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PokerStars Taking On Short Stackers

Comments: 10
PokerStars announced some upcoming changes to their NL/PL Cash Game tables.
Many USD currency Hold’em and Omaha games with No-Limit or Pot-Limit betting will be offered with new and different minimum, maximum, and default buy-in amounts. Most stakes of NL Hold’em and PL Omaha will be offered as follows:

20-50 bb, with default buy-in of 40bb
40-100 bb, with default buy-in of 80bb
100-250 bb, with default buy-in of 200bb and ante equal to 20% of the Big Blind
I'm not too sure this is the best way to deal with the problem. I'll go into details further down.

The reason for the change is to help deal with the large number of players that have been buying in at the minimum.

A lot of poker players have been complaining about short-stackers ruining the game. At first I didn't think it much of it. One or two at a table didn't seem like a big deal and they were pretty easy to beat but it's getting harder and harder to find a table that isn't just full of short stackers. So many of the tables look the like the one pictured.

Short stackers are a nuisance because there is very little post flop play when they're in the hand. They're either pushing all in pre-flop or on the flop. When you get involved in a pot with a short-stacker, you're flipping for 20BB in most cases.

PokerStars had previously set up 50BB min tables but the problem is that the competition at those tables seems to be tougher. The recreational players usually sit at the "normal" tables. You identify a weak player limping in, you raise to isolate them and short-stacker pushes all in. While you had a hand that you were comfortable playing on the flop, it's not a hand you want to put 20BBs in preflop.

There are strategies to deal with shortstackers but you're essentially adopting a short-stacking mentality yourself, which isn't a lot of fun and not very profitable. If players wanted to play a push/fold strategy they would just stick to sit-n-gos.

The way most shortstackers make money is through volume and rakeback/bonuses. PokerStars doesn't offer rakeback. Rewards and bonuses are awarded based on VPPs which are accumulated based on rake. All players that are dealt into the hand get a share of the VPP regardless if they put any money into the pot or not.

Not only are short stackers taking the play out of the game, when they sit at 24 tables with single digit VPIPs they are earning as many VPPs as the players that are putting their money on the line. This seems to be an abuse of the PokerStars VIP Reward Program and unfair to other players.

A Better Way To Deal With Short Stackers

My initial reaction to PokerStars' changes isn't enthusiastic. I like the additon of the 100BB-2500BB tables. Deep stacked poker is a much different game but I don't like the change of the 40BB-100BB and additionof the 20BB-50BB tables.

The 50BB-100BB tables should have been left as is in my opinion. I don't see any reason to lower the min buy-in at that level. The 20-40BB tables might have been better off being just a straight 20BB table.

I don't think the changes will really have much of an effect. Good short stackers will move up to the 40BB-100BB tables and just do the same thing there. Players that like to play very deep can play at the 100-250BB tables.

Players getting screwed are ones that like to play 50-100BB deep. We're either going to have to get better at playing deeper or deal with the new generation of 40BB short stackers.

A better solution in my opinion would be to put limitations on short-stacking. Since most short stackers play very tight and don't contribute much in terms of rake, especially when compared to the amount of VPPs they receive, PokerStars could limit players to a maximum of 2 tables where they bought in for less than 50BBs and no more than 1 or 2 short stackers per table. They can play as many of the special 20BB tables as they want though.

This would really make a difference in terms of short stacking. Without being able to put in the volume, they wouldn't have incentive to play that way. If they were gone from the site I don't think it would have much of an impact for PokerStars' revenue, in fact it might increase it.

It seems that much of the money short-stackers win is by stealing pots pre-flop with their shoves. Pots won before a flop do not generate rake. The ratio of VPPs earned to actual rake paid is probably very high for short stackers. PokerStars is paying out a lot in bonuses and getting little in return on top of making the site unpleasant for many.

PokerStars made the announcement in a thread on twoplustwo.

10 Response to "PokerStars Taking On Short Stackers"

The Poker Meister Says....

I don't agree with your argument about short stackers getting more than their share of VPPs. From my perspective, you are describing a tight player - regardless of stack size. If your game consists of a low single digit VPIP / PFR, regardless of your VPPs earned, you're generally going to go broke. Unless you have a bunch of LAGgy fish who are willing to gamble it up against you, people are not going to play when you enter a pot / raise. The low VPIP players simply cannot overcome the rake / blinds to be profitable.

Look, the short stacking strategy, when played perfectly, is nearly unexploitable. (FYI, there is a huge SS thread in 2p2 that describes the way to play - ranging your opponent and 3bet/pushing with a certain threshold from a specific position.) However, at the lower levels, SS strategy is not executed even remotely perfectly... therefore these SSers are largely fish, and completely exploitable.

Full Tilt took care of the SS problem and the games seem to have gotten much better as a result. The SSers were forced to play regular stack poker or move to the SS tables where they die out against themselves. I think P* is looking to follow in FT's shoes.

Anonymous Says....

The Poker Meister,

I agree that a tight full stacked player, playing the same number of tables, gets the same VPP benefits but there is a big difference. It boils down to risk/reward. A full stacked player is potentially risking a lot.

When you're playing a tight full stacked player, they're not going to shove 100BB into your 3-4xBB raise/steal. They might 3-bet you and you have the implied odds to take a flop with a wider range.

