings 160 Chips puggywug 16 mins ago
52 #608632456 640 Chips puggywug 16 mins ago
53 #608632400 40 Chips hirancher 17 mins ago
54 #608632315 160 Chips hirancher 17 mins ago
55 #608632259 40 Chips hirancher 18 mins ago
56 #608632202 40 Chips puggywug 18 mins ago
57 #608631973 1,280 Chips puggywug 18 mins ago
58 #608631791 240 Chips hirancher 19 mins ago
59 #608631750 40 Chips hirancher 19 mins ago
60 #608631700 40 Chips puggywug 19 mins ago
61 Pair, Sevens 80 Chips puggywug 20 mins ago
62 #608631416 60 Chips hirancher 20 mins ago
63 Two Pair, Sevens and Tens 120 Chips puggywug 21 mins ago
64 #608631247 30 Chips puggywug 21 mins ago
65 Pair, Fives 60 Chips hirancher 21 mins ago
66 #608630902 540 Chips hirancher 22 mins ago
67 #608630842 60 Chips puggywug 22 mins ago
68 Flush, Ace high 540 Chips puggywug 22 mins ago
69 #608630590 180 Chips puggywug 23 mins ago
70 #608630417 180 Chips puggywug 23 mins ago
71 Pair, Threes 120 Chips hirancher 24 mins ago
72 #608630219 30 Chips puggywug 24 mins ago
73 #608630156 60 Chips puggywug 24 mins ago
74 #608630109 30 Chips puggywug 25 mins ago
75 #608630039 30 Chips hirancher 25 mins ago
76 #608629897 60 Chips puggywug 25 mins ago
77 Two Pair, Sevens and Kings 360 Chips puggywug 26 mins ago
78 #608629677 30 Chips puggywug 26 mins ago
79 #608629631 30 Chips hirancher 26 mins ago
80 #608629573 30 Chips puggywug 26 mins ago
81 #608629501 30 Chips hirancher 27 mins ago
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Nice win & thanks for posting.

That post looks like a lot of work lol… I’ll watch tomorrow. GG

Appreciate you taking the time; I doubt there’ll be a lot of insight to gain from it, considering how bland the strategy is, but if you were to cherry pick the bigger pots and the final couple of hands, it might be worth your time if you don’t value it too highly :slight_smile:

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puggy can you try to keep the messages longer …!!!


Forced all in with 64o, dealer flops him 64x.

Several more hands later, I put him all in again because I catch a pair of 4s (I know, but he has only 40 more so what’s the harm in giving it to him? I want him to win the table at this point.) and he has top pair, which becomes an invincible full house by the river.

Small stack not invincible.

I could probably show you 10 of these for every one you show, but I’m not that motivated.

It would only bolster my point if you did.

In that hand you’re technically the smallest stack at the table, but you still have a lot of blinds. Shoving QQ isn’t unreasonable in the slightest, of course, and the bad beat on the river is what happens. If you were down to your last 2-3 BB, that’s when it kicks in.

It’s mumbo jumbo, but it happens way more often than chance would dictate. Either they get a monster hand that can’t lose, or they flop so well they can’t lose, they double up, and then I have to spend another 30 hands wearing them down again.

Here’s some more, just now:

T7o vs T6o, V has <1BB so it’s an automatic all-in. Fortunately I have him dominated… but wait, it’s 66s on the flop for the small stack!

I have T4s, flop AcKc for a flush draw, V has J8 and misses but has a higher High Card than me. I can’t complain really, but the stack size basically demands that I have to call here with the flush draw.

Final hand, I win with K7s making a K-high flush to suck out over KJ Turning Jacks. Only takes 3 tries this time!

It’s not that these are remarkable, improbable hands; it’s that this sort of thing always happens. When does the small stack go quietly with their final hand? Only in the games I forget about as soon as they’re over.

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Yet again. They have the best hand, I gotta give it to them.

It always happens except when the following happens and as you say:


Another one.

Big stack QQ vs. underdog A6s, all-in preflop, easy call for QQ; V flops a flush draw, then pair the Ace on the Turn, to double up.

I came back a couple hands later to win it, at least.

Oh, and I almost forgot! It worked for me too this time.

Q2s, I shove trying to maximize fold equity and get a few blinds up, of course I get called 2x. I flop deuces, and figure I’m done, but I manage to suck out trips. This wins me a nice enough pot that I’m able to play back and win the whole thing.

88 beat by small stack A9: