When I first began playing poker in 2005, training sites were still really coming into their own. Cardrunners really took off around that time, among others, and changed the way cash poker was played through their “aggressive in position” approach to punishing fish. One of the first things I learned studying training videos was “always make sure your stack is at 100bbs”. It made sense at the time because there was no reason not to, as tables were so fishy and regulars didn’t abuse you as much as they do today, so there was no downside to it. It was the best way to crush micro-stakes poker games at the time.
But the games have changed. Regulars are better than ever, and fish are falling further and further behind every day. Sites like Bovada and more recently Merge in the United States have changed their approaches in attempts to bring back the recreational player and stop rewarding the regulars who take money all day from any fish that deposits.
I believe this all matters because the game is indeed changing, and it’s changing towards shallower stacks and higher variance games. The reason for this is simple: shorter stacks and more variance means more of a chance that fish can win, which keeps them coming back. Fish simply are not going to last at a deep ante cash game these days, surrounded by sharks. But any fish can get on a real roll playing 20bb cap cash poker or hyper turbo SNGs. And if we know anything about self-serving bias from our psychology textbooks, it’s that we credit our achievements as being our own doing, and our losses for being external to us. So it’s easy for a fish to convince themselves they are truly skilled at these higher variance games because they’ve had some hot streaks before, and now they are only losing because they are getting unlucky.
I think now it’s more important than ever for players to learn to play stack sizes other than 100bbs. Tournament players already have an advantage, as they are used to playing against both fish and at varying stack depths. But many cash players who have grinded 100bbs their entire career may have an idea of how to respond to professional short stackers who have “infested” their games for years, but really have no idea how to correctly play stack sizes from 5bbs to 75bbs.
My advice is to learn now. In my opinion, it’s where the games are headed. If you haven’t tried playing games like this and you are bored or frustrated with poker, give it a shot. It’s where the fish are going to be.