If you’re looking to expand your repertoire of poker strategies and tactics and like the sound of a risky but high-paying move, then Stop & Go is the perfect answer for players who want to elbow their competitors out of the game.
At the basic level, Stop & Go is all about calling a pre-flop raise out of position, then betting big (usually all in) on the flop, no matter what the cards end up being turned. This is designed to put your opponents or opponents off betting raising any further, and folding their hand when usually they would have called if you had wagered chips on your hand pre-flop. In its simplest form, the Stop & Go is all about picking up a decent amount of chips when you’re short stacked, or need to stay in the game by winning some chips fast.
The best time to play a Stop & Go is when you’re up against it from a stack perspective. If the big and small blinds are more than you’d like to wager, then Stop & Go is a good way to get back in the game with between 5 and 10 big blinds against you. For example, if you’re playing against tight players who are cautious about betting big on their initial hand, but are happy to go big on the flop, then Stop & Go should work perfectly. If you’re in a group of loose players and there’s less than 5 big blinds, then you’re better off waiting for a decent hand instead of bluffing your way into a Stop & Go.
Test out your opponents
A Stop & Go tactic is all about taking a situation where you’d usually have no chance of having a strong enough hand to compete, and making it look like you’re willing to limp along to the flop before (the stop), before going in big once the cards are turned (the go).
Positioning is key with a Stop & Go, and being out of position or first bet actually works well here. If there’s someone else with better cards at the table and they can bet first on the flop, then they may force you all in with their bet, making a Stop & Go unsuitable. If you’re chasing someone who is knocking or has only raised slightly, then shoving some serious chips can put everyone else off the idea of calling. Then, it’s all down to whether the first player wants to take it any further.
Forcing your opponents to make these tough decisions puts the pressure on them, and allows players who are short stacked to get out of jail if they play the tactics correctly.
When to back off
Stop & Go isn’t great for some situations. If it turns out that your mediocre hand is suddenly worth playing, then you might want to hold off scaring your opponent out of the round. Holding off for the turn and river may force them into betting more, thus raising the value of the pot. Simply put, if you’ve got the nuts in front of you, and you’re certain of that, then hold off a Stop & Go until the final betting opportunity.
It’s also worth realising just how committed your opponent is to defending too. A Stop & Go play will always raise suspicion (from decent players anyway) as it isn’t a particularly complex move, so if you’ve got a tight player who seems to have a read on the game, and plenty of chips in front of them, then it may be time to look for a different strategy for short stacked play.
The Limp and Go
Stop & Go is most successful when there are between 7 and 10 (or more) big blinds on the table, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used in rounds that have 4 of less big blinds. This is where the Limp & Go can still help, albeit with more of a risk of losing a small amount of chips.
Instead of moving all in with a hand you like, you can simply call to buy your way to the community cards, known as limping, before playing your ‘Go’. This may entice more people, but therein lies the problem – more opponents could end meaning more winning hands than yours, and with less chips, a big fish may be tempted to pay you out of the game with a call that matches your all-in. Just like a Stop & Go, a Limp & Go is designed to put the decision in someone else’s court, and you’re still committing big-style, albeit a little bit later.
Stop & Go tips
Stop & Go isn’t exactly a tough strategy, but you’ll need to pick your timing and get it right for the payoff. By always playing Stop & Go when you’re first to act, you’ll always put your opponents into the difficult place of having a tough decision, and by being committed, you’ll look like you mean business rather than just waiting to see what everyone else wants to do first.
You should only play a Stop & Go when you’re heads up too. If there’s more than one player in the pot, then you could end up with another good hand in the equation once the flop has been turned. In a situation where you’ve got more than one hand to contend with, then an all-in pre-flop move is much better than trying to play a Stop & Go.