Saturday, January 10, 2009

Poker pearl #15

Professional poker player Jonathan Aguiar is known online as FatalError. He has made the transition to live tournaments and final-tabled an event at the 2008 WSOP that you can read about if you click here. He was interviewed in the Jan. 14 issue of Card Player magazine (see scan of the front cover of the magazine to the right) and he discussed short-stacking cash games. He claims much of his tournament success is due to this skill.

An example of short-stacking would be to buy into a 1/2 no-limit hold 'em game for, say, $80 or $100 when most players have $200 or more in front of them. The short-stacker waits for a top 10 hand, then shoves over a raise pre-flop. Very loose players often call the shove with weak hands such as 7-6 suited (or sooooted, as they say) or other random hands. This strategy can be beneficial to the player whose bankroll doesn't permit the full buy-in.

There's a player at the Tunica Casinos who uses this strategy. He buys in for $100 and likes to play tight, but will shove with 9-9 or better. Even if he's called by A-K, he's a slight favorite and it's +EV because there's other dead money (blinds and money from others who limped in). If he doubles up, he cashes out. You are supposed to wait an hour, but I wouldn't be surprised if they let him back in sooner than that. Quick story: Once he was in the small blind. There were four limpers to him. He had A 7 and it cost him $1 to play. He folded! With the big blind included, he was getting 11:1 on his money and he folded! Folks, that's tight, but that's how he plays. Another quick story. One time he went all in and busted and rebought for his usual $100. After a few orbits, he went all in again, and busted again. He left the table, and came back with three racks of red chips -- $1500! It was like saying I'm tired of this, so eff you, don't mess with me now.

These are questions and answers from the magazine:

Question: How do you combat a short-stacker?
"When he is on your left, you can't open with garbage hands anymore, because he will find himself in very easy situations to shove on you; you'll either fold too much and give money away or call too much and give money away. That means you can't play your suited connectors and other hands with which you can't call a shove."

Question: If you are short-stacking and double up, what should you do? Do you get up?
"If you get up, well, that's ratholing, and it's something that angers a lot of people. (But) Players leave, go to another table (online) or sit out (in a casino) and come back in (again) with a short-stack (such as 20 big blinds).

Question: Is it more profitable to short-stack at a six-handed or nine-handed table?
"If you can adjust, it really doesn't matter. I'd say the win rates are pretty similar, but people specialize, and obviously certain players are going to be better at one or the other."

Question: Now that you've built your bankroll, are you still short-stacking cash games?
"No. I made the transition . . . last summer during the World Series, because 20-big-blind play is one of the most important parts of a person's tournament game. That is really where the final table is played, and that's usually what the effective stacks are."

EDIT: Here's a link on shortstack play courtesy of bastinptc:
Ed Miller post.

Here are a few more links:
here, or here or here.

In his excellent blog, Lair of Lucypher has written three pieces about shortstacking. He refers to himself as an "unrepentent shortstacker." You can read what he says by clicking Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3.


  1. Try this link for more short-stack insight:

  2. Thanks, bastin, I'll link it up in the post.

  3. Mojo, I am also an unrepentant short stacker and have posted about this strategy on my site.
    It works!