Deep Stack Poker Strategy

calculator with casino chipsUnlike becoming short-stacked, being deep-stacked is undoubtedly a positive when playing a game of poker. However, just because having a deep stack is a good thing, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear and set for a win. Your stack size can and should alter how you approach a game of poker, and just because you may be ahead, doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels – far from it, in fact.

The following article will take a deep dive into what exactly a ‘deep stack’ refers to and how you can alter your strategy to make the most of your position and avoid becoming short-stacked. We’ll provide some insight into how a deep stack can affect your position in a game and inform you how certain situations can be handled from a deep stack perspective.

What is a ‘Deep Stack’?

poker player sunglasses hoodie with chipsSimply put, a deep stack refers to having many chips in a poker game. People’s definitions of how many chips constitute a deep stack can vary, but typically it’s at least 100 to 150+ big blinds.

In poker, the term ‘stack’ basically means how many chips you have. Many people may think of deep stack players as having the most chips, but this isn’t necessarily true. Depending on the size of the blinds and the number of chips everyone has, it’s possible to have multiple deep stacks or even everyone around the table to be deep-stacked.

For more clarity, here are the four possible different stack size categories:

  • Short-Stack – Typically less than 40 big blinds
  • Mid-Stack – Typically 40-80 big blinds
  • Full-Stack – Typically 80-150 big blinds
  • Deep-Stack – Typically 150+ big blinds

Each stack size comes with its own different approach, with the larger stack sizes focusing more on post-flop play. In essence, the more chips you have, the more likely you’ll be engaging in post-flop play that will influence the outcome of your game.

When thinking about deep stack poker, tournaments may not be the first thing you consider. However, having a strong grasp of deep stack poker will help you rise from simply targeting the top spots or the final table, to having a genuine chance of winning the whole thing.

Being aware of shove-fold ranges can be a good strategy when short-stacked but when you find yourself with plenty of chips comparable to the big blind, and indeed, the rest of the table, employing, so deep stack poker strategies could be just the ticket. Done effectively, you can not just hold onto your stack, but build on it and force the short-stacked players into tricky decisions.

The following subheadings will deal with some important scenarios in deep-stack poker and how having tonnes of chips can alter how you play and what pre-flop hands to look out for.

Importance of Position

poker chips big blind little blind tokensPosition is always an important part of poker, and that is perhaps elevated when in a deep stack position. Your decisions are (or should be) heavily influenced by your position on the table and this is only heightened when the pot size is increased.

Playing out of position makes every decision that much harder, and the fact that pot sizes are likely to be huge, means playing in position is an enormous advantage. Having the last say on a hand puts you in an incredibly strong position, whether that be a raise, a check, a bet, or call.

Playing out of position, can you leave you in no man’s land without a clue and clutching at straws, trying to second guess your opponent(s). When you’re unsure and guessing with deep stacks, you can end up digging a pretty major hole for yourself.

And when you do that, it can ruin your game in one hand…but at least you won’t need to worry yourself about deep stack strategies. If you do find yourself in that unfortunate position, make sure to check out our guide for short stack poker strategies.

Deep Stacks Alter Hand Values

pair of aces and chips on green cloth casino tableHaving a deep stack will change the value of any given hand significantly. Weaker hands can become a lot stronger for the simple reason that your opponent becomes intimidated by your stack.

For example, if you were to be involved in a hand with a small stack, your opponent would be far more likely to take their chances with a poorer hand, knowing they will only lose so many chips should you win.

Whereas, if you’re involved in a hand with a deep stack, your opponent will (or should) be acutely aware that you could raise to a level way beyond what they are prepared to lose. This can even mean that opponents will back off when in reality their hand may have been stronger than yours. This is a huge advantage to having a deep stack that you simply will not get when short-stacked.

Top Pair Hands Have Reduced Importance

folding hand poker flying acesTop pair hands like AA and KK aren’t as valuable when playing deep-hand poker. This isn’t to say they become worthless, far from it. Being dealt one of these hands is still far and away the best thing you can hope for pre-flop. However, their importance is diminished, and here’s why:

Top pairs hands tend to be caught out suited connectors and pocket pairs. This is true at all times but is especially notable when playing deep-hand poker where play progresses beyond the flop and pot sizes can become incredibly bloated.

Making sure not to get carried away when there is the possibility of better hands in play is absolutely crucial when so much of your stack may be invested into the pot. The deeper the stack the more you stand to lose, so if you’re facing a particularly wet board with straights, flushes, and full houses potentially in play, make sure to keep your wits about you, and know when to fold.

