I think I've answered my dilemma about being the poker tournament short stack.
Wait. Bleed to death if necessary. Just don't blow all the hard work by shoving any two the hand before the blinds hit, where you need either everyone to fold, or luck. Given the loose tables I play, the former is unlikely, so why not trust to the luck of cards to come? I did just this in my latest tournament.
I was down to three big blinds but, under the gun, let a trash hand go. My reward? AQ as the big blind with one raiser and a caller. I couldn't have been happier. My hand made, I trebled up and kept the same policy right into second place. I know this is just one instance but I've done it before and seen others do it often enough that it looks almost +EV (i.e. in the long run it will win money).
I'd got to this parlous state after breaking one of my cardinal rules. I'd hit the ignorant end of a straight on the flop and bet out. I got one caller. An innocuous card on the turn prompted another bet and another call. Then, disaster. The river made possible a higher straight.
I'd worked out a while back that it always pays either to bet on or check and call. An opponent chasing that straight could never make it pay long-term, even if they took all your chips on the river. The stacks in a tournament aren’t big enough. Therefore, if you’ve not given them the odds each time, you're +EV to commit everything on the river. And when you add the possibility of a bluff into the equation, you're well quids in.
I checked. He shoved. I folded. He showed AK and my straight had been good. I felt sick. He may truly have thought he had the better hand but basically I'd been suckered. The only reason I'd folded was my previous dismal run. I didn't want yet another early loss. That's the way fear works in this game.