Most poker players select their starting hands based only on the quality of the cards.

They fail to consider three other very important factors:

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  1. Stack Sizes
  2. Position
  3. Number of Players in Pot
  • These are especially important factors in no limit cash games.
  • This article focuses on how stack sizes affect your overall strategy.
  • Using Stack Sizes To Select Starting Hands
  • The hands you want to play pre-flop depend mostly on your stack size and the stack sizes of your opponents.
  • Imagine we start a No Limit Texas Holdem cash game.
  • How does our strategy differ depending on the stack sizes at the table? How do our starting hands differ depending on the size of our stack?

Short Stack

If we start the game with 20 big blinds for all players, we base our strategy on short stack play.

Our optimal strategy is to wait for high pairs or high cards to pair the flop and get the money in quickly when we have have the best hand.

Don’t play speculative hands like low pairs or suited connectors hoping to hit something big.

You’ll pay a large portion of your stack to see a flop that most likely won’t hit you. The times you do hit something like a set, there is not a lot of money left behind to get paid off.

Medium Stack

Now let’s increase the stack sizes to medium stacks.

Our strategy shifts when players have bought back in, and a few players now have stacks of 40 or 50 big blinds.

We now have better odds to play low and middle pocket pairs against the other big stack if you are looking to flop a set.

We are getting better odds with these hands because we get paid off more when we hit on the flop.

We still don’t want to play suited connectors all the time. You should play them occasionally when you are in late position and there are 3 or more players in the pot.

Deep Stack

Now let’s look at how our strategy changes with deeper stacks.

As players bust out and fresh players buy in, we end up with quite a few stacks of 100 blinds.

The game is continuing to to evolve as the stacks get deeper. High cards and high pairs lose some value and low pocket pairs and suited connectors go up in value.

You are looking to see a lot more cheap flops with deeper stacks than with shorter stacks.

You can play a lot more speculative hands because the few times you really hit a monster hand, it is possible to win 100 big blinds or more.

Playing Your Opponents Stack Size

You can be hundreds of blinds deep, but if you are playing heads up against a short stack, you are still playing short stack poker.

Even if you are deep stacked, don’t play speculative hands against a short stack.

Play speculative hands like suited connectors and low pocket pairs when you are deep stacked and up against multiple deep stacks.

Avoid these hands and play high cards when you are short stacked, or when you are playing against short stacks.

About The Author

Erik Allaire is a master poker player who has won many professional poker events, wishes to represent his country at the world level.

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