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Playing Your Stack

Fredag 27 November, Harry L. Welch

hand-chips1If you are going to be an expert poker player, you must make decisions while playing your stack. Playing your stack means that you consider how many chips you have in front of you and how many you have the potential to win from your opponent. Having a huge stack of 500 or more big blinds is very different to play a stack with less than 30 or 40 big blinds. In everything you do at a poker table, you must consider the size of your stack. In a tournament situation, it is very important to play your Stack rather than your cards. This is especially true near the bubble or were money is about to increase. For now, we will concentrate on stack sizes in no limit cash games.

Big, bluffing bullies will steal your sweets

One of my favourite strategies to make a lot of money at a poker table is to sit down with a player who I know will play deep but who I know doesn’t play deep well. If they already have a decent stack, sometimes I will bluff off a buy in or two in a crazy spot just to increase his stack size and set them up for a killer hand later when I have run my stack up. I don’t advise this for beginners. Playing deep is the absolute best form of poker and many pros love to play deep against inexperienced players over a long session.

The reason is that there are so many opportunities to set their opponents up for a killer hand that robs them of their entire stack.  A lot of time, it is a set against some weird 2 or 3 gap inside straight that does the damage when playing deep. The combination of an unwillingness to consider that I have hit my straight, my previous crazy bluffs and the inherent strength of top set means that a lot of times, 2 big stacks will put all their chips in the middle in this spot. I have raked in pots as big as $15,000 in $1000 buy in no limit game using this strategy. In fact, I know of no better way to win a monstrous part than with this strategy.

Small Stack Supremos

On the other hand, you will see many players buying in with 20 big blinds with the intention of pushing before the flop with any pair bigger than eights and any ace with a king or queen. For players who are less than comfortable playing after the flop, this can be a very profitable strategy. In both scenarios, the key thing is that you are playing your stack with an eye on your opponent's stack. In the short stacked example, many loose aggressive players will raise before the flop with a much wider range than a short stack pushing machine will have to push with and will therefore be priced in to call the extra 16 big blinds against the short stacks range. This is what makes this strategy effective. The belligerence and egocentricity of the big stack also plays a part here in encouraging them to call.

The choice for me is clear

Having a huge stack has other benefits in that many times, players will assume that you are bluffing when you make ridiculously big bets. They will read it as weakness and call you down light when they shouldn't. If I had to choose between both strategies, I would always prefer to play with a really deep stack. It's just more fun... and you know that you are making other players at the table turn red with rage as you bully them mercilessly. This is exactly where you want them and why playing your Stack correctly is so important. Get them angry to get their money.

How to implement playing your stack into your game

  1. Use implied odds when taking an opponents stack into consideration
  2. If you aren’t confident after the flop yet, play a small stack strategy
  3. When you play with an effective big stack against an aggressive player, loosen up and play more hands in position