Playing deep stack poker can be extremely uncomfortable for most cash game players and tournament specialists. The biggest reason for this is that they spend most of their time playing with stacks of 100 big blinds or less, and they are not familiar with deep stack poker strategy.
If you belong to this group of players but want to expand your knowledge about deep stack games, you have come to the right place.
This article explains deepstack poker's challenges and the best ways to prepare and master deepstack play.
Like everything else in poker, the deep stack is a relative term and is completely situational. Generally speaking, poker players use this term when they want to describe hands, situations, or formats in which players have stacks of 150 big blinds or more. However, depending on circumstances, players can refer to stacks being deep if they have anywhere from 50 big blinds to 1,000 big blinds.
Here are a couple of examples to give you a better idea of what we refer to.
Imagine a situation in which there are nine players at the final table. Most of the players at the table have stacks of 20bb or less, while two players have 70bb or more.
In this situation, players will refer to the two players with 70bb as having deep stacks, although they both have less than 100bb. This is because they are deep-stacked in relation to the other seven players at the table.
So if one of the players with 70bb makes a raise into the other player with a similar stack size, the other player will often use the term “we are both deep” to explain the spot. We will later discuss why players refer to these spots the way they do and what this means from a strategic standpoint.
Now, imagine a situation where there are 6 players at a cash game table, each with around 200 big blinds, and the game is played with antes and straddles.
Although players in this scenario have a lot more big blinds, 200bb stacks in this scenario are not considered deep stacks. This is because all of the players at the table have similar stacks, and most importantly, the antes and the straddles make stacks much shallower in practice because they increase the size of the pot and an effective big blind.
How important deep stack strategy is depends on each individual player and the games they play. For some players, it might be essential for their poker success, while for others, it might not have any impact.
With this said, deep stacks impact the game dynamics in several ways, and this is why players approach some of the spots in deep stack play differently than in situations where they have shallow stacks. The thing that drives almost all of the adjustments in situations where players have deep stacks is the pot-to-stack ratio.
For this reason, mistakes that might seem marginal in 100bb play can be devastating when you have 300bb or more.
For example, you are playing in a cash game, and you raise 2.5 bb Ac 7c from the SB, and the BB calls you with the effective stacks being 20BB.
The pot is 5bb, and the flop comes As 5h 9h. You bet 3bb, and the BB goes all in.
In this situation, the pot is 25.5 bb (5bb in the pot + your 3 bb + 17.5 bb that the BB went all in with.
This means that you need to call an additional 14.5 bb (you already put 3 bb into the pot, so you need to put 14.5 bb more to match the BBs all in) to win 40 bb (25.5 bb already in the pot + the additional 14.5 bb you need to put to put into the pot to make the call).
Your pot odds in this situation are around 36%, meaning you have to be right one in three times to make a profitable call, which significantly impacts your calling range.
Now let’s use the same situation but with deeper effective stacks.
You are playing in a cash game, and you raise 2.5 bb Ac 7c from the SB, and the BB calls you with the effective stacks being 200 bb.
The pot is 5bb, and the flop comes As 5h 9h. You bet 3bb, and the BB goes all in.
In this situation, the pot is 205.5 bb (5bb in the pot + your 3 bb + 197.5 bb that the BB went all in with.
This means that you need to call an additional 194.5 bb (you already put 3 bb into the pot, so you need to put 194.5 bb more to match the BBs all in) to win 400 bb (205.5 bb already in the pot + the additional 194.5 bb you need to put into the pot to make the call)
Your pot odds are now around 48%, which means that you have to be right one in two times to make a breakeven call. And another important thing to remember is that a wrong call will cost you 194.5 bb instead of 14.5 bb. Although the second example is quite extreme and you won’t encounter it often, we used it on purpose to clearly show how stack sizes impact the pot odds. To help you create the best possible deep stack poker strategy, we discuss how to adjust your play in deep stack games below.
There is no strict rule in deep stack games when it comes to preflop bet sizings, and how players approach different spots depends on the format and their opponents.
In deep stack cash games, players will usually not make huge adjustments in single raised pots. For example, they might increase their preflop raising size from 2.5 bb to 3.5 bb against capable opponents but will not go crazy with the sizings.
