Basic Poker Strategy: Let’s Talk About Stacks

When you’re playing no limit Texas hold ’em poker, there’s a very distinct possibility that you may be putting all of your chips on the line at any given time. It’s therefore essential for you to understand that you must be aware of not only your own stack size, but also that of any of your opponents as well.

You should always relate your chipstack to the size of the big blinds to give you an idea of the real power that you wield at the table. For instance, a $2,000 chip stack may sound like a lot, but if the blinds are $100/$200, then this is a minuscule amount of to be playing with in no limit Hold ’em. Just to give you an idea of how you should relate your stack to the game you’re playing, here a handy list.

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

You’ll frequently see online poker rooms that have a limit on how much or how little you can bring to limit poker play. There’s typically a 10 big blinds minimum and a 100 big blinds maximum, which means that players have the option of buying in as a small, medium or big stack right off the bat. For high rollers, you’ll occasionally see deep stack games offered where you can play but only if you meet that poker room’s criterion.

How does your stack size affect your play? Obviously, if you have a small chipstack in front of you, it’s going to be difficult to play very elaborately because you don’t have enough chips to scare opponents away from hands. Straightforward play definitely makes more sense when you have a smaller stack. The converse of this is the fact that larger stacks give players the chance to play a bit more strategically as you can push the opposition around a bit.

Implied odds are also greatly affected by chip stack size. If you and your opponent have a big stack, then your implied odds increase when you have drawing hands, meaning that you will occasionally be able to take a flyer while holding of weaker pair or hand like 78 because you stand to gain quite a lot with a relatively small amount of your stack.

There’s also a psychological component to your stack size. If you are facing opponents that have large stacks and they’re pressing you hard, there’s always the possibility that you could lose it all in a single hand. Alternatively, if you are up against an opponent that has a small stack, it is not possible for you to lose more than the amount your opponent has in front of them. This means that players will have a greater concern when playing against big stacks than when playing against small stacks.

It’s fair to say that many poker players fail to factor in the size of chip stacks when making their decisions at the table. By having a basic understanding of chip stack size and how it relates to the game, you can make more effective decisions when you play.