Of all the debates raging on internet poker forums, perhaps the biggest (though mostly one-sided) is on the subject of short stackers. Some people don’t mind them, most people hate them, and those in the latter category shout from the hills every day for the online poker rooms to do something about the problem. After trying to resist for months, the Cake Poker Network has finally made the decision to raise the minimum buy-in at its No-Limit Hold’em tables in an effort to curtail the practice of short stacking.
For those of you wondering what short stacking is, short stacking is a strategy used by more and more players nowadays in which they buy into a game (typically a No-Limit Hold’em game, as that is where this strategy is most effective) for the minimum amount allowed. Typically, this amount is 20 big blinds, compared to the usual maximum of 100 big blinds (of course, some poker rooms have deep stack tables which have higher maximum buy-ins). For example, at one of Cake Poker’s .10/.20 No-Limit Hold’em tables, a short stacker would buy-in for $4, whereas other players would buy-in for $20 or perhaps slightly less.
The short stackers then employ a very strict system to use their tiny stacks to their advantage. While systems can vary, these players usually play only premium or just below premium hands, depending on position and the action in front of them, and usually only push or fold pre-flop. Some short stackers play this way because they are unskilled and don’t want to make decisions post-flop, whereas some are actually very good players who know how to exploit their opponents with this strategy. Non-short stackers often despise short stackers because post-flop play is removed from the equation, negating any skill advantage and the small number of chips to be won from a short stacker makes it unprofitable to make marginal calls. To many, short stackers aren’t playing “real poker.”
With the increasing number of short stackers at the online tables, many players feel that No-Limit Hold’em games have been declining in quality. Fewer players see the flop, pots are smaller, and the games can get boring. As such, people have been urging the online poker rooms to raise the minimum buy-in at No-Limit tables so that short stackers won’t be able to play, or at least won’t feel as comfortable with a larger stack.
Yesterday, Cake Poker‘s card room manager, Lee Jones, announced that the network is doing just that. Effective April 8th, the minimum buy-in at No-Limit Hold’em tables will be raised to 30 big blinds. Jones was against a move like this for some time, as he feared that the player base would bifurcate with short stackers playing at one group of tables and everyone else playing at the higher minimum tables, making it harder to actually find enough full tables running. He also believes that “people who play by the rules of poker should be allowed to do so however they wish.” But, realizing the effect that short stackers are having on customer satisfaction, Jones and the Cake team decided to raise the minimum buy-in.
As such, .25/.50 No-Limit Hold’em tables on the Cake Poker network will be split into two categories: regular, which will have buy-ins of 30-100 big blinds, and shallow, which will have buy-ins of 20-50 big blinds. Higher stakes games will not be changed because there are not currently enough players to support a divide. Pot-Limit Omaha and No-Limit Omaha/8 will not be changed at the moment.
This is not an unprecedented move by an online poker room. Earlier this year, Full Tilt Poker raised the minimum buy-in at its No Limit tables from 20 big blinds to 35 big blinds in an effort to combat short stackers. PokerStars has also said that it is discussing its options internally and will make an announcement about any changes by mid-April.
The Cake Poker network currently ranks tenth in terms of average cash game traffic, according to PokerScout.com. It supports more than 60 poker rooms, including PowerPoker, Doyle’s Room, the new Unabomber Poker, and the flagship site, Cake Poker.

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