Poker School

Big stack poker: tips to improve your big stack strategy

If you're fortunate enough to have a big stack, then learning how to make the most of it will help. Here’s our guide…

When you’re at the table with a considerable stack, the game will change around you. The rest of the table – especially in tournaments – become very intimidated, and are unlikely to raise into you or attempt to steal your blind. The reason for this is that you’ve got a huge insurance policy in the form of a big stack, and if they lose their smaller one, they’re out.

Something to remember when you’re starting off a hand as a big stack owner is how your position at the table will affect how you should make use of all your chips. If you’re in an early position – that is, one of the first to fold, bet and so on as the game goes around the table – then you need to have a genuinely good hand if you’re going to raise.

If you don’t, you’re risking your chips to the larger number of people behind you. It’s always easy to strategise when everyone else has made their plays – be careful when they haven’t. You’ll also need to sustain your stack to survive until the final table of the tournament, so careful play is essential, especially in the early stages.

It’s also worth thinking about what hands you should be betting with. For example, if you’ve got a pair of sixes or 7♣-8♣, these are solid medium hands, but if you’re playing it extremely safe, you’re going to want to hold out. The reason for this is that after a couple of hours at the table, the blinds required to participate will be so large that you’ll simply be whittling down your stack on hands that aren’t as likely to win as a pair of kings.

However, the further back you are in position, the greater your advantage becomes, as you can start stealing blinds – also known as waiting until the blinds have been paid, then raising immediately to attempt to force everyone to fold and award you a small pile of chips. Some players will fold whenever someone raises before the flop are dealt – take advantage of them and build that stack even higher.

Of course, if you’re given a great hand, it’s always worth betting as you traditionally would, but don’t be caught out with a medium-ranked pair of cards if you’re playing before the rest of the table. However, it’s when you’re at the back with the big stack that the advantage is truly yours.

The reason for this is that the rest of the table knows two things – that you’ve got a big stack of chips, and that you’ve got the best idea of what to do next. Bet aggressively, and keep on stealing blinds – don’t even worry about what cards you’ve got as the chances of someone going against you are far lower than they would be had you been in an earlier position at the table. If you do face off against someone who’s happy to take you on, use your late position to figure out how good their hand is, and play accordingly.

You also need to play smart, as many players will see your big stack as a target painted on your forehead. If you keep stealing the blind and raising aggressively, eventually other players will realise and begin to take advantage of your considerable wealth by playing back at you. While it’s easy to take blinds in a late position at the table, don’t be too cheeky – know when you’re being obvious.

It’s also worth considering that when you’re playing in a tournament, you’ve got the time at a table to develop a reputation with those you play with. Playing smart throughout while maintaining a large stack is an intimidating image to carry across to other players. You have what they don’t – a hefty amount of chips between you and the point you’re knocked out. Make it clear you’ve built it up through skill, rather than playing in an aggressive manner.