Saturday, November 8, 2008

In Defense of Short Stackers

In numerous poker forms strewn all across the Internet, you can find almost universal damnation of short stackers. As someone who has personally employed this strategy from time to time and very profitably as well, I would like to add my two cents here.

NOT EVERYONE PLAYS POKER WITH THE SAME GOALS IN MIND. This is perhaps the singular most important argument here. So many times you will hear the detractors saying that you can not maximize profit by playing in this fashion. Obviously, this is true and all short stackers are aware of this. But just as some people play poker just for fun and not for profit (yes, it's true), a professional is not always interested in maximizing profit. As someone who has short stacked in the past and is currently short stacking, I can tell you that minimizing variance is often much more valuable to a professional (or semi-professional) for both monetary and psychological reasons. This is no different than the guy who can beat the $5/10 NL game but chooses to play $2/4 NL because he can't not focus himself comfortably after losing $1000 or more on a single hand.

You also see the detractors saying that if you are not rolled for the game at hand you should be playing smaller. This is absolute nonsense. The stakes are only one contributing factor to your bankroll exposure. As I had pointed out in one of my previous posts on bankroll management, the amount of your buy in also determines how well rolled you are for the game at hand. $600 might not seem adequate to play at the $1/2 level if you are buying in full, but if you are buying in for $40 at a time, you are now rolled for 15 simultaneous games! It is also much easier to play more tables and earn frequent player points or rakeback bonuses. These are not only ends in themselves but also serve to reduce variance.

Specifically, I just think that most players who see themselves as being fairly competent are just shocked and appalled that someone employing a seemingly crude strategy can thwart their years of hard work. They are also failing to realize that there are almost as many different styles and skill levels of short stacking as there are “normal” approaches to a full ring game.

Most importantly, as I had stated in one of my first posts, every single professional player should have some sort of tight aggressive style that they can fall back on in times of need. Bottom line – POKER IS HARD. Just as someone who is looking to make their living as an artist should be willing to do commercial art in order to prevent starvation, a poker player should have a strong, solid technique or strategy that he can fall back on when the bottom of the floor starts caving in as he regains his focus. I see short stacking in this light for myself, personally. Right now I am trying daily to perfect my own version of this strategy so that if times ever get rough again, I have a low variance strategy that I can use to rebuild a bankroll and make a strong consistent income. Which does lead to another argument...

If it were theoretically possible for a player to make $100 per hour short stacking, would those players who are struggling to make $20 an hour still criticize this method or would they want to learn it? I don't think that any sane person would pass up $80 per hour to preserve any romantic notion of the purity of the game. Currently I am exploring the limits to this type of strategy and will be publishing the results from time to time though I will keep the strategy close to the vest.