Although, it is important to note that when playing deep stack poker against recreational players, regulars will often increase their preflop raising size too. For example, 8bb or whatever they think the opponent is willing to call, to try and maximize their edge and put as much money into the pot before the flop as possible.
Tournament regulars implement this same deep stack strategy as they will change their preflop sizes throughout the tournament in relation to the size of the effective stacks. For example, in the early stages of the tournament, their raising size is usually much bigger than in the late stages.
While in most situations, you will want to keep the exact preflop raising sizes in single raised pots, when it comes to 3betting, the situation is a bit different.
Because 3betting creates a different dynamic since you are essentially saying that you have a premium hand, you should increase your 3-betting size in accordance with the effective stack.
The bigger the effective stack, the bigger your three-bet should be, and vice versus. Remember to increase your size with both your premium hands that you are 3 betting for value and your weaker hands that you are 3 betting as a bluff.
Increasing the size for one range but failing to increase the size for the other might result in your opponents reading your range more effectively and outplaying you.
One of the most important things about deep stack poker is realizing how the size of the stacks impacts the value of hands.
As you saw in the example above, a hand such as a top pair is a fist bump call when your opponent has around 20 bb in a cash game, but the situation is not that clear if effective stacks are deeper or if you are playing in a tournament.
The main point of adjusting preflop ranges in situations where players have deep stacks is to create ranges of hands that are capable of flopping good hands or good draws and thus make good candidates call down big bets.
For example, a hand such as A9 is extremely strong in situations where the effective stacks are shallow but can become almost unplayable in situations where the effective stacks are 200 bb deep.
On the other hand, combinations such as 76s are almost worthless in situations where players have 20bb but become more valuable in deep stack play.
This is not only because you will rarely make a top pair with 76 but also because when stacks are shallow, bluffing becomes less effective, and this significantly decreases the value of hands whose significant part of equity comes from bluffs and semi-bluffs.
If you are playing deep stack games with capable opponents, you should expect to see much more raising and reraising after the flop compared to games with shallower stacks.
One of the best examples is the high stake games you see on TV. Many of the moves high-stakes pros make in front of the camera are only viable because they play with 200 BB or more. This is why poker coaches will always tell you not to copy these moves in your normal games where the effective stacks are 100 bb or even less.
The biggest reason why raising and reraising after the flop is effective in deep stack games is that the pot-to-stack ratio is much higher than in 100 bb games.
Because the pot-to-stack ratio is higher, bluffs and semi-bluffs become much more effective as players have a lot more of their stack left, and they get a lot worse prices on calls.
One of the first things you need to learn about deep stack poker strategy is knowing when to implement it.
What we mean by this is that you need to learn to recognize when you are playing deep stack poker. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, only using big blinds to determine if the stacks are deep will not be enough. You need to consider other factors like formats, the size of other stacks, antes or straddles, average pot sizes, etc.
The second thing that will increase your deep stack profitability is adjusting your preflop ranges. Adding more suited connectors is always a good idea because they give you the opportunity to make both straight and flushes, combinations with which you can put a lot of money in the pot.
Just remember to be cautious, and lean more towards playing suited connectors that can make nut hands as your opponents will also look to play a lot of the same combinations, and you want to avoid getting all the money in the pot with the second-best hand.
Increase your checking frequency with marginal hands. This means sometimes checking with hands that you would almost always bet with a stack of 100 bb or less. By checking marginal hands, you allow yourself to control the size of the pot and avoid getting raised, forcing you to fold solid holdings.
Avoid making light call downs. Because they don't adjust to their opponents, this is one of the mistakes most players make when playing deep stacks. The fact is that most players start playing tighter instead of the other way around. Their ranges will be much narrower, and their bets will be much stronger as most of them only pay attention to their hand and don’t think about the size of the stacks.
For this reason, you need to start reevaluating hands that you normally use as call downs when playing with 100 bb or less.
These are some general guidelines that will hopefully show you the right direction when thinking about deep stack poker. Remember, each situation in poker is unique, and these guidelines might not be the right answer every time.
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