Poker buy in strategy – full vs short stack

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Mark | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy

I have been cleaning up in some of my old bankroll building update posts and decided to make a new post about my observations so far regarding playing with a full buyin or using a short stack strategy as the one I have described in one of my previous posts.

Keep in mind that all of my observations are made in the context of poker bankroll building on low limit tables. That is, the first steps one goes through in the process of building a poker bankroll. Also keep in mind that my observations might be biased by the fact that I have been playing online poker for quite a few years now….I know the game well.

Full buyin_pros and cons:

+ When you hit a great hand and get action you are potentially playing for your full stack

+ You can control the pot odds

– Often when raising with premium hands you will only pick up the blinds

– You need to be very patient, most of the times you will leave the table with a few dollars of profit

-/+ The average low limit player doesn’t understand fancy plays, so bluffing your way to a pot is usually unsuccessful. On the other hand you will often get paid with high pair/high kicker against high pair/low kicker.

Short stack strategy_pros and cons:

– When you hit a great hand you will not be playing for the largest possible stack

– You cannot control the pot odds to the same extent as when you are playing with a full stack

– You will not develop more advanced poker skills

+ You get called more often when raising with premium hands, because people generally don’t respect short stack preflop raises.

+ When you hit a great hand, and go all in on the flop you will get called more often by players with worse hands because the money you add to the pot will be small compared to their stacks

+ Your decisions are made a lot easier because you most of the times will be either all in or will have folded.

+ You get folding equity (read more about this in my short stack strategy post) for free


I am in a bit of a dilemma when trying to conclude on which strategy to recommend. If you are a poker novice and want to learn the game I would definitely start playing with full buyins and ABC poker and gradually build your game. If you are an experienced poker player with no money or wanting to start a new poker bankroll from scratch, I would go for the short stack strategy until your bankroll is big enough to play with a full stack at your preferred limit.

Don’t forget to apply bankroll management when playing short stacked. If your bankroll is large enough to play with full buyins at say the 10$ max buyin limits, 10$ should also be your short stack buyin at higher limits.

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