How I play short stack poker compared with full stack play

by ~ February 10th, 2009. Filed under: Philosophy and approach, Short stack poker.


I want to list the differences, for me and for my game, of the difference between how I play full stack full ring cash games and how I play short stacked.

I’ve had a pretty good run playing short, but recently I’m mostly working on trying to get my full stack game back. I think there are more situations that I can get involved with, especially squeezing, but what I have done to date has worked pretty well.

Short stack play focuses on preflop play. The only time I would get to the river with chips and plays to be made is when I was in the big blind and I had a marginal hand against another marginal hand.

Playing full stack:

  • From early I raise AK/AQ
  • From mid I open raise AJ/AT/KQ
  • From late my open raise depends more on the reads on the players after me than the cards
  • I open raise all pocket pairs from all positions
  • I will raise limpers ahead of me depending on the range I estimate based on reads/stats, along with needing a hand that is ahead of his range or plays well postflop.
  • I will call behind multiple limpers with medium/small pairs and connectors or one-gappers
  • I will complete the small blind when given limpers and a hand that draws. Otherwise the SB position is raise or fold.
  • If I call a raise it’s usually with medium/small pocket pairs or suited connectors
  • I will 3-bet from the blinds for definition especially against late position raises rather than call raises.
  • I will 3-bet other hands as well but it varies according to the hand/position/reads

Playing short stack:

  • From early I raise AK/AQ
  • From mid I open raise AJ/AT/KQ
  • From late my open raise depends as much on the reads on the players after me as the cards, but I’m more selective short stacked. I will open raise connectors, any two big cards, most Ace hands.
  • I open raise pocket pairs from 99 up from all positions
  • I raise limpers ahead of me less frequently as I need a hand that I can commit with
  • I will call behind multiple limpers with medium/small pairs, but not with suited connectors
  • Rarely do I complete the small blind
  • I never call a raise preflop. Either 3 bet or fold

So, I’m a tight aggressive player to begin with, and I get even tighter when I play short stacked.

I don’t have a stack, so I don’t offer implied odds. Conversely, I don’t get implied odds either so I can rarely call behind limpers or complete from the small blind or just call a preflop raise.

I also have no stack to threaten with postflop, so I less often raise limpers preflop or raise into loose blinds. I need a hand that I can shove on the flop if I get called, almost no matter what, and expect to get called, almost no matter what. Low pocket pairs on the flop require a stack to threaten with to get away with c-betting when the flop is all overcards to my pair so I’m less often open raising these.

Playing short stack cash table poker is a very simple game, at least to me and for the levels that I’ve done this. I still believe, though, that 95% of the short stack players that I’ve played against don’t know how to do this. You can tell as soon as you see them open limping or calling min-raises, when you see them playing 20%-35% of their hands, or see them shoving once every orbit until someone takes them out.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply