No-Limit Hold'em: SSS - Pre-Flop Play


The short stack strategy is based on playing profitable starting hands. Marginal and weak hands are folded before the flop. This article describes which hands can be regarded as profitable depending on the respective situation.

We have included a starting hand chart (see below) to illustrate and provide a better overview when and how certain hands should be played. It provides clear instructions as to which action is recommended with which starting hands.

Various factors determine whether and how a hand should be played:

  1. What hand do I have?
  2. Which position do I have at the table?
  3. What are my opponents doing before it is my turn to act?

If you are the short stack at a table, you only need to answer these three questions and follow the instructions in the table in order to implement the strategy described.

Starting hands


The starting hand chart can be downloaded from the download section.

Explanation of Symbols

Fold: The hand has to be folded in the described situation

Raise: We raise, if nobody has raised in front of us.

Reraise 1: We raise, unless there was a raise and a reraise in front of us.

Reraise: We raise, irrespective of what happened in front of us.


The size of the raise depends on the size of your own stack and the number of opponents.

The size of the stack determines whether you should make another normal raise or go all-in straight away. If you only have less than a third of your entire stack left after raising, then you should go all-in. The reason for this is that you always have to go all-in on the flop with such a small stack anyway. If you go all-in pre-flop there is a chance that all of your oponents will fold (fold equity).

If our stack is large enough so that we have more options than calling, we should make a normal bet or raise. In no-limit hold'em, a number of standard values have been established that make it easier to find the right bet size.

  • If you are the first player to enter the pot (excluding the blinds), you should bet three to four times the big blind. However, if players have called before it's your turn to act, you should raise one big blind more for each player that is already in the pot.
  • If precisely one player has bet an amount larger than the big blind, and we are holding a hand with which we should raise again according to the starting hand chart, then we should raise by three times the amount of the bet made by the opponent. If one or two players have already called the raise, we should raise to four times the big blind. In case three or more players have called we raise to five times the big blind.


  1. If our starting hand consists of two aces or kings, and a number of players raised before us, we should always go all-in. All other hands should be folded without exception.
  2. If a player raises again after our raise, then the ratio of our stack to the size of bets made previously and, of course, our hand are of vital importance:
    • If your stack is four times the size of the raise, then you can push all-in with a pair of jacks or higher and with ace-king.
    • If you have a stack that is less than three to four times the size of the raise, then you can go all-in with two tens (TT) and ace-queen (AQ) as well.
    • If your stack is less than three times the amount of your own raise, then you should go all-in with every hand listed in the table (since with weak hands you wouldn't have made the initial raise). All information can be found in form of a chart in our download section.

The hands listed here can of course be adapted depending on the opponent and your own playing style. So or , for example, would be acceptable as a starting hand or a more loose playing style concerning the all-in hands would also be possible.

However, to start with we recommend you follow the method we have outlined in order to ensure successful pre-flop play. This strategy introduced here also is the basis for the following rounds of betting.