Saturday, October 27, 2007

Short stacks in cash games

As I sit here at work on a freakin Saturday, I'm getting ready to take a lunch break... it's weird to be getting ready to take a lunch break at work and not listening to Rome... No reference to Chad in Portland and Mike in Wichitard? Jeez, how am I gonna survive the afternoon???

Alright, before I really start, I'll give credit to where it's due. Gnome posted this the other day and it got me to thinking... He referenced this article which advocated that you could buy in for whatever you want to buy in for in a cash game because there's no inherent advantage in being a big stack vs a small stack. Personally, I think that's a very bad advice. Now, since I'm obviously taking excerpts of what the article said, please go read the full article to at least understand their point of view. Here's mine.

First and foremost, let me say that like everything in poker, the answer to the question of how much you should buy in for is "it depends." But generally, I would never buy in short. If you've followed my hand histories and other posts, it's no secret that I generally go for homeruns with my big hands. So, when I have a big hand, I have to maximize that value. In order to do this, the bigger the stack I have, the better off I am. This is obvious right? I mean doubling up when I have $400 is better than $80.

More importantly however, I think buying in short takes away your ability to play. Or at least limits what you can do. Let's say you have pocket 7s in MP. Do you raise? or do you just limp in? Well, let's say you like to limp in with mid to low pocket pairs. You limp, it's folded around to the cutoff who puts in a standard pot sized raise to $18. It's back to you and now, you have to call $14 more into a pot that contains $28 ($18 from CO + $6 in blinds + your $4 limp). That would only leave you with $62. So, preflop, you're calling off 22.5% of your stack for a 12.5% chance to hit a set. I could be wrong with my percentages but it really does take away your set mining odds.

I also feel like some other hands become less playable. Let's say that you tend to call a raise with suited connectors and one gappers from late position. Well, can you really do that if you buy in short? Or is that just not part of your strategy? Personally, I don't mind seeing a flop with hands like that if I'm only up against one raise and I have position on them. Why? Because now, the burden of proof is on them. I can act after them. So what if the flop doesn't hit me. The more important question is did the flop help him? If not, I can try to take the pot away with a bet or a raise. Or, I can flat call the flop and see what ensues on the turn. Again, I feel that there would be many different options in how to play a hand when you're deep. When you're short though, wouldn't you pretty much have to make the decision about the hand on the flop? You can't call and see what happens on the turn, can you?

Maybe I'm too narrowminded about this whole deal. But I feel like I can make a play more often than not with a bigger stack because also, keep in mind that if you're the opponent, you have to worry about subsequent bets. If both players are deep, you can't chase draws as much as you might want to because your pot odds are down since you know that if you call and the card doesn't come on the turn, you'll be facing another bet. If the opponent is short and can only put out one bet on the flop, a lot of the drawing hands could make a move because with two cards to come, the odds are much better.

Now, of course, I went with both extremes. One was buying in with the minimum and the other was with the max. Sure, I'm sure there are middle grounds but I think you need to buy in enough to at least give yourself some room to play. And I say all this to basically state that I hate short stacks at the table. In a cash game, I'm not looking for a 50-50 race. I know a lot of people easily call off their chips with AK or even AQ. In a cash game, I'm not eager to do that because quite frankly, if I just want to flip coins, there's no reason for me to play poker. Craps table with the pass line bets will give me similar odds. But short stacks will easily shove because usually, they are playing above their roll and are looking for a quick double up. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem adjusting my strategy with the presence of a short stack. But that still doesn't mean I like them either.

Damn, I'm starving. Enough poker talk, it's time to eat!


Gnome said...

