How Stack Size Affects Your Overall Strategy

stacks of chips

In tournament poker, stack size affects your strategy to a large extent and this is a factor that many players fail to take on board. However, stack sizes arguably play just as important a factor in cash game poker as well.

Let us say that you have a hand like Jc-9c and an UTG player in a $1-$2 cash game makes it 3.5bb to go. Should you call the raise? Clearly their range is going to be very narrow from such a position and so we can contemplate calling the raise if several criteria are met.

If we are getting good implied odds based on our opponents stack size and their ability to make big post flop errors then we can call. Also if our opponents stack is big enough and the effective stacks are large enough then the level of fold equity increases. This is because as stacks increase then hand strength and its relative strength decreases. To better explain what I mean then let us look at a simple example. You raise to 3.5bb with the Ac-Ad and are called by two players making the pot now 12bb.

If your remaining stack is 12bb and the flop is Kc-Qd-9s then you simply stack off. If you are out flopped or out drawn then that is simply part and parcel of playing poker. The decision is a simple one and folding the aces is unthinkable. In fact even if it was bet and raised before it got to us then it is still correct to shove all in here. However now let us change the scenario to one where we have 150bb and the first caller bets 11bb and the next player raises to 50bb.

Now we have to ask ourselves a serious question because would our opponent now raise on the flop with a hand that our single pair can beat? The answer is no they wouldn’t in most cases and the flop raise with so much potential action still to come indicates that here is a player that is looking to stack off. If they are looking to stack off then they almost certainly have a hand stronger than a pair of aces. Now suddenly with 150bb as opposed to 12bb the decision is a clear fold.

In online cash games these days then many players have short stacks and whenever you get a decent short stack player either to your left or to your right then the game dynamic changes. Many short stack players are looking to exploit wide conventional ranges and often limp with strong holdings looking to limp-raise.

Likewise when they are situated to your left and you have a moderate hand in a known steal position. Many of these short stack flies are just waiting for an over-zealous player to raise from position and be greedy in trying to pick up a few cheap blinds. So remember that your stack along with that of your opponent has a huge impact on the type of strategy that you should be using.