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Playing Online Poker against a Short Stack Player to Maximize Winnings

By: Staff

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These days on the forums then there are many discussions on how short stack players affect the dynamics of the game. In fact many players often say how short stack players actually ruin the game.

It is certainly true that short stack players alter the game dynamic but just how do they hurt a deep stacked player? Well firstly a deep stacked player and especially a skilled deep stacked player cannot use their full arsenal of tactics against an opponent that only has enough chips to play pre-flop or on the flop.

It is a huge misconception that short stack players are very tight. These days professional short stack players get most of their profits from fold equity and other players calling them down lightly. In days gone by then most short stack players were paid off by players calling them too widely when they pushed all in.

Then more and more opponents started to understand just what a short stack player was trying to do and adjusted their strategy accordingly. So just what are these adjustments when we are facing skilled short stack opponents?

To blunt a good short stack player then we essentially do two things and they are to open raise less often and also to open raise to a smaller amount. If we tighten our open raising range then to a certain extent their strategy is getting the better of us.

In an ideal world then we do not want to deviate from our strategy if it is a successful one. This is why we ideally do not want any short stack players on our table at all. This will not be possible in today’s modern game and while many sites have increased the minimum buy-in, small stack players are still prevalent.

Quite often when our hand is a borderline raise of fold then one of the factors that should lean us towards doing one play or the other is if there are short stack players either to our left or who have already limped in to our right. For example imagine if it has been folded around to us in the lojack seat and we have a borderline raising hand of pocket threes.

If there are two short stackers to our left then this is probably a fold and even if there is only one short stack player then this still alters the actual dynamic of the hand.

So one way to combat short stack players is to play tighter and reduce our opening range. Also if we do not want to do that and we still want to attack the blinds then reducing our raise size is also another good strategy. So instead of making a pot sized raise to 3.5bb then why not consider making a smaller raise to 2.5bb?

The best move of all though is to game select better and select games with as few short stack players in them as possible.

This is why both game and seat selection are important. If you have short stack players to your left then they present more of a problem because aggressive short stack players thrive on fold equity. If they are sitting to your right and have already folded then they can no longer be a threat to you. Only if they have open limped do they represent a problem to your normal aggressive strategy from position.

If I have the option to take a seat at a table that has short stack players to my immediate left then I will refuse the seat in many instances. Only if there are several very good spots on the table with weak fish will I persevere and play poker on this table.

Isolating with position is another key strategy when you play deep stacked but once again a good short stack player blunts this strategy. Imagine if you are playing in a NL200 full ring game and a weak player has open limped. You raise to 4.5bb from the cut-off with the J-10s. However a short stack player shoves all in for 19bb and everybody folds.

Here you do not really have a call to make and you have to fold and so the short stack player has blunted your attempt to isolate against the weaker player. You have to be aware of the problem that short stack players present to you and have a counter strategy or be more selective in terms of game selection and seat selection.

This is why it is better to play at a stake level where there is a large choice of games to go at. The way to maximise your earn rate in poker is not to just learn how to play hands well. In my opinion most players do not maximise this part of the game and simply take any seat that comes along.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online at 888poker.

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