Right, buying in short limits your options because you have a smaller stack to "make moves" with. The flip side of that argument is that playing a short stack may be easier because you have fewer decisions to make. Many shortstack players go with a push-or-fold strategy, but I can't vouch for its effectiveness.
I think the problem of Ed Miller's analysis is that he fails to differentiate between odds and profitability. Of course overall poker probabilities don't change no matter what you buy in for, but buying in short limits opportunities to win big bets, which are what makes no limit so attractive. He would have a better point if he were talking about limit hold em.
Some players might benefit from a shortstack strategy: those who are underbankrolled for a limit, lack skills to compete with superior players or are scared of losing a full buy in. There are also exceptions in loose-aggressive higher-limit games where a lot of money goes in preflop, potentially creating opportunities to make more correct decisions without having to worry so much about getting outplayed postflop.
But in general, buying in full is the best strategy for most solid players. Thanks for the post, link and discussion.

Sia said...

agree with your outlook on short stack 100%. Granted, i've bought in my fair share of times short stacked....and of course....i'm trying to double up real quick and then get some real poker done. Usually doesn't work. But it does minimize the risk if you think you can take advantage of a loose player right off the bat.

By the way, how come you haven't blogged about the latest PAPT win? You're almost in first and you've probably played the least of the regulars (aside from JT and myself)...pretty impressive.

In fact, it reminds me a bit of.....well, me. Good work.


jamyhawk said...

Isn't it true that many times, it is not about what you have but what your opponent thinks you have. Perception is reality.

If you are buying in short, I don't see how you can be "perceived" as a bully. You don't want to be a bully?

How about when you are pushing all in with a set and I only need to call another 20% of the pot (or 5-1 odds on my money) for my draw.

And, I certainly don't think you can bluff with a shortstack. I'm not advocating super loose play against a shortstack, but I agree with you that you can't play soooooted connectors or 1 gappers for 1/4 of your stack and hope you hit.

This is for cash tables, of course, and is strictly my opinion.

smokkee said...

good post. i never buy-in short and hate when there are too many shorties at the table. you have to adjust your bets when they're in a hand so you don't overcommit and have to call their push.

like you said, if i wanted to flip coins i wouldn't be playing poker.

CzechRazor said...

I've bought in short to 5-10 and 10-20 NL games because the guys who play deep will often call you light just trying to bust you and make you go away - but I always have the goods at those stakes if I sit with a short stack.

Highly profitable.

The original commentor summed it up well so I won't go into what hand ranges you need to play in order to profit from this strategy.

HighOnPoker said...

I'm also a full-buy-in proponent, but I think we forget that there are players who would benefit from buying in short. Specifically, less experienced players can adopt a more pre-flop strategy with a short stack and use a push-monkey style to reduce the advantage held by the experienced players. I don't advocate this style, but I am sure that it is useful for some people, particularly those who should never play speculative hands like suited connectors, because their post-flop play is weak.

Klopzi said...

There are advantages to buying in short as there are advantages to buying in for the full 100 BB (or 200 BB depending on the table).

There is no easy answer as to which is better.

I'd rather not go into a long dialogue since I doubt anyone will read this comment. I will say that many players buy-in full because they're told that they should never buy-in short. I used to be one of those people. Consequently, there are a number of players at the tables with full stacks and they don't know how to use them to their full advantage.

There is a reason for buying in for 40 - 60 BB (20 BB is ridiculously small and ghey) and it has nothing to do with playing under-bankrolled. Though I much prefer it when my opponents read my short-stack as weakness and try to "bully" me off hands.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you aren't paying attention to the article you referenced. You would really have to change your style if you went from a full stack to a 20BB stack. However, a 20BB stack can take advantage of mathematical elements that occur when playing against all bigger stacks. This is especially true when the game is loose aggressive with a lot of preflop raises with marginal hands that can't stand a reraise. With a 20 BB stack strategy you play tight aggressive and you don't speculate with drawing type hands preflop. However, by using this style you almost always get it in with the bet of it, you are usually heads up and usually you have dead money in the hand as well. Many big stacks fail to adjust their game for the presence of a short stack. They raise light, and call reraises light because after all short stacks are all donks anyway...right?