Thursday, October 23, 2008

Am I playing the wrong game?

I am shooting for a small prize in one of the Eurolinx rake races. As a result, I have played a few no-limit tables when there aren't enough good limit tables going. The results have been pretty good, I have to say.

I have been short stacking with minimum buyins (20bb), mostly on 0.5/1 tables and last night at one 1/2 full-ring. The results have been remarkably good, while playing a very straightforward and moderately tight approach (along with fairly standard semi-bluffing). Nearly every time I have tried this (maybe 6-10 sessions), I have come out ahead. In the case of the 1/2 table, I quadrupled the buyin into nearly a full stack!

On the flip side, my last few limit sessions have been dismal - dropping maybe 40BB all up. After the above NL sessions last night, I played a few hands of 2/4 sitting three handed in order to finish a bonus, and dumped 15BB in about five hands. First hand I three bet A7 from the BB and hit the ace on the flop and the seven on the river - unfortunately the villain hit his flush on the river with a suited Q2.

I think I will have to look more seriously at no-limit soon, probably once I have read Harrington.

Just one final point. I know that many poker players seem to have a low opinion of short stackers, with the prevailing view that you should sit with the maximum stack in order to maximise your winnings with premium hands. I have no philosophical objection to short stacking whatsoever, and in fact there are definite identifiable advantages.

If you sit with the shortest stack on the table, as far as you are concerned everybody has the same stack. It is clear that there is no mathematical advantage for a large stack over a short stack, since the short stack can ignore any money that an opponent has in excess of his own stack size. On the other hand, a short stack has certain advantages. When a short stack is all-in, he is guaranteed to see a showdown. If there are multiple players in the pot, it is possible for the large stacks to bet each other out of the pot and for potentially winning hands to be forced to fold. Another issue is that the optimal play against a particular player depends on his stack size. For the short stacker, this is easy since everybody has the same stack size. It is not so easy for the big stack, since everybody has a different stack size - this is most significant again in multi-way pots where the big stacks often pay little attention to playing correctly against the short stacks.


TiocfaidhArLa said...

There is no doubt that short-stacking is mathematically an advantage. Philosphically though, there is a poker economy that is enjoying a boom, but can be subjected to various threats online cheating, bad PR, legislation, abusive chat etc.

IMHO, short-stacking can fall into this category. There is probably nothing wrong with the individual financial instruments that caused the current financial crisis, but the net effect is dramatic.

The prevelance of short-stacking and the ease with which the strategy can be multitabled negatively skews the online environment.

Thankfully to combat this we are seeing the introduction of 50bb min BI tables. This is a positive move for those that really nejoy the game in its purest sense.

In terms of game selection, after 6 months, I really feel that I am starting to get a feel for NL. The transition is incredibly difficult and for me, expensive.

I jumped into NL200 from $20/$40Limit where $200 pots were commonplace. The step up was a quantum leap, so as you transition I'd recommend start micro and play full stack as mastering the game is the goal, not eeking out a few artificial mathematical dollars.

Finally, if you take the time to read the Law School Dropouts blog you'll be very keen to transition sooner rather than later. That was my inspiration, but it was Harrington that provided the key to holding my own.

The blindman said...

Come on, it's a bit rich to compare short stacking with cheating and abusive chat (let alone the financial crisis). I get that some people don't like it and the 50BB min tables are a response to that, but I hardly think short stackers will drive people away from the game.

For the record, I'm playing a fairly regular strategy - not the brainless "shove or fold PF" short stack strategy that's fairly easy to play.

I'll play a bigger stack when I play NL more regularly, but I don't see a problem with playing a short stack in the meantime. Especially when the profit seems to be much better playing with $20 on a 0.5/1 table compared to a nitty 0.1/0.2 table.