In Bodgan's answer to Is it advantageous to buy into a NL cash game at the maximum amount? I read:

There is even a known, mechanical strategy, called short stack strategy, designed to play if you have little money behind.

I would like to see this strategy (preferably for NLHE). Could you explain it to me? Where can I find it on the web / in the literature?

Also, if you have played with such a strategy, I would like to read about your experience / opinion / etc. Thanks!


Your advantage when shortstacking versus multiple opponents with bigger stacks comes from a couple of basic factors:

  • It is easier for beginners. The calculations are a lot simpler because you only have to look at your opponents preflop behaviour and playing style. You don't end up with hands that have some value but are not really good in a big pot on the turn versus a bet/raise and no idea what your opponent is doing here.

  • Opponents with bigger stacks will try to outplay each other by entering hands preflop with speculative holdings from time to time. You can exploit this by playing only very strong hands preflop and forcing them to fold and leave the rest of the money they already invested on the table or to call with a worse hand than you have.

  • Opponents will bluff and semibluff (weak hand + draw played aggressively) each other from time to time in bigger pots. When you shortstack you are all in preflop or on the flop and you can thus not be taken off of your hand and you will win the main or the side pot a lot of time when one bigger stack (semi-)bluffs his opponent out of a hand when you are already all in.

It all depends on how your opponents adjust to you though and if you sit with many shortstacks and only a few big stacks then the last 2 factors won't really come into play as much.

I hope this was useful.


  • As far as I know, short stack strategy does not have bluffs and semibluffs in its arsenal. – Bogdan Doicin Apr 12 '13 at 19:12
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    That's not entirely true as you can push people out preflop, but I was talking about opponents bluffing and semibluffing anyway. – superuser0 Apr 12 '13 at 19:18
  • @Bogdan: Bluffs are still possible. If you didn't hit on the flop and you are heads-up, you should try to bluff your opponent out of the pot every now and then. – azimut Apr 15 '13 at 5:33
  • AK lends itself to a lot of bluffing and semi bluffing. – Ray Tayek Feb 6 '15 at 0:48

Here is a good starting point for what you are looking for.

  • Thanks for the pointer. It's a good starter, probably, but I've to say that I don't like the pokerstrategy articles too much. I guess they are aimed at a large (willing to pay) audience, so they have to dumb down everything and repeat the same basic things again and again. I'd prefer some source not only telling me the "how", but also the "why". – azimut Apr 12 '13 at 9:31
  • And you want to know why short stack strategy works? Simple: because high cards beat low cards. – Bogdan Doicin Apr 12 '13 at 9:47
  • Isn't this true for any strategy? – azimut Apr 12 '13 at 9:51
  • No. I said "high cards", not "high combinations". As I said in that answer, playing short stacked forces you to win now, which means that you'll mostly show down high pairs/cards. It's more likely to see KK vs QQ than KK vs 66 which hoped to flop a set and missed. If you have more money behind, you can call with 66, hoping to flop a set and stack your opponent. If this happens, you'll see KK vs 66, but with a 6 on the flop. Here, low cards beat high cards. – Bogdan Doicin Apr 12 '13 at 10:06
  • Bogdan: Thanks. This is exactly the kind of argument I'm missing in the pokerstrategy article. – azimut Apr 12 '13 at 11:00

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