Long term online poker success with winning strategies – register for free!

The best strategies With the correct strategy, poker becomes an easy game. Our authors show you how to succeed, one step at a time.

The smartest thinkers Learn from and with internationally successful poker pros, in our live coaching sessions and in the forum.

Free poker money PokerStrategy.com is free of charge. Additionally there is free poker money waiting for you.

You are already a PokerStrategy.com member? Log in here!

StrategyNo Limit Midstack

What is the Short Stack Strategy?


What do you need before you get started?

The Short Stack Strategy is probably the easiest poker strategy to use and the hardest poker strategy to beat. It might well be unbeatable.

This strategy is ideal for beginners; it is easy to learn and a great way to build up your bankroll. It's also the easiest strategy to use when multi-tabling (which can be a great way to clear a bonus).

If you understand the short stack strategy, you will understand a lot about the game of poker. You can learn all about how the short stack strategy works and how you can use it for profit in our 3-article series. This, the first, lays down the basics.

Watch these lessons on video:

The Short Stack Strategy is also available as video. There is a video dedicated to each article: The Basics, Playing Before the Flop, and Playing After the Flop.

Basics Before the Flop After the Flop

When does the strategy work?

The strategy only works when you have at least 7 opponents at the table.

  • Only sit down at tables with at least 7 active players.
  • If players leave, and you have less than 7 opponents remaining, leave the table.

Tip: Watch out for other players using the short stack strategy. Too many short-stackers will reduce your profit-potential at that table. Don't play if there are more than 2 other short-stackers at the table.

How much money will you need?

The strategy will work and be profitable over time if you stay disciplined and follow a few simple rules that tell you:

  • How much money you need in your poker account to play at a given limit
  • How much money you should take to a table
  • When you should buy more chips, because your chip-stack is too small
  • When you should leave the table, because your chip-stack is too big

This is all a part of “Bankroll Management” (bankroll = How much you have in your poker account). Effective bankroll management is nearly as important as the cards you are dealt. Your gameplay only makes up 50% of your success - the other 50% is bankroll management.

Your bankroll management

The following chart gives you some concrete figures to understand this concept. You can also find it in the Strategy Overview, which you can download and print. Having it handy will make playing at the tables a lot more comfortable.

An overview of the Short Stack Strategy incl. the Starting Hands Chart

You can see how much money you have to have in your bankroll (poker account) in order to play at a given limit. You also see how much money you should take to the table, at what point you should buy more chips, and at what point you should leave the table.

Your bankroll management

Limit Amount you need in your bankroll Amount to take to table Buy more chips when you have less than Leave the table when you have more than
NL10 (0.05/0.10) $50 $2 $1.50 $2.50
NL20 (0.10/0.20) $120 $4 $3 $5
NL25 (0.15/0.25) $150 $5 $3.75 $6.25
NL50 (0.25/0.50) $300 $10 $7.50 $12.50

Examples to explain the above chart

Your starting limit, NL10 (0.05/0.10): As per the chart above, you start playing at the limit NL10 (0.05/0.10).

Your first step up the ladder: Once you have built up $120 in your account, you can move up to the next limit, NL20 (0.10/0.20). Some rooms don’t offer this limit, instead they offer the limit NL25 (0.15/0.25). In that case, you need to have at least $150 in your account before you can move up to the next limit.

Buy-in with $2: When you sit down at a NL10 (0.05/0.10) table, you buy-in for $2, as you can see in the chart. If your stack falls to less than $1.50, you buy some more chips so you can maintain a $2 stack. If you make a profit and have more than $2.50 in your stack, leave the table and look for a new one.

Always wait for the big blind to come to you

You will often sit down at a table and see that a few more hands must be played before the big blind comes to you.

The software will ask if you wish to post a big blind out of turn and join play immediately. Do not do this! One single big blind may not sound like much, but they add up over time.

You can usually click a check box next to 'Wait for Big Blind' to tell the software that you wish to wait for the big blind to come to you before joining play.


So far, you have learned...

  • ... that you need at least 7 opponents.
  • ... that you start playing at the limit: NL 10 (0.05/0.10).
  • ... how much money to take to the table, when to buy more chips, and when to leave the table.
  • ... that you should never post a big blind out of turn, but wait for the big blind to come to you.

Your goal is to get a strong hand, make as much profit as you can with it, then take the money, and run.

The next article will teach you what a strong hand is and how to play when you have one:

Go to the next article: How to Play Before the Flop


Comments (46)

#1 markusbkoch, 13 Apr 09 21:41

Anyone else having a hard time finding a table that meets these rules? Seems everyone at PartyPoker is SSS

"Who do you play against?
You need to have at least 7 opponents.
No more than 2 of them can be short stacked as well."

