This week, PokerStars followed competitors Full Tilt Poker and Cake Poker in making adjustments to the buy-ins of certain cash games in an effort to combat the ever-increasing population of “short stackers” at the virtual poker tables.
At most stakes of No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha, tables will now be split into three different buy-in levels:
20-50 Big Blinds – default buy-in is 40 Big Blinds
40-100 Big Blinds – default buy-in is 80 Big Blinds
100-250 Big Blinds – default buy-in is 200 Big Blinds; these tables include antes equal to 20% of the Big Blind
All tables that are divided into the above tiers will be labeled as such in the PokerStars cash game lobby. Players can also view a pop-up tool tip when hovering the mouse pointer over a table listing which lists the minimum and maximum buy-in in both dollars and Big Blinds.
As has been discussed in other articles here at TightPoker.com, the practice of “short stacking” has been one of the most controversial issues in the online poker community over the past year. Players who use a short stacking strategy typically buy in for the minimum amount allowed and then play an “all-in or fold pre-flop” game (there are variations, but this is the basic version of the strategy). For these players, it is simply a math game, as they move all-in pre-flop with usually only the strongest of hands, knowing that they will have the edge most of the time. When they increase their chip stack to a certain amount, they leave the table.
Many players who prefer to buy-in for the maximum buy-in or close to it do not like playing with short stackers because they feel those people aren’t playing “real” poker. They do not play post-flop, which eliminates a significant part of the game and removes the skill advantage from good players. Additionally, since they have such small chip stacks, they don’t have much money to take, often making it foolish to play anything but the best hands against them.
A PokerStars representative had this to say on the TwoPlusTwo.com poker forum:
“Constantly evolving strategies and trends are characteristics of well designed games of skill. Sometimes dominant new strategies evolve that were unanticipated by those who established the rules of the game. On occasion, the rules must be tweaked to account for new knowledge gained through the collective experience of the community. These adjustments aim to restore balance, depth, and healthy evolution to the game.
After much research, review, and discussion, PokerStars has decided that NL/PL Hold’em and Omaha cash games with 20-100bb buy-ins have evolved to the point where they can no longer be considered well balanced or well designed. As such, change is needed. The ratio of maximum to minimum buy-in at such tables will be lowered to an amount that will generate a more balanced game.
The goal of this change is not to stop players from buying in for 20 big blinds. Players who like to buy-in and play with 20 to 40bb (and 40 to 50bb) stacks are welcome to continue to do so on PokerStars at 20-50bb tables. Many customers, including recreational players as well as long-time customers, both groups being highly valued, prefer to buy in for these amounts. PokerStars expects that these tables will meet the needs of these players.”
PokerStars has also made a few other changes, including:

  • Addition of “Knockout” tournaments in which every player has a bounty on his head.
  • Players may only sit and a maximum of two Heads-Up tables without an opponent and any player sitting out at a Heads-Up table for five minutes will be kicked from the table.
  • Multi-event satellites – these tournaments will have five events for which players can qualify. Each time a player wins a multi-event satellite, he will win a seat into a different event.
  • Ladies-only and men-only (yes, men-only) tournaments will be rolled out.
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