The Stop and Go: A Play All Tournaments Players Should Use

The more tactics you have at your disposal for SNG and MTT tournaments, the better. Especially for spots where you’re short on chips or fold equity, a common occurrence for tournament regulars.

I want to share one of my favorite tactics with you today. It’s a move that’s saved my ass from the rail more times than I can count, and I’m sure it will help you, too.

It’s called the stop and go.

What Is The Stop and Go?

The stop and go is a well-known play that tournament players use. It’s used when you are short on chips, need to play push/fold poker, but your opponents (in front of you) are taking your opportunities. In other words, when they raise, you don’t have enough chips (fold equity) to consider shoving over them.

So what you do is call the raise (the stop) with the intent to shove any flop (the go). While you don’t have enough to (re)shove preflop, you should have enough for a 1/3 to pot sized bet on the flop, giving you plenty of fold equity and an opportunity to double up without having to race in a 50/50 or 60/40 situation.

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Why Use the Stop and Go?

Because it works.

More specifically, you want to use the stop and go because once you get shorter than 6 or 7 big blinds in a tournament, you have no fold equity. You can’t let yourself get to that point because it significantly increases your chances of busting the tournament. However, if players are raising in front of you and all you have is 8-10 big blinds, if you reshove you’ll be giving them between 2-3 to 1 odds.

You’re going to get called.

So using the stop and go uses what little fold equity you have left. That’s why you want to use it.

To really understand how the stop and go works, consider this simple example:

Say you have 300 chips at 25/50 (6 big blinds). An opponent in front of you raises to 150, making the pot 225. If you shove here you’ll make the pot 525, but it will only cost the original raiser an additional 150 chips to call, giving him 3.5:1 odds to call. With these odds your opponent can call with pretty much anything considering your range as a short stack.

However, if you call his raise instead, the pot will only be 375. On the flop you’ll have 150 chips to shove, which will give your opponent 2:1 odds. 2:1 odds are still decent, but not so much that your opponent will call you with any two cards. Especially after seeing the flop (you miss the flop 2/3 times). So you’re going to have much more fold equity using the stop and go play.

How to Make Sure Your Stop and Go Works

The challenge to the stop and go is knowing when to use it and whom to use it against. That’s key to ensuring that it works. So here are some tips from my own experience that will help you find success with the stop and go play.

  • Make sure you have enough chips behind to make a 1/3 to pot sized bet. Even 1/3 is small, but against the right stack or player it’s effective.
  • Stop and go medium sized stacks. Stacks that are too small will call you, and stacks that are deep have the resources to call for the hell of it.
  • Stop and go tight players. Loose players are more likely to call, even with ace or king high hands.
  • Avoid stop and go plays against regulars or good players. They’ll know what you’re doing, and may very well call you with ace or king high.
  • Stop and go with suited connectors and non-dominated hands because if you’re going to be called, it’s going to be by aces and kings. I like to stop and go with hands like T9s or 76 because you’re more likely to have two live cards, and a 30-40% edge, as opposed to maybe one live card and drawing dead.
  • Stop and go in heads up pots only. Sometimes you don’t have a choice, since players after you might call. Just know that in multi-way pots the flop is more likely to connect with someone.
  • Try to be the first to act on the flop. That way the first play on the flop is you shoving and putting the raiser in an awkward spot.
  • Follow through. I’ve seen so many players start a stop and go, then chicken out on the flop. This is horrible because you waste half your stack doing that, and for sure have no fold equity on your next hand. There are a few exceptions, like flops that are all face cards. Other than that, though, be sure to follow through.

The name of the game is fold equity. So whenever you’re considering the stop and go, make sure your opponent is capable of folding and you have enough chips to give your opponent bad odds. That way you’re making the best of what is usually the worst situation to be in while playing tournaments or sit and goes.