#2 presenecenje, 16 Apr 09 10:51

the most of players dont play real SSS.
they just play with short stack, but they dont have real strategy.

i play the SSS at the FTP.

#3 DYRD, 25 Apr 09 16:07

what about auto-rebuys? Is it against the idea of SSS?

#4 brafal, 12 May 09 07:59

Can we apply this rule to 6max tables? And what will change?

I still am able to find tables for sss on NL10 limits, however, as the stakes rise there are less and less full ring tables.

Btw, this strategy has worked out pretty well until now. Had my bad beats, but I still keep making profits.

#5 MeikManiMani, 17 Jul 09 13:46

WHAT IF I raise first in 4x from middle with 99, then 3 players go all in behind me. Is it still +EV to move all in?

#6 JoaquinBosch, 26 Aug 09 03:03

noo... you fold... u call only if you hold AA or KK

#7 Vafele, 27 Aug 09 20:06

in 108 hands none playable hand... this sucks...

#8 lekski, 14 Sep 09 07:52

Are you playing on PS by any chance? I seemed to get an abundance of good hands to begin with and then they just stopped!

#9 clivej33, 10 Oct 09 12:10

Pokerstars has an unlimited number of tables to play at NL10 & NL25 level. I have not had success over the last week though playing SSS about 10 hours 6 tables. 888.com seems to be more profitable, but there just aren't enough players and tables.

#10 kenshin79, 22 Oct 09 08:47

Hic, I play at 0.05/0.2. When I use SSS, it seem that almost player call, so I often fold. So it is seem not to be effective

#11 Seaman362, 22 Oct 09 12:19

Duded, I dont think it is a great plan to join tables with alot people sitting down in a SSS.
I usualy sit down at tables with 2-3 people playing. I pay the BB out of turn too sometimes...
Its much eazyer to bluf, seeing another card for free, checking the whole hand...
With less cards out, more chance you have the best hand more often!!
So with less cards its also good to call the BB on more hands too...
the biggest pot I won this morning was with the hand [7,2]

#12 cakraputra, 28 Oct 09 13:44

duded,awesome i never thinking about this basic...

#13 ironmask92, 30 Oct 09 00:22

I can't find any tables on NL10 that fits the above requirements on partypoker. Seems like everyone has a small stack.

#14 KaarelVeide, 09 Nov 09 19:54

In pokerstars... there i can see but in many tables there are like 3 short stacks... And im still w8ing my start capital... I hope when i get it, then it isnt 2 late to find SSS tables:D

#15 lekski, 12 Nov 09 03:19

How does the 30 buy in rule become effected when multi tabling? Is it 30x the amount in play or just per table?

#16 adprocas, 17 Nov 09 17:33

I decided to try this strategy, but I already used up my free money from a while ago (I donked it away without actually reading these strategy tips).

Either way, I am fully prepared to follow this strategy to the T, as I have almost been doing this on my own lately and I have found it fairly successful.

My question is, I have about $27. Should I be playing the 0.2/0.5 tables then? The problem is, the minimum amount to buy in for is $2. You would think you would want to buy in for $1.

Should I just play the 0.5/0.10 tables and hope everything works well? I kind of wanted to start off lower stakes so I can perfect and memorize my playing habits.


#17 morc1us, 23 Nov 09 15:19

i take pot leave table and what then ? go to another table or just dont play this day ?:D

#18 Cr8zyCanuck, 26 Nov 09 15:47

If you're a good player you shouldn't be short stacking at low stakes. It's smart for like .50/1.00 or maybe .25/.50 but nothing lower. Low stakes is a sh*tfest anyways you just fold for an hour and then get your AA cracked by 22. Standard. Time investment = reward of like 5.50/hour at low stakes when you factor in rake. You really gotta just be playing for the love of the game not to win big bucks.

#19 Kula7, 17 Jan 10 01:53

Does anyone know how much money / BB are u suppose to make per hour playing sss? I cant find that info anywhere? Asuming you play strictly according to SSS rules.

#20 Hennung, 16 Feb 10 15:23

I find myself in dominated spots all the time using this strategy. Guess it's because I'm used to playing with bigger stacks, so the whole idea of just 20BB is very hard to follow. And also because you don't get premium hands that often, it's very hard to lay it down when it comes around. But I understand the concept and I've seen players playing this way profitable in higher limits, so I know it works, but don't think it's my cup of tea!

#21 eints59, 23 Feb 10 11:56

nice tips

#22 oppzz, 16 Mar 10 12:47

it helps alittle.

#23 valancius, 18 Apr 10 00:02

hard to get profit with this play on PartyPoker, many other SSS or i just not very lucky, played 11k+ hands on NL2 and +4$ profit, this strategy needs to be improved.

