Advice on short-handed tournament play from one of the UK's best known players
You might recognise Simon ‘Aces’ Trumper from Late Night Poker where the Brit played against the likes of The Hendon Mob, Devilfish, Dave Colclough and Phil Hellmuth. Since winning the second series of LNP back in April 2000, Trumper’s won close to $1m in tournaments including the €500 Short-Handed No-Limit Hold’em event at the Euro Finals of Poker. He’s currently touring Norway with a bunch of Scandinavian models on the PurpleLounge.com tour bus. Lucky sod.
What’s a good way to approach short-handed sit-and-gos?
Basic strategy to follow is to play fairly tight at the beginning, take a couple of gambles in the midstages and then get superaggressive when you’re down to the last three. Very rarely will I not raise on the button if it’s threehanded. You have to be aggressive but some players take it too far. I know one player that goes all-in every hand when he gets to the last three so either takes chunky blinds, doubles up or gets busted. He does win his fair share but that’s taking it a little too far.
What changes should you make to your game to dominate short-handed play?
You have to play with a lot more aggression and understand that the value of hands increase. You have to raise more often and play any Ace more aggressively. A-10 is definitely a raising hand. It’s the same as playing a final table. Change gears as you get closer to the money and use position more aggressively than you would on a full table. If the first two pass then you want to steal the button position or pick up the blinds. Playing tight is not going to work. Don’t be passive. When I’ve made final tables in short-handed tournaments I’ve been the most aggressive player at the table. Identify the players that are conscious of making the money and take advantage of their cautious play.
So if it’s all about aggression should you bet out on just about any flop?
No. When you’ve been playing with someone for a while you need to get a feel for how they play and what they’ll be playing with. If you think they may have called you with A-Q or a pair, then study how they react to the flop. If you’re playing live keep an eye on the other players. If they look down at their chips, they’ve probably hit the flop and are getting ready to bet, but if they continue to stare at the flop they don’t want to face a bet. Don’t always make a continuation bet. If you think that your opponent has nothing, but bluffs at the pot when you check to them, put in a heavy re-raise. They have to assume that you’re check-raising with a strong hand, making it hard for them to call or come back at you, unless they’ve actually got a hand.
How do you deal with superaggressive players that re-raise your steals?
If you find your late position raises are frequently being played back at you by a super-aggressive player then you have to set them up. The next couple of rounds I’d make a weak raise to see if they’re going to re-raise. If they do I’ll wait until the third time they do it and then no matter how big their raise is I’m coming over the top putting them to the test. It’s the only way to stop a player continually reraising. Having done that it will allow you to steal that player’s blinds far more often, which is essential as you need to grab those blinds just to maintain the size of your stack.
How much do you need to raise to knock the maniac player off his re-raise?
If he’s a super-aggressive player a raise of just double what he’s played at you is not enough. Make a raise that’s going to hurt his stack. In many ways the size of their stack is more important than the size of yours. It’s your raise relevant to the amount of chips that they have left. If the blinds were 100/200 and your 600 raise has been popped up to 1500 you can’t raise back a small amount. Check their stack – say it’s 12,000 – and raise an amount that would pot-commit them if they were to get involved. I’d raise to 6,000 in this case. If you’re not willing to put the pressure on another player relative to the size of their stack they will call. Don’t give them pot odds to do it. Make the raise big enough that it will seriously hurt their stack. And if your raise is around half your stack then you should put all your chips in. Don’t give the other player the chance to put pressure back on you, move all-in before they can try to knock you off the pot. It’s a part of the game many people fail to grasp.
What should you do when you find yourself short-stacked?
If you find yourself really shortstacked in first position you have to push in regardless of your cards. You can’t afford to pay another round of blinds and because of your early position move other players will have to assume that you have at least a half decent hand. If it folds round to the big blind and he calls you’ve just got to hope that you’ve got live cards. If they all fold you’ve got your blinds covered for the next round. If you’re playing live don’t even look at your cards properly. Pretend to look and then push in whatever you have because if you see rags, you might buckle and pass. It’s one thing knowing the move you should pull and another having the ability to do it. Don’t let yourself get blinded away.
Euro Finals of Poker 2005, Paris €500 Short-Handed No-Limit Hold’em – 1st, €8,050
World Series of Poker 2005, Las Vegas $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha – 5th, $93,060
Master Classics of Poker 2004, Amsterdam
€500 Pot-Limit Omaha – 1st, €69,696