In a tournament, the standard rules are that a player does not surrender even if they cannot post any of their blinds, and that they must participate in the pot. The blinds also stay the same no matter whether the big blind or the small blind can post their blinds. There’s a famous term, “all you need is a chip and a chair” – as long as you have at least one chip, you’re still able to win the tournament.
Let’s say the Texas Holdem tournament in question has blinds of 2000/4000. However, when it comes around to the small blind, he only has 1500 to post. What this means is there would be a side pot created.
Everyone else put in their blinds as normal, however the main pot would only allow a maximum of 1500 in it from each player, and then there would be a side pot for the rest.
For example, everyone folds to a player two off the button, who calls for 4000. Everyone else folds, except the big blind who checks. The small blind of course only has 1500. As the big blind has put in 4000, and the player two off the dealer button has put in 4000, there’s now a pot of 9500 tournament chips.
However, as the small blind only has 1500 chips, then 1500 chips from the big blind and the player two off the button are put into the main pot, which would have 4500 chips(3×1500). The remaining 5000 chips are then put into a side pot.
This sidepot is now contested between the big blind and the player two off the button. The small blind at no point can participate in the pot, and even if they win the hand, they will only win the main pot. So if it goes to a showdown, and the small blind has the best hand, he would only win the main pot. Then the sidepot would be the person with the best hand between the big blind and the player two off the button.
This can be a very difficult situation to find yourself in as you don’t get to choose the hand that you are going all-in on. You could be dealt the worst hand in poker in this position and be forced to go all-in on it. That’s no good. This is why when you get in a tournament and it is late in the game, you should adopt a push or fold strategy. Your hand is either good enough to push, or go all-in, or you are going to fold it. There is risk involved in this strategy, but it is the best way to rebuild your stack in a hurry and stick around until late in the game. Playing passively can have you end up in this position and that is not where you want to be.
This is a standard rule in tournament poker. If you want to know more about tournament rules and strategy, check out the Pokerstars Poker School.
Additional Chips/Small Blind Questions: