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While the game is called No Limit Hold’em, the vast majority of low and mid stakes cash games tend to have capped maximum buy-ins.  This, combined with low minimum buy-ins, often results in many situations where awkward stack sizes make decisions difficult.  Here’s a few things to keep in mind when playing in capped games.

There’s less room to bluff multiple streets

When effective stacks are short, it doesn’t take many bets for someone to be all in.  Therefore, double and triple barreling become much less effective in capped games.  In extreme cases, effective stacks can be so shallow that even continuation betting can be unprofitable since our opponent will shove his short stack with any piece of the flop.  If this is the case, it is often best to limp hands like KJ, AT, and KQ rather than raise them since you can simply fold if you miss rather than be forced to either give up or call a shove after continuation betting because you’re priced in.

Speculative hands and draws go down in value

When effective stacks are shallow, hands like suited connectors, suited aces, and small pocket pairs go down in value because the amount you can win if you make a big hand is limited by the effective stacks.  Postflop, draws are also less valuable for the same reason.

Pairs and large cards go up in value

Unlike speculative hands and draws, these types of hands do not rely on implied odds to be profitable.  Thus, they play well in situations where effective stacks are shallow.  When you’re only 80 big blinds effective in a raised pot, top pair top kicker can be a hand you play for stacks with.

You can afford to slowplay sometimes

When stacks are deep, I’m usually a proponent of not slowplaying big hands since it’s very important to build the pot up early in order to get stacks in by the river.  In capped games with shallow effective stacks, however, it can be profitable to slowplay more often than in deeper games since much of the time your opponents will only have a couple pot-sized bets left.  With such low stack-to-pot ratios, it is much easier to get the money in by the river, therefore you can often afford to slowplay a street or two.


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ALL IN Magazine Contributor Zhijian Xing