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Poker Blog established in 2003 as the first stop for poker news, poker stories, and bad poker advice.

February 28, 2006

Shortbuy City

by Otis

I remember one morning in Tunica when the Showered People invaded our table full of sleepless stinkers. All night long, I'd watched drunks, gamblers, and neophytes sit down at the game and buy-in for $100 at a time. I'd bought in for a grand. Now, the Showered People were buying in for $3000-$4000. I remember the thought like I had it two minutes ago.

"The smart money just sat down. Time to go."

But this isn't a post about the smart money. One shouldn't always believe that if people are buying in big that they are good. Chances are, they are smarter, but that is a matter of debate as well. Instead, this is a post about denizens of Shortbuy City.

I am a firm believer in the concept of buying in at the max in a no-limit game. If I can't afford the max-buy, I don't need to be in the game If there is no maximum buy-in, I buy in for a minimum of 100 times the big blind. A smarter bet in a game with no max-buy is 200 times the big blind. There is a pretty common tack for most no-limit players.

Any no-limit player loves to see someone sit down and buy-in for the minimum. It smacks of scared money. It is a fashing billboard that says, "I can't afford to lose a whole buy-in."

Now, to be fair, I know some very smart people who are occasional short-buyers. Whether they have a limited bankroll or have a very low stop-loss, they choose to short-buy. Also, to be fair, I think there is a strategy one can employ to maximize one's game on a short-stack. Frankly, I'm not as worried about them as I am a very interesting sub-set of short-buyers.

I call them The Lost Donks.

Somewhere along the way The Lost Donks learned to play a shortstack in a tournament. They learned about the "M" and they learned about how to accept a coinflip when your stack and M get too small. They learned that when you are in a tournament there is no way you can win unless you double up a few times.

But somewhere along the way, these guys got lost and ended up in a cash game. And they forget to turn off their tournament mind.

There's a guy I'd like you to meet. His name is W00t4donks. I'm not afraid to use his screen name here, because he is becoming more and more well known in an online $10/$20 NL game. W00t4donks buys into the game for $500. W00t4donks waits until he thinks he is either ahead or has a decent coinflip and then pushes in every one of his chips.

When I first ran into this guy, I was pretty sure he wouldn't be around for long. I figured he had run up a $1/$2 stack and decided to take a shot at a bigger game. But as it turns out, this guy seems to have a bankroll. Every time he loses his stack, he buys back in for $500. Over the course of 400 hands with him, I'm not surprised to learn I've won 16 hands against him and he has won 16 hands against me. After all, we're playing coin flips moost of the time. I'm also not surpised to learn that of the $2200 in the 32 pots, $1400 of it has come home to me. Why? Because if I have a reasonable belief I am ahead, I don't mind calling off $500. More often than not, he's pushing with the hope he is ahead and I am calling with the knowledge that I am ahead.

The W00tster gets a lot of grief at the tables. Some people rag him because they want to have a chance to make more than $500 per pot with him. Others rag him because he is willing to put his entire stack in the middle with pocket eights pre-flop, or on just about any 35% draw post-flop. Thankfully, the tapping on the glass doesn't seem to scare him away.

I don't write this to make Woot4donks feel bad. He obviously has a strategy and maybe it is over my head. However, over 400 hands I've played with him, he is down more than one of his buy-ins. Given, 400 hands is not a great sample size, but I think it's clear his strategy is taking him nowhere. He pays his rake, he plays coinflips, and he hopes to win. He's not winning and I don't think he will. What's more, if he does start winning, he's not going to win much. The money I win in that game, the big triple or quadruple up nights, obviously comes from nights that my big hands get paid off. When it comes time for Woot to get paid off, he's not going to profit more than $500, which still puts him at only 50% of the game's max-buy. And, I don't think I have to tell you, 50% of the max-buy is not much harder to call than 25% when you are sure you are ahead. W00t has no bluffing ability, no fold equity, and rarely is he getting his money in with any more than a coinflip.

I should be clear. It is no secret, I am no great no-limit theorist. I'm a much better limit player. However, over my time in the $10/$20 NL game, I am a winner, and not a small one. But regardless of how big or small the game is, I think it is dangerous to head into a game with 25% of the bullets and none of the protection (bluff ability, etc) your opponents hold.

Why bother writing about it? I dunno. It's not any new theory, or anything. I guess it just surprises me that with all the good poker information out there, some people are still treating poker like a gamble instead of an ATM. What's more, I'm starting to see more and more of these guys in the middle no-limit area. It's both fascinating and disturbing to watch. It's like watching Sammy Farha flip a coin for $25K. Watching gamblers can be fun. Playing poker against them can be more fun.

Still, it seems a shame. Like a lot of you, I'm playing cards to learn how to play smart. While winning money is nice, playing for coin flips just isn't very educational.

Guess, I should stop whining, huh? I could be wrong. Am I?

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