Running Rampant - Rampaging Short Stack Cash Strategy
Spin-ups have long been a part of online poker; players take shots at higher levels and every player dreams of spinning their bankroll up to six-figures, but the sad fact of the matter is – not everyone can be that lucky. Taking shots can sometimes be a little risky, and more than a few budding poker stars have gone broke playing above their bankroll or by sitting at a table with their entire roll in front of them. Indeed some might go so far as to call this gambling…
While playing within your bankroll at the micro-stakes levels (anything $0.25/$0.50 and under) can occasionally be a bit of a grind, sometimes living a bit dangerously is fun and gambling like anything else (except perhaps crack cocaine usage) is fine in moderation. In fact, what if I told you there was a way to build yourself a sizable online bankroll without risking your entire net worth. A way that enabled you to play at decent stakes online without having to pay in thousands of dollars onto an internet poker account. How, I here you ask? By going on the rampage…
'Rampaging' is a growing trend amongst online players who want to play at stakes where they can win decent money without necessarily having the bankroll behind them. The more traditional early form of rampaging involved sitting down at a table with your entire online bankroll, or at least the entirety of the roll sitting in your online account. Needless to say, this is a very 'boom or bust' approach that has seen more than a few people chew through their online roll with nothing but an empty poker account to show for it. No, the thinking man's rampage is where it's at these days.
The ethos behind modern rampaging stems from the short-stack approach to the game; buying in for the minimum at a level like $0.10/$0.25 for $5, only playing premium hands and shipping most of the money in either pre-flop or on the flop, doubling-up and then leaving the table. Now while your online short-stacking grinder will do this repeatedly over several tables at once and tend to stick to the same levels, your discerning rampager must take a different approach.
Normally, to play at the $1/$2 tables you need a bankroll of at least $4,000, where a single buy-in is $200 or around 5% of your roll. At the $0.10/$0.25 levels then, your bankroll needs to be around $500. But (and this is where rampaging really comes into its own) while you are short-stack rampaging you are buying in for the minimum so your bankroll can be that much smaller – a short-stacked rampager can have a bankroll of $50 to play in a $0.10/$0.25 game and still only be buying in for 5% of their roll.
Rampaging works best at the six-max tables and lends itself just as well to Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) as it does to No Limit Texas Hold 'Em (NLHE). In fact, poker author Rolf Slotboom discusses an excellent way to short-stack the PLO tables that lends itself particularly well to rampaging in his book 'Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha', which is definitely worth a read if you are looking to improve your online PLO game and increase your aggression factor.
Controlled aggression is an essential part of all good poker player's games; usually the more aggressive the player, the better the results. However, in the modern online game everyone is aggressive and it is this fact that the rampaging player will be using to their advantage:
Preparation is the key to success here – you are looking for a table (or tables) with a high average pot but with a low 'players per flop percentage'. Scan through the available tables (or use software like Table Tracker or SpadeIt that can be programmed to search for specific players or tables) until you see one that matches your requirements, then open it up and study how the game is playing out.
A table with large pots and less players per flop generally means that there are fewer calling stations on the table and one or two aggressive players who are committing quite a bit of money to the pots, usually through a combination of pre-flop raises and re–raises – which is just what you want. The more players who see a flop increases the amount of variance present in the game; the harder it is to get your hand heads-up or three way, the more likely it is that your big hands will get cracked. By picking a table with aggressive players (especially those who like to raise and re-raise to isolate pre-flop) you stand a better chance of taking your hand heads-up, where your penchant for picking strong starting hands provides you with an edge over the starting hand ranges of a good LAG (loose-aggressive) player.
You will be buying in for the minimum (although you could stretch to double the minimum i.e. $10 in a $0.10/$0.25 game if you want a bit more play) and looking to sit with a strong aggressive player to your left (yes, you want them to have position on you).
Patience is the key here; you are waiting for fairly decent hands. In Hold 'Em you will be playing the big Pocket Pairs (Aces down to Tens) and big Aces (suited or unsuited) down to Ace Queen. You can mix this up in late position by playing pairs down to Sevens, suited Aces down to Ace Ten and unsuited Aces down to Ace Jack.
In PLO, hands like double-suited Aces or Kings where all four cards work well together and double-suited run-down hands are what you are looking for. When you find a hand that you like you usually just want to call knowing the aggressive player will raise and get called in a couple of spots so you can re-raise all-in. Obviously you need to mix this up with some Button raises and re-raises when you have the goods as well so you don't become too predictable. When playing Hold 'Em this strategy differs slightly from PLO; it is usually better to be the raiser to reduce the number of players who see the flop.
Hopefully the obliging LAG should re-raise giving you some protection and taking the hand heads-up so you are getting around 3-1 on your money while being anywhere around an 80/20 to 60/40 favourite in the hand. Obviously this is not an exact science and the key to success is picking your spots carefully. Occasionally you'll be against two other players in the pot and while your win percentage may drop here you are still getting a pretty good return on your money for taking a favourable gamble. The trick is not to get too greedy, as soon as you have doubled up and have enough to buy in for the minimum for the next level you leave the table and jump up stakes. Rampaging differs from short-stacking in the fact that you are consistently moving up levels while only risking around 5% of your roll.
Of course, you can experiment with this strategy a little if you find a level you are comfortable playing at and wish to stick around in a particular game for a while. However, remember the whole point of rampaging is to move UP the stakes.
The best part about this approach is the fact you are risking a little to win a lot in a short space of time, while still using some semblance of bankroll management: While you are effectively playing higher than your roll allows you should still only be risking around 5% of your total net worth. The best way to ensure success is to give yourself a total you are happy reaching and then calling it quits and banking the money. If, at any point throughout the rampage you have reached a point where you are sitting with an amount in front of you that is more than 10% of your roll (or more than your entire bankroll if you are that lucky) then take the money and run.
While you won't make many friends doing this (short-stackers are universally hated and despised) there are no friends at the poker tables anyway and the internet in particular allows you to indulge in some behaviour that just wouldn't run in a live game.
Be warned however, that this approach can stunt your poker game if relied upon too heavily. If done properly it's a great way of building a bankroll that enables you to play at decent stakes with minimum risk. If it works, it can see you spin up an initial $50 deposit to a couple of thousand, enabling you to play the $0.50/$1 properly while occasionally attempting to take shots and enjoy the odd rampage at the higher levels, if it doesn't work you've lost $5. Show me a downside…