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Poker Stack Sizes Strategy

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Tamaños de stack

Stack size is really important in no limit poker Texas Hold'em. There is always the chance that your chips be put on the line at any time during the game and this is the reason why it is important that you know your stack size but also the size of the other players's stacks.

Several aspects of play in Texas Hold'em, including the psychological and the mathematical aspects, are influenced by the amount of chips you have and the amount of chips your opponents have.

This article is about the key points that you should take into account when it comes to understanding stack sizes in poker.

Poker stack sizes guide

The size of your stack will always depend on the blinds of that particular game. For example, a $2,000 stack may seem a large stack but if the blinds are $100/$200, compared to them the stack becomes a very small amount to play with in no limit Hold'em. The concepts of small, medium and big stack sizes are explained in the following table:

  • Small: 40 big blinds or less.
  • Medium: 41 – 90 big blinds.
  • Big: 91 big blinds or more.
  • Deep: 200 big blinds or more.

Small Medium Big Deep
Guía de tamaños de stack
40BBs 90BBs 200BBs

In most online and live poker rooms the maximum and minimum amounts of money you can bring to the poker table are limited. In general, the minimum is 10BB and the maximum is 100BB. As a result, players are allowed to buying in as a small, medium or big stack from the beginning. As you can see, when you have 200 blinds or more you have a "deep stack".

This usually happens in cash games when a player buys in for the maximum amount allowed, generally 100BBs, and he doubled up in an all-in play against an opponent who had the same stack size or has fought his way up into the "deep stack" territory.

The way in which stack sizes affect how you play

When you play poker, the size of your stack affects the way in which you actually play your cards. When you have a short stack you won't be able to, or it will be really difficult, make tricky bluffs or plays since your chips won't be enough to scare your opponents from their hands.

Alternatively, when you hold a big stack then you have more chances of making advanced plays because the amount of chips you have allows you to manipulate your opponents and make them believe that you have the better hand. As a result, playing simple poker is the best option when you have a short stack. In this case the best is to bet when you have a strong hand and fold when you have a weak hand.

When your stack is short, the best for you is to play big cards that have better chances of winning when you face an all-in situation at the beginning of the hand.

The effect of stack sizes on implied odds

Implied odds and reverse implied odds are another important factor concerning stack sizes and they are available when you have a big stack. When you and the other player have a big stack your implied odds will increase in case you hold drawing hands.

Suppose that you are certain that your opponent raises 3.5BBs with AA and he will go all-in on the flop when he has an overpair, the wise thing to do is to call with a hand like 78 due to the amount you could win if you hit the flop hard.

For the same reason, it is profitable to call raises when you have small pocket pairs in order to try to hit a set, although the possibility of hitting a set in general is far less than the odds you are getting. Opening up your starting hand requirements in order to add suited connectors and so on can be really profitable if you are facing big stacks. On the other hand, you should stick to the big starting hands when you face short stacks.

Psychology and stack sizes

Stack sizes in poker also influence the psychological aspects of the game. When you hold a big stack and you are facing an opponent who also has a big stack, then you could lose all your chips in this particular hand.

On the other hand, when you play against a player who has a small stack, you can't lose an amount bigger than your opponent's stack. As a result, players will feel more apprehension when they are up against big stacks than when they play against small stack.

When poker hold'em players play against an equally big stack they are more cautious with the way in which they play.

Stack size psychology example

Suppose player A raises in late position and player B has QClover JDiamond and calls on the button while everyone else folds. Only two players go now to the flop and both of them are holding big stacks of approximately 100BBs each, and player A's hand is unknown.

The flop is 2Heart JSpades 7Clover , which gives B top pair. Player A is first to act and bets the size of the pot.

Player B is now in a difficult situation because although he has a top pair with a decent kicker, player A is showing strength. Player B chooses to call since if the re-raises it would mean committing a great number of chips into the pot with only top pair.

The turn is 5Diamond , which does not help any of the players.

Player A decides to bet the size of the pot again, and player B chooses to fold since he is not ready to commit so much money into the hand holding just top pair.

Stack sizes example evaluation

In the previous example, player A perhaps had a better poker hand or perhaps he was just totally bluffing, but it's not the reason for the example. In this hand player A showed great strength and forced player B to make difficult decisions.

What made the decisions even more difficult was the fact that player A was certain that he was willing to risk a lot of chips in this hand. As a result, player B decided to fold the hand because he had a top pair, which was a marginal holding, and he did not want to risk a large number of chips with it.

If player A only had 20BBs or 30BBs, then player A would have probably called the raises or make player A go all-in since there are less chips at risk. This example shows that it is easier to get big stacks off marginal hands since your opponent will be influenced by the possibility of having to call large bets and put more money at stake.

The bigger your stack, the less likely your opponent is of fighting when he holds a marginal hand like top pair. If you decide to continue betting strongly after the flop, this will be especially true.

Poker stack size strategy evaluation

Many poker players don't take stack sizes into account when they make decisions at the poker table. Always consider the future consequences of any hand taking into account the size of your stack and the size of the other players stacks. You should consider if you really want to get involved in a big pot when you are holding a marginal hand and you are facing a big stack.

Also consider if it is worth calling the bet on the flop if you have enough confidence that you'll fold when the other player bets again on the turn. You need some experience to completely understand the implications in each situation of each factor involved in stack sizes.

You need practice to understand it and use it properly, start playing some hands now!

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