Poker Stack Sizes

Further Strategy: Tight Aggressive : Continuation Bet : Check Raising : Float Play : Stack Sizes : Relative Position

Poker Stack Sizes

Believe it or not, the size of your stack at the cash game table in Texas Hold em can have quite a significant effect on your strategy.

Sure, it's nice to build up a big stack rather than diminish down to a small one, but there are some more important points to consider depending on how big your stack is when you're sitting at the poker table.

General stack sizes advice.

As a quick tip before we get in to the meat of the article, I would like to point out that it is always best to buy-in for the maximum amount at the cash game table. This will usually be 100 times the big blind. It may seem like a good idea to buy in for a small amount to reduce the risk of losing a large amount of money, but if you are a winning player you are simply restricting yourself from raking in bigger pots.

Buying in for the maximum maximizes your earnings if you are a winning player. That's a fact.

If you feel really uncomfortable buying in for the maximum, then you should consider moving down a level or two. As a winning poker player, you should not be afraid to buy in for the maximum at the table to set yourself up for bigger wins. Have some confidence in your ability and buy in the for the maximum amount where possible.

Poker stack size groups.

Not a big deal, but as a general rough guide to give you an idea of how stack sizes can be grouped...

Stack Size Groups

A small stack can be referred to as being "short stacked", and a having a big stack can be referred to as being "deep stacked", but that's all much of a much ness.

Why stack sizes are important.

Stack size is important because it is an indicator of how big the pot could become in any given hand. Therefore if you and your opponents have big stacks...

  • Players will be aware that a lot of money could be at stake.
  • Players will not be prepared to go to war with marginal hands on the flop or turn.
  • There will be a lot of post-flop play if the hand makes it that far.
  • Players will be more likely to open up their starting hand requirements in the hope of catching a sneaky big hand on the flop.

On the other hand, if your or your opponent does not have a particularly big stack (and so has a small one)...

  • Players will be aware that not much money is at stake.
  • There is unlikely to be much post-flop action.
  • Players will therefore usually stick to playing premium hands.

Now you may or may not have thought about these points before, but they really will have an effect on how you and your opponents will approach a hand. Therefore you are going to need to adapt your strategy accordingly.

How the size of your stack affects yours strategy.

Lets break it up into big and small stack strategy (also thrown mid stack in for fun)...

Big stack strategy.

With a big stack, there is a lot of money at stake, and so you and your opponent should be looking to catch each other out with a big but hidden hand. Although it would usually sound pretty silly to call a 3 or 4 big blind raise with a hand like 6h 7h or a low pocket pair, the fact that your opponent is not expecting you to call with hands like these means that could clean them out if you hit the right cards. So your implied odds in the big stack situations can make what seem to be “crazy calls” worthwhile.

This means that against an experienced player, you should not always confine your opponent's starting hand range to premium cards if they call your raise when you both have big stacks. This is the case at tables with 6 players or less especially, so try not to be too pissed if you find your opponent decides to call with a hand like 7d 8c when you make a 3 big blind raise with AK.

If you want to reduce the chances of your opponents calling with such a wide range of hands, consider raising around 5 big blinds each time to really take the odds out of their favour.

Mid stack strategy.

Pretty much play standard poker here, too much of a wide topic to give any concrete strategy. However, I will say that you do not have as much implied odds, so lay off on the suited connecting hands a little, and don't call too much with small pocket pairs.

This article is focusing on big and small stack strategy mainly anyway, so sorry about the lack of detail here for you mid-stackers.

Small stack strategy.

If you or your opponent has a small stack, then you are not going to be playing for such a big pot when all the money goes in. In addition to this, the fact that the amount of money being played with is small in relation to the size of the blinds, it means that there is going to be very little room for post flop action.

Remember that if your opponent has a short stack, you are effectively playing short-stack poker also.

Therefore, there is no need to think about getting tricky with any hands for a small pot, just stick with the premium hands and fold any marginal or weak ones.

By sticking with the big cards, you are increasing your chances of winning in situations that are going to require little to no post flop play, which makes trying to outplay your opponent or get lucky with weak hands an ineffective strategy.

Stack size strategy overview.

In a nutshell...

  • Small stack strategy is basic poker with big cards.
  • Big stack strategy involves more thought and trying to catch your opponent out with a big hidden hand.

This doesn't mean that when you and your opponent's effective stacks are deep that you call with anything and everything under the sun. Just be aware that hands with sneaky potential can land you a decent profit from time to time.

Go back to the sublime Texas Hold'em guide.

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