Saturday, February 20, 2016

The pros and cons of buying in short...

I've been talking poker with a few friends this weekend. We've been texting back and forth as well as talking one-on-one about strategies and ideas.  I'm curious whether any of my readers have any insight with the following premise:

My friend (and I swear this isn't an "I have a friend who..." when it's really me, 'cause this is not about me) was talking about his poker sessions being few and far between.  When he (or she, to keep it completely anonymous) gets to finally play, it's usually a massive series of sessions (i.e. 6-7 nights and days of poker), so I'd best describe his discussion as "rust" on the poker game.  However, his complaint was that during his first and/or second session, he's so eager and excited, he quickly finds himself behind a buy in or 3.

I've had this happen to me when I first started playing live poker, so I can relate to his predicament.  I thought about his issue for a while and started to discuss possible solutions.  The one solution I really focused on was trying to buy in short.  At a 1/2 game, this means buying in for the $60 or so minimum... or even starting with $100 if he must.  We talked through the pros and cons and here's what we came up with:


  • Limited down side.  Buying in 3 times and shooting that off can be less than a full buy in of $200.
  • Gives him time to get a feel for the table and top off later.
  • Gives him time to get a feel for his own game and top off when his heartbeat has baselined and the rust has been shaken off.
  • Forces him to play on the tighter side because he knows full well that he shouldn't be calling raises with suited connectors and broadway, nor should he be calling raises with non premium pocket pairs since set mining is unprofitable.
  • He can ship over raises (i.e. squeeze) more frequently as a short stack; 3-4 callers @ $8-10 a pop; he can cavalierly 3bet all in to $60 and be profitable a helluva lot!
  • Limited up side.  If he hits a nut hand, he won't get a maximum payoff.
  • He may forget to top off (I don't know if this is really a con though)
  • He's playing less than 10% of the range, which is kinda boring ABC poker.
Do my readers have any other suggestions?  Any other pros / cons that we're not considering?  How do you approach live poker when it's been a month [or longer] since your last session?  Does that approach differ if it's around a month until each session that you play?


  1. It could very well be... but I won't identify the person unless he speaks up...

  2. I do this whenever I play somewhere new or when I haven't played in a few weeks. Even after years of playing I still get nerves when I first sit down to play after a while away from playing. I usually buy in short for around $150 at a 1/2 table with the rule that I'm not getting involved in too many pots. I focus the first few orbits on getting a general idea of who the action players are and who the nits are in relation to where I'm sitting. It usually doesn't take more than two orbits to relax my nerves. If I've won a few small pots there's sometimes no reason to top off but if I've leaked away any I'll go ahead.

    The longer it take to get in the right mindset and, as you say, shake the rust off the less I think the buy in should be. I agree that $60-100 would be a good place to start.

    One other thing that has helped me is keeping a separate poker bankroll. For me, my nerves are mostly psychological. When I first sit down I think of the chips as money and after a few orbits start thinking of them as more of a tool to play the game. This is much easier to do during the game and even in between sessions with a bankroll that is completely separate from my regular pay-the-bills/buy-the-groceries money.

    1. Good point! I forgot about way back when, when I did not keep a separate poker bankroll. I think that made a huge difference- keeping money apart from my wife and my joint account as well. In addition to the psychological stresses, my wife would freak out over a loss, but expect a win. The way it is now, I give her cash when the bankroll supports it, but at my option. It's nice because on average, I know I'll make money over time, but I don't need to make money every time nor feel compelled to not talk about a loss.

    2. I would agree that buying in short puts a stop-loss mechanism in place, especially when emotions are running high. For the person that rarely plays, your list is spot on and reducing the bleeding is probably the best she/he could do. However, this is not a cure; it's simply treatment. The real solutions (and this applies to all players) would be for your friend to work on her/his mental game with the goal of beginning each session in his "A" zone and not entering in his B or C game. Perhaps she/he could try meditating. This helps me a lot in Day 2 of tournaments or during breaks if I'm making a deep run. Find a corner that's quiet and focus on deep breathing for 10-15 minutes. Forget the fact that you're not at the table and could be playing. The hands will keep being dealt whether you are there or not. Focus on getting your head right and then go in there and pick up all of those pots from players operating in their B and C zones :)

  3. I don't think your "friend's" issue is an excitement and eagerness issue. The game might have some rust, but perhaps tightening up is the best answer -- not playing the small pocket pairs (which never seem to hit initially, u see), suited connectors and the like. While giving up the chance to stack is a real negative in my mind (speaking as one who has had sessions where I was up $300-600 in less than an hour), keeping focused on not bleeding chips and being able to be the short stack guy who squeezes might be acceptable alternatives. Thanks for mentioning things to consider.

  4. Another possible pro to short stacking is related to your 4th bullet in the pro list. In the live $1/2 games I play, most of the players are not short stacked. If that's the case where you play, it means the other larger stacks will be playing incorrectly against your short stack (i.e. playing small pairs, suited connectors for poor odds). They will be playing those hands correctly against the other larger stacks (which they should), but not against yours--which is to your benefit.

  5. I have heard others recommend this and have adopted some of the buying short ideas. At a $300 max table, I used to buy $300 no matter what. Now, I will buy $200 and keep a black chip ($100) in my pocket. Once I feel comfortable with the table (or once I need it), I quietly take out the black chip and put it atop my stack. I do not hide it (that would be angle shooting), but I do not have to ask for another $100 (thus tipping off my opponents that I am losing or are ready to change gears). This is all to say I support your recommendation. Buy in short until you are comfortable. This way, if you shoot your load too early, the damage is not too severe.


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