While the stop and go can technically be done in a cash game, it’s more applicable to tournament play. Likewise, it can be used in multiway pots, but its success rate goes way down. Instead, players are more apt to use it in heads-up hands.
It’s also usually employed by short-stacked players sitting with between 5-10 big blinds. If you try it with a stack shorter than that, your success rate will be low. That’s because the maths will undoubtedly dictate a call from your opponent no matter their cards.
Here’s a simple formula for when to use the stop-and-go play:
Short Stacked + In the Blind + Mediocre Hand = Stop and Go
A simple example of a stop-and-go play goes like this. With the blinds at 1,000/2,000/300, Player A (65,500) opens for 4,500 from early position, and action folds to Player B (12,500) in the big blind. He opts to just call with the 9♦7♣, the flop comes down 6♥5♠2♣, and he moves all in for his last 8,000. Player A folds.
By just calling preflop, Player B “stops” the action, and then “goes” all-in; hence the name.
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WHY USE THE STOP AND GO?
In the above hand, the stop and go was a great option for several reasons. Firstly, the early-position raise indicated strength, so likely either a big pocket pair, a big ace, or two paint cards. Second, the nine-seven offsuit isn’t a great hand to three-bet jam, especially when you assume you’re going to get called. Third, Player B already had 2,000 committed in the big blind, so it was just 2,500 more to see a flop.
If Player B hit any part of the flop, such as the gutshot straight draw on a board unlikely to connect with his opponent, he can execute the stop and go by moving all-in. Even if his opponent calls with a big pocket pair, he at least has a draw to fall back on.
If the flop were to come down something like A♣K♦Q♦, which was apt to hit Player A and missed Player B, the latter could forgo the stop and go and check-fold to a bet. Sure, he loses chips, but at least he stays alive. Had he shoved preflop and gotten called, that wouldn’t be the case.
Take note, the stop-and-go manoeuvre is usually done when you’re out of position, or first to act. If you’re in position, meaning your opponent acts first, chances are they’ll set you all in. If you caught any part of the flop, be prepared to call.
Here are some good and bad times to execute the Stop and Go play:
Good Time for S&G
Bad Time for S&G
7-10 big blinds
In the blinds
Not in the blinds
Against tighter players
Against looser players
Strong hands (just shove‘em preflop)
In heads-up pots
Flops likely to hit your opponent
PUT YOUR OPPONENT TO THE TEST
The beauty of the stop and go, when in position, is that it allows short-stacked players to turn the table on the bigger stacks by putting them to a tough decision. Short stacks don’t have a lot of fold equity, but the stop and go helps them realise it fully.
In another example, imagine Player A (50,000) is in middle position with the A♠Q♥ and raises to 2,100 at the 500/1,000/100 level. Player B (10,000) is in the small blind with the 10♣9♣. If he moves all in, Player A will make an easy decision – call.
However, if Player B just calls and then shoves 7,900 on a flop like 4♥5♦6♠, he puts Player A to the test - despite offering the same pot odds. That’s because three community cards are out there, which changes the dynamic.
Does he call the big bet with just ace-queen high? The flop didn’t connect with him and seemed to be a good one for a small blind hand. So much to consider, which makes it a much tougher spot.
Short-stacked players don’t often consider seeing a flop, and while you usually can’t afford to, being invested in the blinds gives you a reason.
WHEN TO BACK OFF THE STOP AND GO
Let’s say you’re setting up the stop and go and smack the flop hard. This situation may be a case where you’ll want to change course.
For example, if you have the 7♥ 6♥and the flop comes down 3♥4♥5♠. Instead of shoving all in, you may want to consider a check in the hope that your opponent continues. If you follow through with the stop and go, you might scare away your opponent (which is the original intent of the move).
That said, players get suspicious of the stop and go and will defend. They certainly wouldn’t expect you to shove with the nuts. If you think your opponent is the type to call a stop and go, shoving isn’t terrible. But, if you have any inkling that moving all-in might scare them away, you should definitely back off the stop and go with a check.
Aside from flopping big, you should always plan on following through with your stop and go. Too many players chicken out when they miss the flop. It doesn’t matter if you miss the flop if it also misses your opponent’s range. If it’s not a flop likely to hit your opponent, you need to be shoving.
CONSIDER THE "LIMP AND GO" WHEN UNDER 5BBS
Again, the chances of a stop and go being success increase significantly when you have 7-10 big blinds. So, what should you do when you have, say, less than 5 big blinds? Consider the “limp and go.”
This play is employed when you have a poker hand you like, but instead of moving all-in (with such a short stack you have no fold equity), you just limp when first to act. Your intentions are twofold. If anyone raises, you’ll commit your chips, but if no one raises and you see a flop, you either shove or call off.
With the limp and go, you don’ necessarily care if others limp behind you. If they do, it just means you can win more chips when you shove the flop.
An example of a limp-and-go move might go like this. With the blinds at 2,000/4,000/500, you’re under the gun with a stack of 20,000 and look down at the A♥A♣. Moving all-in is perfectly fine, but you run the risk of folding out the remaining players and taking down the blinds and antes.
If you want to ensure you get action, you can always limp. By doing so, you entice opponents to enter the pot, which means you could win more. At the very least, the player in the big blind will be forced to play. However, the risk of taking a flop is that your strong hand can always get cracked, especially against numerous opponents.
With the limp and go, the reward is winning more chips than the blinds and antes, but the risk is you often have to contend with multiple opponents. As we all know, anything can happen on the flop.
Note in the above example, if a player were to raise after you limp, you should go all -n when action is back on you.
In Conclusion, if you’re not using the stop-and-go play in your short-stack tournament strategy, you need to rectify it immediately. Being short stacked often handcuffs players, but the stop and go is one move open to them.