In a recent column, I covered deep-stack play in tournaments. This week, let’s look at how to play a healthy stack in live games.
Playing No Limit Hold’em with a large amount of chips in comparison to the blinds is the most skillful form of poker in the world. It’s certainly more challenging than a short-stack poker tournament where blind levels escalate very quickly.
Deep-stack poker is defined by the number of bets players have in relation to the big blind. In some tournaments, like a $20 buy-in sit-and-go with $1/$2 blinds, the game literally starts out short-stacked with players having just 10 bets. Betting options are extremely limited as players are often forced to move all-in before or after the flop.
Compare that to a deep-stack game where the blinds are still $1/$2 but the average buy-in is $500. Now, it’s a completely different ballgame. When players have 250 bets in front of them, you’ll rarely see anyone moving all-in, especially before the flop.
Let’s check out a hand example in these two different game formats.
Holding pocket aces, you raise to $6 in a short buy-in game. An opponent has pocket queens, and with just $20 in front of him, his obvious play is to go all-in. End of story.
Now compare that to a deep-stack game where you’d likely see a very different betting pattern. In this game, you might also raise to $6 with the pocket rockets, and the guy with the queens might still re-raise to $20. But playing with a deep-stack, you’d probably re-raise again before the flop to, say, $60. Facing your re-raise, your opponent just might fold his hand, fearing that you have K-K or better, and that his big stack may very well be at risk.
For a $20 bet and no more betting to follow, it’s worth taking the risk. But for a $60 bet and more betting to come, it’s a potential stack destroyer.
You see, short buy-in poker makes for easy decisions as illustrated in the first example. Playing with a deep-stack, however, is much more difficult because it creates tough decisions, especially for less skilled players.
Here’s one key adjustment that you should make to your game when playing deep-stack poker: Make larger pre-flop raises. Table action typically plays much looser before the flop when players have deep stacks so the amount you raise becomes less significant. If someone has a hand that they’d call $6 with, well, they’d likely call $8 too. Knowing this, raise more to build the pot when you’ve got a hand that you think is strong enough to raise and win with.
Besides, with no antes and just $3 in the pot, you aren’t going to make a lot of profit by stealing blinds anyway. Also, in this type of game, there’s actually a lot less re-raising before the flop. Even if you are re-raised, the loss to your stack will be minimal if you are forced to fold. When a typical re-raise might only cost you one percent of your stack, that’s something you can live with.
Another concern is the implied odds after the flop.
In a short buy-in game, when you make a big raise before the flop, the pot will be so large in relation to the stacks that other players will often move all-in if they have any sort of hand at all. That’s just not the case when playing deep-stack poker.
Since you and your opponent still have plenty of chips remaining, the implied odds increase significantly when you increase the raise even slightly to $8 pre-flop. By making the pot just a little bigger before the flop, chances increase that you’ll win your opponent’s entire stack if you get lucky and hit the right board.
Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.
© 2007 Card Shark Media. All rights reserved.