#24 dangreenmachine, 13 May 10 14:44

i also would like to know the expected return of this play. Looking forward to giving it a go at NL10 4 tabling for a start. What kind of profit should be expected per hour or per thousand hands or so?

#25 GASko123, 22 May 10 19:49

it's very difficult to sit at the tables at partypoker because there are so many tables that allow to buy in with 20BB .. what should i do ? normalny play and buy in minimum at other tables ?

#26 phuongbui, 24 May 10 05:43

What should I apply if I have good hand in Blind position?

#27 GASko123, 25 May 10 18:38

You are in late position/blinds and have
77 - AA

#28 SilverSag, 03 Aug 10 09:44

If anyone from PS reads this, then I have 2 serious comments/suggestions (so far):

1. You should definitely add that this strategy is affected by up and downswings A LOT. When I started I had 2000+ hand run without a single all-in win.

2. You should also note that this strategy involves jumping tables a lot, so you can realistically play it only at some poker rooms, as table minimum limits on most poke rooms does not allow to play SSS.

#29 builthard30, 05 Sep 10 08:32

i think the point is missed with regards to the short stack it does not say not to play against people with a short stack it says not to play against more than 2 at a table people using the short stack strategy, some folks will have a shortstack but are not playing the strategy

#30 STEALTHTAX, 29 Sep 10 16:03

Very useful article, but a lot of sites are imposing a 40BB min buy-in now (like Full Tilt Rush tables). How would the strategy be varied for 40BB stacks?

#31 Melwis, 29 Sep 10 19:38

Yeah STEALTHTAX mentions the exact same problem I noticed when I was about to try this strategy... I'm playing at FTP and if i'm not mistaken, the buy-in is always higher (at every given limit) then what the bankroll management for SSS says to take to the table =/

#32 David, 30 Sep 10 08:13

@30 + 31: We teach also a mid stack strategy, please have a look in our gold strategy SSS section.

#33 PkrMillion, 01 Oct 10 08:02

What if the minimum buy-in is $3 instead of the $2 that they speak of here with a $50 BR.
How does this effect things and what should I do?

#34 edilgreve, 11 Oct 10 15:42

For people that aren't getting it right first time its good to listen/read the information again like I did, its been a while since I used this strategy so I decided to go through it again and answer all the quiz' it provides. Hopefully I pick it all up again, thanks.

#35 majk24, 02 Nov 10 03:56

this is all one big bullshit.....u cant win with this strategy...i am trying now for 10000 hands and i am sucking big time.....and i am following this SSS chart....most of the time i got beat by some stupid idiot who payed me...i dont know ...i guess,just for joke and often got 2 pairs or set or straight or flush....i have never seen so much flushes and straights in this game like on PS...every second,third hand.. fishes....its full of it.....bottom line...maybe it was working but it aint working anymore......

#36 TuanVuVn, 07 Nov 10 12:35

thanks, do it really work ?

#37 will449, 15 Nov 10 02:50

this is somehting i have really needed :) this is my bible!

#38 Dustcraft, 12 Jan 11 23:29

I must say that this strategy sucks. I played according to the rules tightly, only pots i was winning with good hands were the dead blinds, and i got lots of bad beats after pushing all in, for example when some jerk got bottom set on the river, having hands like QTo, 6Ao against my AA or AKs.

#39 Vytauteee, 17 Jan 11 16:26

Why can't i buy in 2 dollars into 0.05/0.10? It says min buy in 3.50

#40 ivanalex20, 05 Feb 11 02:29

i dont realy get it why i cant make a regular buy in tournament at cake poker..it says tournament registration failed..and if i play a 50 cents tournament they let me play..is this a joke?

#41 Saka000, 27 Mar 11 17:12

How did you say that on NL25 i need to buy in for 5$ ????
I am asking that because i can not buy in for that amount on that limit...

#42 gogolstar, 05 Jun 11 11:34

Saka you should ask how to play with 20bb in your room´s forum. It´s posible in a lot of rooms. I started playing SS and now I play Mss & Ss. Cya!!

#43 pkrnight, 07 Jun 11 14:49

an easy calculation for you to follow when doing bankroll managment is as follows

1. you should have 600 times the big blind in your bankroll

2. you should take 20 times the big blind to the table to play with

3. you should reload when your cash on the table has diminished to 15 times the big blind

4. when your cash reaches 25 times the big blind, go to another table

#44 sparkyste, 14 Feb 12 15:47

if i pay in 5x bb or more and not entered/won a pot i have to reload. if im playing 5/10 then win a hand to take me to $2.50 and move table i will be losing money

#45 BossX1, 25 May 12 18:47

the rooms with 20BB Buy-in? Pokerstars doesnt allow it as i see only 40BB minimum, so? which to play?

#46 Tecutokiari, 06 Oct 15 13:37

why in mss chart?