Stack sizes can determine a lot about the nature of a poker game.
If everybody has a small stack, there will not be a lot of post-flop play. If someone flops a good hand, they’re most likely to move all-in or make a bet that effectively puts them all-in on the next street.
If the stacks are deep, however, the game changes significantly. There is more room for strategy pre-flop and on all streets. The value of starting hands changes in a way that favors more medium holdings being played.
At a minimum, a deep stack is defined as having at least 100 big blinds. Usually, however, deep stack refers to games that have stacks greater than 200 or 300 big blinds.
The core difference between short stacks and deep stacks is usually the amount of patience you have for certain hands.
For instance, if you have 20 big blinds, you might have no problem moving all-in preflop with a hand like A-Q or moving all-in on the flop when you make top pair with a good kicker. On the other hand, would you move all-in preflop with A-Q if you have 200 big blinds or top pair on the flop? Probably not.
While you want to be more patient when it comes to getting involved in big pots, there are several ways you can and should take advantage of having a deep stack.
Pay attention to position
Having position on your opponent is critical in virtually all forms of poker, but it is even more important when the stacks are deep because there are more chips for you to lose, potentially.
If you don’t have a lot of chips and you get 3-bet while holding K-Q offsuit, you might be willing to call that 3-bet even when you are out of position. If your stack is deep, however, you have to think about position even more.
Is your opponent 3-betting you with a range of hands that is ahead of your K-Q? If yes, do you really want to play three streets against that player and hand out of position? The answer is likely no.
3-betting is good
If you do have position, you should take advantage by 3-betting a wide range of hands preflop.
Remember how you feel when you have a moderate holding and you get 3-bet by someone who is going to have position on you for the rest of the hand. If your opponent is capable of thinking about that, they are more likely to fold preflop. It’s always great to add to your stack without having to throw down your hand.
Widen your range
The hand 9-8 suited might look nice, but if you don’t have a lot of chips and you’re facing a raise, it’s probably smart to fold. The percentage of time you’re going to outflop the perceived range of the opponent who raised is not high, so calling is not something you should do on a regular basis.
When the stacks are deep, however, you should be taking more chances with hands like suited connecters, one-gappers and small to medium pairs.
The idea is that the raises you call represent a smaller percentage of your stack and that your implied odds skyrocket. When the stacks are deeper you have more money to throw around, and you should take advantage of that by playing hands that could hit flops hard.
Be aggressive with draws
In a similar vein, you can play your draws more aggressively because your stack is deeper.
It’s a good idea to do this anyway because it helps to balance your range, but it’s easier to do so when the chips you commit represent a smaller percentage of your stack.
There are not many things sweeter than flopping a flush draw, leading out on the flop and then hitting your flush on the turn. It’s difficult for your opponent to put you on that flush. Plus, they may think they can push you off the hand by presenting as if they have the flush.
Playing deep-stacked poker opens up the playbook for everyone involved. It requires more thinking, but the rewards can be major.
If you can get to the point where you’re comfortable playing with deep stacks, you will develop more skills and give yourself a better chance to win in all forms of the game.