Success in tournament poker requires a diverse set of skills. Hand analysis, understanding the impact of structure on overall approach, bet sizing, and proper management of varying stack depths are all critical. But there is no more crucial ability than the ability to master shortstack poker. Unless you go on an epic run through a tournament, you’ll eventually be faced with a stack of less than 30BB. You’ll then need to make critical decisions with both strong and marginal hands. Memorizing push-fold charts for varying stack sizes is certainly a start. However, that alone offers a very limited approach. Mike Wasserman and Alex Fitzgerald remedy that in their training videos How to MASTER Shortstack Play. Before you look for your next big tournament, you’ll want to check this video out. First introduced on Advanced Poker Training, this video offers an excellent primer on tournament play.
How to Master Shortstack Play Training Course
In the past few years, Alex Fitzgerald, the author of The Myth of Poker Talent, has produced some of the best poker training materials in the business. He has leveraged his charismatic coaching style into generally fast-paced quiz-style videos. Alex challenges you to think through hands quickly, then offers his perspective on how to approach the hand. Mike Wasserman also has a phenomenal level of online and live tournament experience and success over the past decade. In the last couple of years he has also turned his attention to sharing his refined analysis with others, particularly in the arena of tournament play. Despite different personal styles, both of these coaches have proven themselves to be top-flight players, thinkers, and communicators.
In their new training course, Mike and Alex combine their approaches to take you on a detailed journey through all the nuances of shortstack poker. Using a recording of Mike’s online victory in the GG Millions online tournament, they start with Mike at mid-tournament with about 30 blinds and then show you every hand until Mike has all the chips. Similar to Gus Hansen’s book Every Hand Revealed (one of the iconic poker tournament books), you see how Mike’s thinking progresses through every key hand in the second half of the tournament.
There are 30 episodes in this package, most lasting around 30 minutes.
Mike and Alex’s Approach to Teaching Shortstack Poker
Alex plays the role of master of ceremonies in the video, teeing up quiz questions by asking the viewer what they would do with each hand. This format is very effective for allowing the viewer to be able to consider how they would handle every single decision. Don’t worry, when you have a hand such as 95o UTG, they quickly move along, knowing that everyone will fold! Alex also plays proxy for the viewer: asking questions that he believes the viewer would want to know.
This is not merely a video showing dozens of tournament hands. Mike and Alex extensively layer in discussions of topics exemplified by specific hands and representing various tournament strategies. For example, they get into a deep evaluation of how to approach monochrome flops, and how these are often under-bluffed on the turn. At another point, when faced with an A5s near the bubble, they engage in a prolonged discussion of their recommended overall approach when getting near the bubble.
Key Moments in Shortstack Poker
While the goal of the training video is how to manage between 10 and 30 big blinds, Mike’s late run includes a variety of circumstances, including absolute desperation. In Episode 10, Mike is down to just a little over 3 big blinds. In a very nuanced move, he raises exactly 3x to 150,000 with KQs leaving a mere 2,299 chips behind. What ensues is an interesting discussion on how a more standard 2x-3x raise versus shoving all-in, particularly online, is a superior move in this specific circumstance. Basically, you are masking the fact that you are pot committed, and if players don’t notice this and think it is a typical 2x-3x raise they may just automatically fold hands they should be calling with.
Soon after, Mike shoves the small blind with 93s against a small stacked big blind. After folding much better hands in other positions, Mike illustrates why using the solver ICMIZER 3 in this blind vs. blind situation at these depths shows profitability of this move with pretty much any two cards. One of the unsurprising learnings throughout is just how aggressive you need to be in late-stage tournaments. We all know this, but seeing the actual hands, and hearing Mike’s breakdowns, brings the lesson to life.
Episodes 18 and 19 review key hands that have already been shown with extensive deeper dive using the solver. One of the side benefits of these videos is watching how a thoughtful pro uses solvers to analyze hands. This kind of preparation is critical to knowing how to handle tricky situations during live play.
Once Mike reaches the final table we get a full 10-11 episodes of that action. So you go from watching a full table with wildly varying stack sizes down to head-to-head play with every hand yielding a potential wild swing. We all know the craziness that will ensue, and Mike takes us on that ride.
Mike shows us how to survive the huge swings. He makes a big run to become one of the 2 biggest stacks on the final table, then he’s back to the pack when 4-5 handed. Understanding how these shifting relative stack sizes change play is the undercurrent of a lot of the discussion between Mike and Alex in this part of the tournament. Many players just can not make these shifts in their play at the final table. Mike and Alex break the proper strategy down for you.
We even see Mike struggle with a situation when facing aggression with AKs. He also folds 77 UTG and explains why that was the right play in this final table spot. The layers of thinking go beyond what most of us are able to do at the table.
Certainly, Mike gets some good fortune as well. He gets TT from the SB over 88 in BB leading to a double up. Later, when 3-handed, he raises with KK and gets shoved on by A6s. Wasserman holds up and it’s on to head-to-head.
Heads up, he continues the ride. Mike starts heads up with 2.5x stack of opponent and then that ratio reverses. The luck returns as Wasserman shoves T9s and gets called by A5s. Mike gets to a straight on the river. From there, the path to victory becomes much easier. The course walks you through the keys to Mike’s win: patience, solid decision-making, relentless aggression when needed, and a sprinkle of good fortune at critical times.
Overview of Mastering Shortstack Poker
Finding a training video offering the combined insights of Alex and Mike is a treat. It’s tough enough to find a single pro with both the knowledge and communication ability to do training videos well. But two of them? It really is a gift. They use Mike’s GG Millions run perfectly: you get the complete sense of the rhythm of the game and the adjustments Mike has to make at different stack depths and tournament stages. While he may play it off as “nothing fancy” at times, there is just so much great thought behind his decisions
Tangible meta-advice is also sprinkled throughout. Play big pots in position. Be mindful of how you use your chips. Don’t over-defend your big blind. Be the aggressor as much as possible. And so much more.
How to MASTER Shortstack Play is a more comprehensive look at tournament poker than it appears with the titular emphasis on shortstack play. Every tournament player would benefit from experiencing the 16-17 hours of this training before wading into their next large tournament. Although the GG Millions is an online event, most lessons are applicable to both live and online tournament play. Mike and Alex take us on an insightful and fun journey into the mind of two tournament pros.
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This course ends up being a more comprehensive look at tournament poker than what you make think going in with the emphasis on shortstack poker play. Every tournament player would benefit from taking the 16-17 hours of this training before then wade into a large tournament again. Despite the fact that it is an online event, most things are applicable to both live and online play. MIke and Alex take us on both an insightful and fun journey into the mind of a tournament pro.