Playing vs. the Shortstacks (cash)

Chances are you have played a cash game against one of these guys. These are the people who show up at your table with the minimum buy in. Shortstack players are annoying players to play against. I try to avoid tables that have too many shortstacks because it is very hard to get value out of them. You might hit quads against them and all you are going to get is the minimum buy-in, lame. I would much rather hit my quads against a player who is playing with a full stack.

I have found that these short stack players usually play one of two ways. Some of them play very tight pre-flop so when they have a hand they try to get their minimum buy-in into the pot as quick as possible. I think these type of shortstackers are a bit more rare than the next type but still pretty easy to play against (raise their blinds and fold to their re-raises or their initial raises). The second type of short stack player is the one who likes to call a lot of hands pre-flop. They want to see a bunch of flops so they can push all in when they hit any part of the flop. They often will call you pre-flop with just about anything. This is the type of shortstacker I would like to talk about for the rest of this post.

When you think about it, this type of player is pretty easy to play against post-flop. When they hit any part of the flop they will usually bet or raise you. If you do not have anything, you should probably just give up the pot when they bet or raise your bet. The good news is they are typically very reluctant to call unless they hit the flop OR are on a straight/flush draw. This means you can continuation bet the flop (even just 60%-70% of the pot if you have nothing) and they will fold when they have missed.

Shortstacks poker

Now, lets say they called your continuation bet on the flop, now what? Well, it should be good news for you because it tells you a lot about their hand. I find when they simply call your bet it usually means that they are weak (maybe hit bottom pair) or they are on some sort of draw. Some would say they could be slowrolling you with a made hand like trips but if that is the case they really can not hurt you too much because they are short stacked. If I have a hand on the flop I do not worry about them having trips, if they have it I lose the minimum buy in which is not a big deal because usually you can lose much more when an opponent hits trips against you. You probably are not going to fold top pair to a shortstack so lets not worry about hands like trips. Also for the rest of the hand lets say we have top pair top kicker. At this stage of the hand they are ALMOST pot committed with any 2 cards. Remember, they called your pre-flop raise and your flop bet, chances are they have already invested 25%-30% of their chips into the pot.

I think this is the point of the hand where many players might find themselves messing up, I know I did. So what do we know about this player right now?  I think we have established that they either have a weak pair, or they are on some sort of draw almost all the time. This is where you probably need to do some thinking. Did the turn bring a card that could have made them a flush or a straight? If it did you might want to think about slowing down. Slowing down is usually fine here because the player will usually go all-in if he hit his flush or straight, or if they have that little weak pair will be happy to check it down.

However, lets say the turn brought a blank…now what do you do with your top pair top kicker? Usually in a cash game I would try and keep the pot low, after all, you only have 1 pair.  My bet would typically be about 50% of the pot. If you make a bet that is 50% of the pot against this player that bet should represent about 33%-50% of the players remaining stack. What is going to happen when you make a bet like that? Against a shortstack it is easy, just like any player they  will fold, call, or raise. I think usually they will fold if their bottom pair did not upgrade on the turn. If they still have their draw I find they probably call most of the time (some of the time they might push all in with a semi-bluff if they think you are weak but I think this is usually rare as well). Lets say they call your 50% of the pot turn bet (I put them on a draw type hand now).

Now the river comes…If they missed their draw it is easy. You bet and they fold hand over. Now if they HIT their draw they are all in 100% of the time. What does that mean to you? That all in bet is such a small percentage of the pot at this point that you have to call. You make the call and yup, you lose.

As mentioned I think our turn bet was the problem. A bet of 50% of the pot is fine against someone who is full stack because you want to keep the pot low. Against our shortstacker however, I think it is wrong. Like I highlighted above they are going to call your turn bet with a draw and if they hit you are still going to pay them off because it will be such a small remaining bet. I feel when we are playing against a shortstack player who we think is on a draw we need to increase our turn bets with hands like top pair top kicker. Instead of a bet of 50% of the pot, I think one of 80%-100% of the pot is better.  This ends up being almost all of their remaining chips which when they are on a draw, it seems like they always will make the call. Sure, you still lose when they hit but remember, you were going to pay them off if they hit anyways so why are we keeping the pot low?  I say we make the bigger bet because now, when they miss their draw instead of them folding and us missing out on that money we got it on the turn.

I know that was a bit long but I hope I explained my thoughts about this type of player so that everyone could understand. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to let me know. Also, if you disagree with anything above please let me know so we can have a healthy discussion about it.

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