Thursday, September 24, 2009

Don’t Want No Short People ’Round Here?

Don’t Want No Short People ’Round Here?You guys remember that song, right? Randy Newman? Late 1970s? They got little baby legs that stand so low, you got to pick ’em up just to say hello?

I mentioned last week having listened to Tommy Angelo interviewed on the Two Plus Two Pokercast. During the first half of that particular episode (the 9/15/09 show, show no. 88), the hosts had a conversation with online player Jason “Imsakidd” Kidd in which the focus was short stacking, a topic about which a lot of no-limit hold’em players tend to have strong opinions.

And by strong opinions I mean they think short stackers got no reason to live.

In fact, while Kidd did mention a few of the strategies he employs when short stacking at the NLHE tables, a lot of the conversation was taken up with the subject of the hatred many players profess for short stackers. “It’s... the way that I play that annoys them,” said Kidd, who went on to talk about how infuriated some players get when he’s at the table, sharing some of the vitriolic responses of players who believe short stackers “ruin” the game or are inherently bad players because they appear more interested in gambling it up than playing “real” poker.

Indeed, as Kidd pointed out, the very fact that some players get easily tilted by a short stacker at their table can sometimes work to his advantage. After co-host Adam Schwartz mentioned how he had a friend who would often “spite call” short stackers just to try to bust them -- even with marginal holdings -- Kidd replied that he frequently encounters similar responses from opponents. “That’s very standard,” said Kidd. “Some of the biggest winners in the games will just snap-call with 7-2 offsuit or whatever, just because they hate me,” adding that he was perfectly fine with their willingness to call his all-in bets with such hands.

My game is pot-limit Omaha, and short stacking is also an approach some employ in that game as well. Rolf Slotboom outlines in detail how to go about it in his earlier book, Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha. My buddy Mark has a simplified introduction to short stacking in PLO over on his OmahaPlanet site.

The fact is, as in NLHE, short stacking can be a viable strategy in PLO for those who know what they are doing. However, despite the preponderance of short stackers in the PLO games I play (the $25 buy-in games), very few seem to have a grasp on how to exploit their short stacks to any real advantage.

Even though my name is “short-stacked,” I generally do not favor short stacking when I play. It is true that when I first started out with PLO, I did often sit at the table with less than a full buy-in, mainly because of my own uncertainties about my play and the desire to minimize my potential losses. The fact was, I didn’t really know much about how to play the short stack, and so wasn’t really helping myself that much buying in for less than the maximum. It took awhile for me to realize I was also minimizing my potential gains by sitting there with the short stack, and even longer to figure out that given the way I was playing, my variance actually lessened considerably if I bought in for the maximum.

So now I always buy in for the maximum, and if I fall below, say, $15, I tend to top off again rather than stubbornly sit with less than a full stack. Haven’t yet clicked the “Auto-Rebuy” option I was discussing a few weeks back, though essentially that is what I’m doing manually -- automatically rebuying whenever I fall much below the max.

And often I am sitting there with short stacks all around me, especially in the full-ring games. I’ve had numerous situations lately where I’ll be sitting at a nine-handed PLO25 table, and four or five of the players have bought in for $5 or $10.

The problem, like I say, is that many seem not to know that their short stacks prevent them from being able to limp into many pots to see flops, or even to put in initial raises before the flop in many spots, or try to engage in any extended postflop play. My guess is a lot of these guys may well be relatively new to the game -- like I was when I was starting out and buying in small.

There are a few, though, who know a little bit about what to do with the short stack. But sometimes they run into trouble, too. I watched a funny hand recently involving a short stacker who had bought in for $5 at the PLO25 table. Shorty limped in from under the gun, had one caller, then another player in late position made a smallish raise to 75 cents. It folded back to MartyMule in the big blind who called the raise, then Shorty reraised pot to $3.35. The others folded, but MartyMule -- who started the hand with $57 -- made the call.

The flop came JhTs2s. MartyMule checked, Shorty put in his last $1.65, and MartyMule quickly called. Shorty showed JcAs4cAh, while MartyMule had 6s9dQd7s -- a flush draw plus an open-ended straight draw. A spade fell on the river, and Shorty was rebuying for another five bucks.

There was some dialogue afterwards between the pair in the chat box:

Shorty: i*diot
MartyMule: ok
Shorty: no implied odds reraise pre
Shorty: lol fish
MartyMule: just want to see the flop
Shorty: yep fish

Shorty’s chat showed that he obviously has given some thought to how to play a short stack, though I think he’s missing the point a little bit when he gets mad about a player calling his limp-reraise. That’s exactly what he should want, isn’t it? Otherwise, he’s risking $3.35 -- two-thirds of his stack -- to win the $2 sitting in the middle. Not saying Shorty played it wrong, but it seems strange for him to be upset (or surprised) that at least one of the remaining three players in the hand called him.

I wouldn’t say MartyMule played it wrong either, actually. If he puts Shorty on, say, single-suited aces -- which is a pretty reasonable guess -- he’s got a decent hand here with which to call. Nearly a coin flip, in fact. As it happens, MartyMule was just a 53-47 dog. Shorty has a point about the lack of implied odds, but really just simple pot odds tend to make the call not so bad here, don’t they?

Anyhow, while the short stackers can be annoying -- and I’ll sometimes join in the fun of cursing their existence away from the tables (as I recall doing in that “Topping Off” post alluded to above) -- I welcome bad players of all varieties. Obviously the more the bad players bring to the table the better, but bad short stackers are certainly welcome, too. Just means I have to try to take their moneys in bite-sized chunks NOM-NOM-NOM-NOM-NOM.

Okay... for those of you who have the song in yr head now anyway:

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Blogger Otis said...

Ah, Randy Newman. I wasn't sure anyone else I knew knew him.

I like Political Science and Sail Away.

And I think short-stackers are parasites.

9/24/2009 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Spaceman said...

Like you, Shamus, I welcome any and all bad players to my PLO tables, short-stacked or not. One of the bonuses of playing against them is that oftentimes a lot of dead money will enter the pot from other players calling their bets hoping to see the next street cheaply, so when I'm in position I can make aggressive plays to isolate those short-stackers with my big draws/big made hands. Obviously it would be much better if these people would just buy in for the full amount, but I suppose you have to take what you can get.

Re: Randy Newman, I'm wondering what the cutoff age is for people not knowing who he is. I remember him pretty well from my childhood thanks to "Short People" and "I Love L.A.", but something tells me that anyone more than just a few years younger than me doesn't have any idea who he is.

9/24/2009 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shortstacking isn't the problem. It is the hitting and running that is allowed by the online sites. If these guys had to play 40bb stacks sometimes their winrates would plummet from the 0.001 bb/100 they currently enjoy.

9/27/2009 12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no problem with short-stacking at all and 50/50 play it myself.
Also hit-and-run is no problem for me. If someone puts his money at risk and wins, he has no obligation to stay. The whole concept of having to stay so losers can win back their money annoys me to no end. Anyone that can take my whole stack and takes off is welcome to it. Making someone stay after a big hit, unless it is a rule, dilutes the game.

9/28/2009 8:43 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

god i was laughting when i read the post and saw the vid! haha. gold

10/06/2009 11:41 PM  

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