Poker Stack Sizes Strategy

Published: 28/12/2010

Stack sizes have a major impact on how Poker is played, and experienced players vary their strategies accordingly. Generally speaking, a stack of chips less than 25 times the big blind is considered to be a small or “short” stack; one containing 25 to 90 times the big blind is a medium stack; and more than 90 times is a big stack, often referred to as a “deep stack.” The bigger the stacks in play are, the larger the potential pot can be.

In tournament play, whatever size stack is issued at the outset can be seen as the average stack size for the game, since all players begin with the same number of chips. In ring games (cash games), players have the option of how many chips to purchase as their initial buy-in. Joining the table with only the minimum necessary will automatically put a new player on a short stack. To maximize earnings, it is preferable to begin with the highest number of chips allowed, typically 100 times the big blind.

Short Stack Strategy

Anytime two players are vying for a pot and one of them has a small stack, both must adopt a short stack strategy. That’s because the biggest pot possible is limited by the size of the smallest stack. Also, such post-flop action as betting and raising will be greatly limited. The bigger stack does not want to give the smaller stack the opportunity to double up, while the smaller stack does not want to face the possibility of being eliminated. For this reason, tight aggressive play is the preferred tactic, sticking to premium hands and folding with any weak or marginal ones. Nothing tricky should be considered.

Medium Stack Strategy

This is the standard strategy one uses when starting out in a tournament or when seated at a ring game where all the opponents have roughly the same number of chips. Again, tight play is the recommended strategy. Calling occasionally with suited connectors or small pocket pairs is possible, but should not be done too often. Steal blinds when possible; avoid getting caught in the crossfire between loose players; and look for opportunities to bet or raise for value post flop. The object is to grow the stack when in this position, not to double up or force coin-toss showdowns.

Deep Stack Strategy

As noted above, buying in for the maximum at a ring game is recommended, which may automatically put the player on a big stack from the start. Hands won early on in a tournament may also lead to being deep-stacked rather quickly. This is a position of power from which a greater number of playing options are available. It therefore requires more thought.

Stealing blinds and playing short-stacked strategy against with small stacks will not lead to the big gains that only a big stack has access to. Therefore, a deep-stacked player’s first thought should be how to catch other big stacks out with a huge hidden hand.

This is where low pairs and suited connectors can come in handy, making calls and looking for favourable flops. Continuation bets become possible, raising pre-flop and making aggressive follow-up bets after the flop. And value betting should always be top of mind, maximizing hand value by getting more money into the pot.

Those who feel uncomfortable playing the looser style of Poker that deep-stack strategy may call for are well advised to play for lower stakes until they gain some confidence. To consistently win at Poker, one needs to be able to play for the maximum amount where possible.

Published on: 28/12/2010

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