When a short stack 3-bets they're pretty much committed. Many will just 3-bet shove or even open shove and you don't have the implied odds to play a wide range against them.

Because of that, they're able to steal/resteal easier and win many pots without a flop. I've seen SSs resteal a few hands, then exit the table and launch a new one to bank their winnings.

If they resteal successfully 3 times when not in the blinds that's a 67.5% profit for the table without seeing a flop and never paying a dime in rake. Even if they do it successfully once it's 22.5% profit. A full stack player isn't going to be able to get away with that and even if they did, they're risk:reward isn't worth it.

Playing against a short stack turns holdem from a 7 card game to at best a 5 card game.

It's not a big deal if there's 1 or 2 of them at a table and you can sometimes find a table without them, but lately it seems every non 50BB min table has at least 4-5 short stacks.

When there's that many short stacks at the table it's like playing on the bubble in a SnG which isn't what cash games should be like imo.

Anonymous Says....

Quoth The Poker Meister:

"Full Tilt took care of the SS problem and the games seem to have gotten much better as a result."

How did FTP take care of it? I admit that I had stopped playing the cash tables until they introduced Rush Poker, which I dearly love at the .25-.50 level.

(NB: I tend to buy in for $25 and play tight, but not super tight, and aggressive as all get out, which so far seems to be a profitable way to play. The advantage of Rush is that I don't get bored folding a LOT of hands, but don't have to multitable to play a lot of hands. I lose concentration when I multitable.)

But how did they handle it? Did they set a table minimum? I know on Rush, it's a 40 BB minimum buy in, which seems fine (and I seem to be one of the only people that buys in as short as 50 BB). How did they handle it on the other cash tables?

The Poker Meister Says....

I'm not arguing whether or not SSing works; it does - without a doubt. However, there are strategies to combat SSers. The primary strategy I adopted when FT had integrated tables was to never sit immediately behind or 2 seats behind a SSer; exactly the reason that they will 3bet shove profitably with a wide range against my button / CO steals. However, you can certainly meet them on their own turf, by either avoiding them outright, or 3bet shoving their opens; play SS against them. Their ranges are pretty well defined if they're playing SS strategy correctly. Therefore, you can deduce their holdings to a very limited subset, based on their position... For example:

(And this is what I remember from reading the 2p2 forum, so it may be somewhat incorrect, but you get the idea...) An EP open raise from a SSer is supposed to consist of AA, KK, QQ (ONLY SOMETIMES), AK (ONLY SOMETIMES). All other hands are to be folded. A MP open raise from a SSer is supposed to consist of TT+, AK, AQ. An LP open raise is much wider, consisting of 55+, AJ+. The 3bet shove range gets quite a bit tighter, but they watch for habitual stealers and can 3bet with air in that spot, just as many non-SSers do, profitably.

All of that said, I do agree that SSers are very annoying. They set up awkward spots when you have a multi way pot with a full stack, where their raises frequently force you to commit to a PF pot where you otherwise may be looking to simply see the pot (e.g. I raise with JJ in the EP, SB is a SSer and 3bet shoves 20BB from my initial open of 4x. BB is a full stack who calls - What do I do? If I call, there is 60BBs in the pot, and I have 80BBs left; I'm essentially committed to the pot with a semi-spectacular holding).

With the above as an exception, though, I found that I can play SS strategy back at the SSers at the lower levels. They really are not equipped to handle the reverse aggression, where they're put to the decisions.

Key is: learn how to play SS strategy if you want to beat them at their own game. Not saying buy in short stacked, but know their ranges and when HU with them, employ a SS strategy against them.

The Poker Meister Says....

@OldAndConfused: They implemented a 40BB min buy in for regular tables, and they created 10-40BB tables for SSers. FYI: I'm currently playing the Rush tables, but use the auto-top off. I find it better to play full stacked, look to double up, and then try to find opportunities to face up against another deep stacked opponent. I find that most Rush players don't completely understand deep stacked play.

Anonymous Says....

Poker Meister,

I'm not arguing that SSers can't be beat but like you said and like I mentioned in my post, you have to take a short stack approach to play back at them or even if there's a SSer still left behind you.

I don't find enjoyment out of playing like that. If I wanted to do that I'd just short stack myself. With 4 or more short stacks at a table that's the only way you can play.

With so many short stackers you can't even table select anymore. That screenshot I posted I picked at random. Looking through the lobby, most looked like that.

I think they really mess up the game and I would be really surprised if they PokerStars would lose money if they were all gone. I think the opposite would be true.

The Poker Meister Says....

As I said, most of my play is over at FT, where they have 40BB+ tables as the norm. However, when I do get in my average 2-5k hands over at P*, I have my filter set to the 50BB min tables. Even there, there are a lot of folks buying in for 50BBs, which also stinks, but not as bad as your image in the post.

I agree though, SSers ruin the fun for me. I'm not looking to play flop poker, I'm looking to play 4 streets.

Anonymous Says....

Link to 2+2 article? Looking for a thread on that clusterfuck is life tilting.

The Poker Meister Says....

@Anonymous - Its a multi-segment article and I don't remember where I found it. It's definitely a sticky thread though. It's considered the bible on short stack strategy.

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