No Limit Cash Games strategy
Does size matter in online poker? It’s tempting to say ‘it depends’ – the poker writer’s go-to convenient response to difficult fundamental questions. However, the answer should really be yes.
When we have a mountain of chips the world is our oyster. There isn’t an option that is unavailable to us and, crucially, if we’re lucky enough to have a monster hand in a monster pot, we have everything covered and can pick up maximum profit when it matters.
Compared to short-stack strategy, which tends to focus on the limited framework within which we can operate (e.g. limping in with 67s and other so-called speculative hands simply isn’t justified with a short stack), deep-stack cash game strategy is a completely different animal. Maximum resources obviously afford us maximum flexibility.
Being (un)comfortable with a full stack
Not surprisingly, the more options that are available – and the increased situational aspect due to the game’s complexity – the more we can get involved. This is where, perhaps counter-intuitively, it can get more complicated to the point of being potentially problematic. Having a full stack affords us the option of not only playing any hand with any sized pot, but also being able to use our maximum store of ammunition to get creative in ways that are not possible with short(er) stacks. Consequently, we’re going to need a certain skill/experience level to be able to carry out such plays successfully. Of course, not everyone has such an understanding of the game to do this and, understandably, many players feel uncomfortable with too much money in front of them.
It’s natural, especially for inexperienced players, to feel almost over-exposed playing with a full stack. The fear of ‘losing the maximum’ can be quite debilitating. Even when involved in an ostensibly modest pot our nerves might start getting the better of us if the hitherto relatively calm waters suddenly become rather choppy when the bets start to increase and (re)raises are thrown in. For many players the prospect of losing big becomes the over-riding sensation, and this is obviously going to have an adverse effect on decision making – not just in that kind of hand, but throughout a session. In such cases we have two choices: buy in for less (whether that’s 60% or 50% of the max limit or even coming in as a short stack) or moving down limits to a level at which we feel fine playing with a full stack.
Find your full-stack comfort zone
Given that full-stack poker is a key part of the game, and the more experienced and skillful we become playing deep can prove very useful in various formats and scenarios, I recommend giving full-stack poker a try. As long as we make sure to find a level that allows us to play without worrying about losing it’ll be fine, and we can go about getting the most out of the game. As always, prudent bankroll management is key.
Full-stack poker certainly does offer us a rich tapestry of possibilities and flexibility. It’s a good feeling to have the freedom a big stack gives us to play a hand ‘properly’ without being subject to the constraints of stack size. Note that I’m not advocating going mad, playing every single hand regardless of our cards simply because we can ‘afford’ to. That would be foolhardy, loose, and easily exploitable!
But having loads of chips does indeed mean that we have the firepower to stamp our authority on the game – and not necessarily by spraying the pot with chips. In fact, it doesn’t even need us to participate in a hand to have some influence, because the mere fact that we’re sitting at the virtual poker table armed with a big stack in itself is a factor that our opponents need to take into account. For example, those players to our immediate right who are looking to raise or somehow get busy with a hand have no idea what we will do well when it’s our turn to act. Note that this introduces an element of online poker specific to playing with a full stack, namely that we need to take into account the fact that the opposition is well aware of our firepower when we consider their actions – they need even more justification than usual to get involved with us, so always bear in mind whatever that might signify when analyzing players’ actions.
Use your full stack wisely
While it is true that all decisions require careful consideration regardless of stack size, with a full stack at stake (remember we probably won’t be the only one with a max stack in today’s online poker cash games) it’s imperative that we think things through as logically and practically as possible. As was said earlier, the point of sitting down stacked to the hilt isn’t to play recklessly and put more chips into the pot than is called for.
When the potential gains are so high we need to closely observe the game at all times. There’s a lot at stake – both in terms of winning and losing! – so there’s no excuse not to keep a close eye on the opposition even when we’re not actually in a hand. Any information we can glean could make a decisive difference to the outcome of a massive hand/pot. We need to have a good sense of the ebb and flow of the game in order to constantly adapt.
Remember, too, that it’s good to have an idea of how we are perceived by other players, and how this perception can change due to our actions (deliberate or otherwise). Moreover, with big stacks in play (one of them being ours) we should be seeking to exploit this to our advantage when opportunities arise (which they will). We can’t afford to be predictable with our own play, nor presumptive about the opposition.
Full-stack starting hands
As far as our starting hand range is concerned, deep stacks afford us a great deal more room for manoeuvre than short (or medium) stacks. This is because implied odds mean our potential winnings in a single pot – especially against similarly stacked players – are high enough to justify bets on speculative hands (note that implied odds disappear if we’re sitting at a table full of short stacks).
With this in mind, hands such as small pairs and suited connectors become an interesting and important part of our game; while we are likely to miss when the flop comes, when these hands do hit the aim is to engineer a situation that gives us the best chance to win big. With short stacks this approach isn’t justified because the maximum reward tends not to compensate for the long-term accumulative costs. However, with a full stack we can even throw in the occasional (re)raise pre-flop with speculative hands, giving us both the initiative (with which we can pick up a pot after not connecting with the Flop) or a perfectly disguised monster should we hit big
Getting used to full-stack play is an essential part of every player’s learning curve, and this is true not just for cash game players. Use good bankroll management to find the right stakes, buy in for the maximum and get your game on…