It’s a wonderful Friday evening. You are playing poker in one of the Daily Hyper Tournaments on GGPOKER and before you realize what happened, you only have 20BB! Oh no! How do you construct your strategy when playing short-stacked poker? Let’s have a look into one of the most common poker scenarios – when the button opens and the big blind calls.

The Button Strategy

If we classify all the possible poker flops and rank them based on high cards, there will be more ace high boards than king high boards, more king high boards than queen high boards, and so on – this is purely due to distribution. If you look at a king high board, you have to avoid all the aces which simply leaves fewer possibilities. Therefore, when you are constructing a poker strategy, you want to work on your ace high boards first as they are more likely to occur. 

From the button with a 20bb stack against the big blind, if there is an ace on board, you should be putting out a small bet on the flop with any 2 cards. On these ace high poker boards, the big blind is at a severe disadvantage as he will likely only be raising preflop with his strong ace hands, like AK. If the board comes 3-of-a-kind, the button should also be betting with any two cards knowing that the big blind preflop should be raising all-in with any of his pairs. 

If the board is paired, the button should be only putting a small bet, but the higher the pair, the more frequently the button should be betting. Incorporating a 1bb bet size strategy for paired boards allows your range to bet even more frequently on this type of texture. In this scenario, most cards over ten make for a good double barrel bet on the turn.

With other flop textures, you should be betting around 70% of the time. As the board comes out lower and more connected, the button’s strategy should be reversed: they should check more often but when they do bet, they bet big.

Leading from the BB (donking) on the flop

Poker strategy construction is one of the keys to succeeding at online poker. First, the BB will have a donking strategy that is heavily dependent on flop texture. Big blind’s donking strategy will start to appear on 6 or 7 high boards where flopping the straight is possible. At GTO, the highest donk texture is 653 rainbow where the BB gets to bet with almost 52% of his range. When leading from the BB, only small bet sizes are used on the flop (around 25-30% pot). If a card on the board pairs on the turn, BB can go bonkers and blast the pot with most of his range. Good turns are anything low – under a ten – or anything that completes the straight. When using this strategy, the only really bad turns are an A or K which should shut down your aggression. 

If an ace hits the board, you wave the white flag. Abandon ship. Turn tail and run. Just don’t put any more chips in the pot! Do not be afraid to stand by your bluffs and follow through as your range connects really well with this texture while your opponent’s range does not. It is not unreasonable to lead out from the BB when the flop pairs a low card like a 4, 5, 6, or 7. Outside of these precise conditions, you should never lead from the BB. Leading on other textures will cost you dearly at the poker table and should be avoided at all costs. This leading strategy will only occur on 5% of the flops. For 95% of the other textures, the BB should be checking and will likely be facing a bet if the button is playing optimally.


When facing a bet on the flop, the BB is going to defend all the pairs in his range. Low pairs should be folded after a second street of aggression, second pairs can call a turn barrel if they have extra equity. 

When sitting short stack, it is extremely rare that you would fold when hitting a hand like top pair. If your top pair is still the best pair by the river, you should never fold because your stack is too short. While making an adjustment against the tightest players on the river is a great strategy, it is vital to know that the optimal play is to never, under any circumstance, fold. The BB should be always raising his top pairs on the flop, based on the best kickers in his range. 

Different flop textures will bring up different defense strategies. If the board comes paired, the BB should defend by raising more than by calling, and the lower the pair, the more often the BB should raise. Hands like two pairs or better are always calling on the flop; you have to keep the fish on the hook, and there is no turn we’re afraid of. Stronger hands, like two pair or better, will want to wait for the turn before raising. Facing a turn bet, all of your big hands should be getting it all in. 


Facing a board with a flush draw from a short stack is a difficult spot. In most cases, facing a bet, your best flush draw hands are not going to raise on the flop. The nut flush draws in your range are going to mostly call to protect your calling range, plus they rarely have the benefit of getting better hands to fold when played aggressively. A lot of poker players mistakenly raise with these types of hands which is far from optimal. Calling with these poker hands makes for a much stronger strategy and will yield better results in the long term. If you do choose to raise on the flop with any flush draw, you should know that there are no GTO situations in which you fold when faced with any aggression, even against an all-in. This is why we do not play all our draws aggressively when sitting short stacked as we have to go all the way with them once we raise on the flop. The exception to this, and when we would raise, are with flush draws that have extra equity, usually linked to straight potential. As an example, if the board came down, Ks-6s-5x we would want to raise our flush draw hands that could make a straight, like if we were holding Ts-7s or 8s-4s. On this texture, our raising strategy is focused around flush draw hands that have either a 7s or a 4s in them. With either of those cards, we gain equity if we turn a card that improves our backdoor straight chances and we would continue betting on these favorable turns.

On boards like Ts-8s-3x, our raising strategy is generally centered around having an overcard plus a low card that doesn’t interact with the board much, like Qs-4s or Js-6s. As far as straight draws go, hands like open enders to the straight (8-7 on A-6-5) are also almost never raising on the flop; they will only raise if they hit on later streets.


The shorter your stack gets, the greater the value of top pairs are and the less value draws have. Play your best top pairs fast by raising them on the flop. Play your best draws passively by calling them on the flop. Wait for the turn before raising your strongest hands like two pairs or better. Avoid folding top pairs unless your opponent is extremely tight. Adding these strategies to your poker arsenal will certainly benefit your game and increase your winnings at the poker table! 

Louis-Philippe (Maniac) – Louis-Philippe is a professional poker player, full time degenerate and both works and is a host for He is Maniac. You can discover more about him here.