Playing a short stack is something that has become more and more in vogue in no-limit Texas Hold’em in recent years. The expert short stack player usually buys in for 20% of the table maximum and then looks to shove all in either pre-flop or on the flop with a good hand. It is a good strategy to adopt if you are an inexperienced player as there are many advantages to it. Firstly you are only buying in for 20% of the maximum which would be $20 in a NL100 game.
This means that your deep staked opponents would not have the ability to outplay you down the streets. So you are essentially totally offsetting their skill advantage over you. Usually skilled short stack players are not big winners in the game although the ease of the strategy means that you can play an awful lot of tables this way and you can never make a huge mistake. Also it does not take any skill to play a short stack as you are basically sitting and waiting for strong hands and simply pushing them for the maximum that you have in your stack.
Let us look at how this works in practice. You have A-Qs and it has been folded around to the button that opens for $3.50 in a NL100 game. The small blind folds and you have $17 after going through the blinds twice. There is $5 in the pot and you shove all in for your remaining $17. If you win the pot then your stack rises to $22 which is more than the $20 that you started with. This gives you some more time to go looking for that double up that you are searching for.
But here is where short stacking can really pay off because you are often facing deep stacks. The opener may have a huge stack of say $150 and so calling the extra $12 is not going to faze him. There is $22 in the pot and it only costs him $12 to call and they will often call with dominated hands like A-J and A-10 etc. So you often get loose calls when players look you up. But here is the real kicker because you could be sitting on a table full of professionals and world class players and they could never outplay you.
Many people are very critical of players who short stack and it is certainly true that they are indeed a hindrance. But they do provide a tremendous amount of liquidity to the game as players are short stacking for one simple reason, because they want to. So by making these players buy in for more money or driving them from the game then you run the risk of driving these players away from poker for good. If I have short stackers to my left then I will be careful with regards to how much I raise as if they come over the top with a raise then I know that they have a tiny range of hands. Likewise if a short stacker limps in, if they are a skilled short stack player then I will automatically suspect a limp re-raise here.