Short Stack in No Limit Holdem - Sometimes an Advantage

Short stack on tournaments and NL hold’em

Do not let anyone fool you, playing a short stack in no-limit hold’em cash games does not leave a player with the same disadvantage as it does in tournament poker. In tournament poker you only have one poker life and if you are short then your position is not a good one. You need to look for the first available chance to get all in and then hope to double up just to stay alive.

By on that stage there will be some very large stacks on the table compared to your stack. But in cash games you simply do not have the same problem. No-limit hold’em presents problems for skilled players in so much that short stack players tend to reduce the game to a stage where they are only playing two streets of action or in some cases only one. So a good short stack player cannot make one of the biggest and most widespread mistakes of all no-limit players and that is to make a deep stack mistake.

You can do more than just fold or put all-in

A short stack player either folds or gets all-in on the flop or before the flop and then leaves the table after usually adding around 50% or so to their minimal starting stack and they repeat the process somewhere else. It also means that these players cannot be outplayed on a street by street basis either and this just provides another barrier for the skilled deep stack player.

But look what happens to the deep stacked player when they have a good minimum stack player to their left and to their right on the same full-ring table. If the player to their right open limps or raises then it makes it difficult for the skilled big stack player to play his usual game from position. This means that he cannot raise to isolate against the limpers or to escalate the stakes of the game like he could against other big stack players.

Some good short stack options

Now he has to fear a limp re-raise or an all-in shove by the small stacked player and he still has the other short stack player to his left to worry about. It is also more difficult to open up your range to attack the blinds as well when good short stack players have position on you. The good ones know that you are widening your range to steal and will shove lighter than usual. If you do not notice which players are doing this then they will win a lot of big blinds from you during the course of the session.

It definitely pays to watch the short stacks and see what they do. Keep a keen eye on if these players limp-fold or if they are very eager to snap off steal raisers. The better short stackers are adept at what the regular deep stack players are trying to do. Short stacking unfortunately for us deep stackers is a very effective way of playing poker and I can only see more and more players taking to short stacked no-limit hold’em in future.