Below eleven big blinds you should be in “push/fold” mode, never raising unless you are going all-in. Trying to be tricky and make a small raise or limp in with a big hand is only useful if you are a very strong player facing a very weak player, and even then many of the best players avoid it. If you just go all-in or fold when the effective stack is eleven big blinds or less, you will avoid making costly mistakes.
The major reason why playing push/fold is correct at this level is that with smaller stacks we can quantify the game and play perfect poker. Knowing that you are playing perfectly is a rare thing in poker, but when you are heads up with a short stack the math is not complicated and we have created charts that allow you to play perfect poker very easily. This can be extremely useful, whether you’re competing in a live tournament, or simply practising your skills online at a site like Party Poker. No matter how your opponent plays, they can not win money against these charts in the long run. Their best hope is to play exactly the same way and break even against you. Luckily for those of us who use these charts, most of our opponents don’t know about them and tend to make significant mistakes when stacks get short.
If you are on the button, you can push all-in with the following hands based on the number of big blinds in the shorter stack. We know these ranges seem very wide, but they are mathematically proven, and experts playing against them are unable to beat them.
When calculating a range to call your opponent’s all-in, the following chart is a good start and provides the same protection as the chart above. If you play this strategy, your opponent can only break even against you at best, and the vast majority of them won’t know about these charts and will make mistakes frequently. You can tighten up these ranges by about 5% if your opponent is much too tight, but otherwise it’s safest to just follow the chart once the stacks get short.
These charts provide a simple strategy that gives you a big advantage of your opponents when the blinds get big and the stacks are getting small. If you follow these charts you have the short stack portion of the heads up sit and go mastered.