Watch your hand selection vs short stackers

The simple fact of the matter is the shorter stacked you are the less skill that it takes to be successful in no limit. ...

Posted Jan 01, 2014

Contributor

Bart Hanson

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

The simple fact of the matter is the shorter stacked you are the less skill that it takes to be successful in no limit. That is why it is recommended that new players play with a short stack when they are first getting accustomed to the game. Your decisions become a lot easier post flop mainly because you can not really flat call preflop with any implied odds types of hands AND your opponents, if they are playing correctly against you, cannot call you with any preflop implied odds types of hands. So you get into a scenario where with overpairs you really should not be up against flopped sets and two pair, and if you are it is really not all that bad to stack off against them because your opponents have made a huge math error preflop.

These math errors are what I want to examine here--but from the deeper stacked players perspective. Most players in live games that play short stacked are usually weaker types of opponents as playing a deeper stack yields more of a winrate. In fact, I can count the number of times on one hand that I have seen a decent live short stacked player. It is different online when you can play thirty tables at a time. So knowing this, it is a lot of times human nature to try to get involved with these players because we think that they are such easy money. Now, they may be easy money but we are making a huge mistake by opening up our range against them when it is mathematically incorrect to do so. We cannot over come the mistakes we make preflop versus stacks of less than fifty big blinds even if we are the best in the world post flop.

If you have read my articles here before you should be familiar with the rules of 15x, 25x, and 35x for flat calling preflop with pocket pairs, suited connectors and gapped suited connectors, respectively. Let us say a player with a $200 stack opens over a limper to $30 in a $2-$5 no limit game. We have position and think that the opener is a horrible player. Should we call with a hand like 7 9 on the button? Even with our superior skill if we call with a hand like this we are actually handing the bad player money. No matter how good we think we are this is a mathematical mistake that we cannot overcome.

Now some players think that they can call and “take it away” on some flops but you really have to ask yourself if the bad player is deep enough to float versus a continuation bet of say $40-$50. At that point he has already put in half of his stack in the hand. I am amazed that competent players do not pay more attention to these situations and it may partly have to do with their ego. But this is also why tournament poker can be so frustrating and has so much variance. The simple fact of the matter is we do not have a huge advantage against short stacks when preflop opening sizes are 3x or larger but we can easily control the optimal way to play against them by paying close attention to our preflop hand selection.

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