Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Damn Shortstacks

Ed Miller claims The Biggest No-Limit Myth is that "big stacks can 'bully' the table, and short stacks have to sit and take it."

He tries to make the point that "big stacks don’t hold any inherent advantage over small stacks," but I believe his conclusion that you should "go ahead and buy in for whatever you want to buy in for" is bad advice for many players.

There's a simple reason why I like to buy in as much as possible in a no limit game: it maximizes my winrate.

Because I have a skill advantage over my opposition, I want to be able to go all in and get paid off for the highest amount possible when I have the best hand. Sure, I could play as mathematically as well with a shortstack, but why would I want to do that when I could get be getting paid off bigger?

If I only have 50 BB in front of me, that means I can only win up to 50 BB of a big-stacked fish's money at a time. What's the sense in that when my goal is to bust the idiot calling station for all his money when I hold the nuts?

Most winning cash game players should buy in the highest amount they can to make the most of their edge. I can't understand why solid, well-bankrolled players would want to confine themselves to a shortstack strategy.


Here's a hand against a shortstacker I wanted to look at:

From the cutoff in a 5/10 game, I raised first in with QJs to $35. The BB, with only $200 in front of him, makes a mini-raise to $80, leaving him with $120 behind. This screams of a premium hand, either AA or KK.

But with $120 already in the pot, I called another $55 to see a flop. This may be a small leak on my part: the most I can win is $240, and I'm paying $55 more preflop with about a 19 percent chance of winning. This is bad because 55/240=23 percent > 19 percent.

I hate shortstacks. I just want to bust them. Fortunately, that's what I did. I bet $120 on an excellent flop to put the shortstack guy's AA all in:
pokenum -h ah ad - qh jh -- jd 8h th
Holdem Hi: 990 enumerated boards containing Jd Th 8h
cards win %win lose %lose tie %tie EV
Ad Ah 458 46.26 523 52.83 9 0.91 0.467
Qh Jh 523 52.83 458 46.26 9 0.91 0.533
The river brought a 9 to make my straight and it was all over for Mr. Too Scared To Buy In Full.

I guess I should have folded preflop though if I trusted my read. But it's a closer call if I expand the shortstack's range of hands.


Wes said...

I can think of a lot of scenarios in which I'd rather play 20bbs deep instead of 100+. The biggest one is that there are a bunch of lag winning players with a bunch of 3betting preflop. Personally, that is about my least desirable game to play in full stacked. Shortstacked though, its like a dream.

cmitch said...

I don't mind dealing with short stackers - most of them are just bad. The good ones usually play so tight that you can fold to their raises.

The thing that really sucks about short stackers is when your are in multi-way pots with one of the players being a short stacker. You may get priced into some hands or have to make adjustments to your bet sizes to account for these guys. You can also use the short stacks to play against the 3rd player in the pot. (i.e - bet less than half of the remaining shorties stack if you are trying to get more money in the pot. The short stack may raise all-in and you can re-raise if the 3rd player calls.)

jamyhawk said...

I feel you can broaden your range a bit against those short stacks because 1)you already know your max loss if heads up and 2)A lot of short stacks will play with less than premium cards (mentality equal to "I can only lose 5x BB with K10o/s so what the heck -all in". If they ARE sitting tight then you can buy their blinds.

I always prefer to buy in for the max and rebuy if I get close to being the short stack at the table. And like you said, you want to get paid off big when you hit a monster.

Gnome said...

Good points, especially about the value of buying in short in a laggy game.
Even though many shortstacks are bad, I still find them highly annoying because I hate having to fold marginal preflop hands and play for these tiny pots.

Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Doesn't the fact that you hate playing against these short stacks so much suggest that there might be some merit in buying in short? I will say that when I do buy in short it is typically because it causes people to change the way they play against me in a way that is generally beneficial to me IMO.

I will have more to say on this topic at some point in the near future, it is a very interesting point and something worthy of further discussion I think.

SoxLover said...

Just a question--you say at the end that it's a closer call if you can expand his range. But if you expand his range, can you still assume you'll get his whole stack if you win the hand?

I agree with your general point, but I think your hand actually illustrates the benefits from the shortstack's perpsective--he has reduced your implied odds to remove your skill advantage. Arguably he even induced a mistake by putting you on anti-shortstack tilt.

Grinder said...

Damn Shortstacks - Miller ALSO says that Good Deep Stacked players will win MORE against bad or moderate Deep Stack players even though there is an intrinsic advantage to being short stacked.

THUS - if YOU were Deep Stacked against a table of Deep stack players . . being Deep stacked would be a disadvantage and short stack might be better.

However - on the other side of the coin - if you are short stacked against a bunch of bad short stack players you do not get that advantage as you want more deep stack players in the game.

As always "it all depends".

I DO have to admit I like knowing that I'm annoying LOL but I go both ways.