Suited Connectors Gain Importance

poker player adding chips to the potAs we just mentioned, suited connectors become more important in deep-stack poker, and this is exactly why you can benefit from taking advantage of them. It’s not only important to be wary of other players having these hands, but it’s also crucial that you look to play them yourself, especially in position. Suited connectors won’t always hit, but when they do, you have the chance to win potentially game-changing pots.

The cards you possess aren’t always the most important part of a hand, either. If you are playing with semi-skilled players who understand the concept of ‘representing’, you can bluff or semi-bluff your way to a big pot win. Betting patterns that suggest you may have a huge hand will often scare off other players and can land you a huge pot win, even without hitting with your suited connectors.

The deeper the stacks, the more you can open up your potential playing hands. You are afforded the freedom to become more creative with your starting hands and can play looser knowing that the upside could be enormous.

Low value suited connectors won’t be in play if you’re short-stacked but a suited low-value hand could be just the ticket to catch your opponent out if they are pinning you down to a narrower set of hands. Having a deep stack allows you to have far more freedom, so if you have the confidence and know-how to play with a greater range of hands, you can take full advantage of this.

Watch Out for Weak Ace Out of Position

ace and sixPlaying with a weak ace (something like A4) when out of position is asking for trouble, especially when you’re deep stacked. This is the type of scenario that can suck you into unwanted situations where you’re pot-committed and forced to make tough calls.

Let’s take A4 as an example. If you pair off your 4 in the flop and get raised, you suddenly have an unwanted choice to make. You may well have the strongest hand, but it’s far from safe, yet you’re already pot-committed and your opponents are showing strength.

What’s more, this situation has very little upside. Bar hitting an unlikely straight or an even less likely full house, there are not many places your hand can take you. The truly big hands are out of reach, and the more likely high pairs can be hit by your opponents. Even if you were to pair off your ace, you’re left with a weak 4 as a kicker – hardly something you want to pin your deep-stack hopes on.

Out of position, it’s very difficult to know where exactly you stand in any given hand. You can be forced into tough choices throughout a hand and can ultimately lose a very large pot should things not pan out as you’d hoped.

Variance is Inevitable

person standing conflicting arrows in front of them various directions uncertaintyThis is an important point no matter the size of your stack, but it’s an important thing to remember regardless of the situation you may find yourself in. Even the most astute and calculated of players will find themselves on the wrong side of variance.

Although this may seem like a bigger issue when you are short-stacked (and it can be) variance when deep-stacked can still be a killer. Just because you have more chips doesn’t mean you’re safer. With more chips, comes bigger pots, and with bigger pots, inevitably will come bigger losses.

Invariably, you will be dealt a blow on the river when your opponent was beaten and made objectively the wrong decisions to even reach a position where they can see the river. Nonetheless, you may play a hand perfectly and find that lady luck isn’t on your side – that’s just part of the game and even the most skilled of players will get stung from time to time.

Sadly, bad beats are just part of the parcel and variance is going to happen. Obviously, this can work both ways. It may be you that makes a series of poor calls and ends up getting bailed out with a flukey win on the river, so bear that in mind if disaster does strike.

The best way to avoid this is to eliminate as much doubt as possible. Create situations where your opponents have no choice but to fold if you are well ahead and have the power to do so. Showing weakness allows other players into the hand, who, in other situations would have called it quits long before they have hit anything worth remaining in the hand for.

Concluding Points

vanessa selbst playing poker
flipchip • / CC BY-SA

Poker is a game of learning, even for experts and professionals. You may find that you have far more experience as a short stack than as a deep stack player, particularly if you’re new to the game. That makes deep stack plays sometimes difficult to grasp, especially with the added variation and greater emphasis on the post-flop play. Nevertheless, the best way to become more acquainted with deep stack strategies is to experience them for yourself.

Reading up online and following guides like this is an excellent starting point, but there is no substitute for experience. Having said that, knowing what you’re doing and having a plan of action before the situation arises is half the battle and will give you the confidence to execute these plays and see how they unfold. Going into a deep stack situation blind, will, more often than not, lead to big losses – although you will quickly learn from these missteps.

If there are thousands of different short-stacked scenarios, there are tens of thousands of deep stack scenarios. Remember to stick to your plans and learn from them so that the next time you encounter a similar situation you are equipped with the expertise you have picked up from your previous experiences.

Also, bear in mind that variance is inevitable, so try your best not to let that cloud your judgement or ruin the rest of your game. If you find yourself consistently losing your deep stack, then it’s a good idea to re-evaluate your approach and conduct further research to help tweak your strategy and continue to improve your game.