6 Short-Stacking Advantages to Improve Your Edge

A small stack of poker chips.

Short-stacking mainly implies that you have a smaller chip stack than the rest of the table. If everyone is short-stacked, it is a different situation. Playing with a short stack and understanding how to play against a short stack is extremely important, and can make your PLO strategy very effective.

Regardless of whether you want to play short stack or not, you will face short stacks all the time, and you have to understand how to play against these opponents in order to not sacrifice your winrate.

In this article, I will go into why short stack has such a big advantage, how you can extract the most value out of it, and how you can adjust if your opponents are short stacking.

1. Variance is Lower

Even though you will probably be all-in more often, the variance when playing short-stack is much lower. Variance at 50BB is roughly half of that of 100BB, and the most you will lose is the stack size that you have.

When people are playing deeper stacks, they are also used to deeper stack strategy. They are going to open raise the ranges that a normal 100BB player should open, but in reality, they shouldn’t. They are going to play the way they usually play, evn though that is a mistake.

2. Opponents Have to Adjust to You

When you can come in as the shortest stack, you can define the action. That is a tremendous structural advantage. When you are playing short stack, the effective stack size is your stack size.

It doesn’t matter if they have 500BB, if we have 50BB we are playing 50BB deep. Now, suddenly they are forced to playing short-stack. For that reason, you will see tons of mistakes being made because people are not used to short stack strategy.

3. It’s Easier to Execute

Specializing in one stack size (short stack) can give you the fastest results as it’s not as complex to learn because you don’t have to take other stack sizes into account.

Players that buy in for 100BB but have to play against short stacks are playing against two different stack size strategies, and if their stacks grow, also deep-stack strategy. That is a lot more material to master to become good.

4. Your Decision Process is Simpler

The SPR is going to be lower in every single spot.

If the stack-to-pot ratio is smaller, we are going to play fewer streets, and the decision-making is less complex. In 3-bet pots, you are playing at shallow SPRs and most likely the hand is going to end on the flop.

That makes the whole game tree much simpler. Because the biggest bets happen on the turn and the river, your decisions will be less expensive. This also makes it easier to execute on multiple tables, or if you are just transitioning to PLO.

5. Strategy Becomes Equity-Driven

In situations where we have to be cautious and maybe check at 100BB, stack size doesn’t matter as much as when we are shorter-stacked. We are able to be much more aggressive, do a lot of betting, and end the tree earlier.

We have to be smart and knowledgeable about how much equity we have on each spot. We can be very aggressive OOP and through this aggression over-realize our equity. This is a specifically important term when it comes to short-stacking.

6. You Force More Side Pots

When we are playing multi-way pots as a short stack and there are two deeper stacked players in the game. We are forcing side pots, and that is a great spot when you are already all-in.

Opponents could push each other off their equity, mainly because the threshold for stacking-off is much higher when one of them is deeper with another player behind.

If that player would only call, he has to think about the player that is behind, and that changes the amount of equity he is required to have to get that money in.

Conclusion

Whether you are playing online or live, there are always situations where you can really reap the tremendous benefits that you get while being the shortest player at the table.

It’s easier to learn and execute, you can over realize your equity, and you have a huge advantage when it comes to multi-way pots. Variance goes down when playing short-stack, especially if your opponents are not making the right adjustments.

If your opponents treat a 50BB stack size strategy like it’s 100BB, they will get crushed.

Fernando Habegger
As a PLO poker pro I've coached a lot of players, developed high-quality learning programs, and wrote a book about Mastering Small Stakes PLO. I love helping players figure out the game, transform their minds, and achieve success in life and poker.

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