Analysing Short Stack Play

I was having a discussion the other day with a colleague about short stack strategies and the effectiveness of them. He wanted to try playing a short stack system and I advised him to learn how to play a deep stack instead. Some years ago the short stack strategy was born and was like many new strategies it was initially successful. Then more and more players cottoned on to what good short stack players were doing and devised counter strategies. I used to avoid short stack players like the plague some years ago but I no longer mind them in the same way for several reasons.

Firstly most sites these days have increased their minimum buy levels which makes playing a short stack more problematic. It is much more difficult these days to get all in pre-flop or even on the flop without massively over betting the pot. So short stack players have to play a little poker these days but many don’t have the skill to do so. So this is the first reason why we shouldn’t automatically fear a short stack strategy if we play deep. Secondly, many short stack players are just poor poker players.

Just because a player buys, in short, does not automatically mean that they are playing a good short stack strategy. The chances are that they are simply just buying in short because that is the sum total of money that they want to risk. Thirdly there are clear counter-strategies to combatting short stack players anyway and this is even if the players are good at what they do. This is the basis of a further blog post but suffice to say that the combination of sites and networks increasing the buy-in levels, many short stackers still being poor and successful counter strategies means that we need not fear their action.

Also, I would rather a player be active on the site playing a short stack than not playing poker at all. They add liquidity to the games and help keep games alive. It is better to have them playing for real money than on play money tables. If you want to play full ring for example then the short stack players help with liquidity. If there are 100 short stack players on a site then I don’t think they are hurting things too much because if they had to buy in for the maximum then many of them wouldn’t play poker at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I would still rather have a table full of weak poker players but how often do you find the absolute perfect table line up. Even if you did find it, the large number of players using table finding software and buddy lists would mean that the regs would be lining up to take a seat at this table anyway. So you have to be able to adapt to various players with various skill levels and various buy-in levels to be a successful poker player these days.


Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

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