In this article we will discuss playing deepstacked poker, with the focus on No Limit cash games. When playing a tournament, stacks of 70-100 big blinds are often considered deepstacks. With a stack like this you have the freedom to 3-bet and sometimes even 4-bet bluff, similar to when you sit down at a cash table with a full 100 big blind buy-in.
However, this article is about deepstacked No Limit cash games, which implies that the effective stacks at the table (your stack as well as your opponent's stacks) are higher than 200 big blinds. Opinions still vary about what exactly counts as a deepstack, but then again, it's not really that important. It is obvious that stacks of more than 150 big blinds will play differently than normal stacks of 100 big blinds. The deeper your stack, the more you will have to adjust your game or at least take into account that you are playing with a larger stack. In this article we will assume that you are always playing at least 200 big blinds.
How to get there
There are really two ways in which to obtain a deepstack, but these do have an important impact on the game. The first one is by just playing and doubling up your stack or increasing your stack bit by bit while your opponent(s) do the same. The second possibility is buying in deep from the start. Some online poker rooms, like Full Tilt Poker, offer deepstack tables. Here you can buy-in for a maximum of 200 big blinds and many players at the table do exactly that.
After putting in a lot of (or sometimes very little) effort in building up your stack, many players will often be reluctant to put their entire stack at risk. This is especially true for players who don't play often and don't have that much experience. For these players, the money at the table often represents a large percentage of their entire bankroll, and therefore they want to take as few risks as possible. On the other hand, players buying in for 200 big blinds will be more willing to play for stacks. After all, they are looking for exactly these types of tables because of the deepstack games and will usually have some experience at these tables. For the sake of the article, we will assume that you had to work hard to build up your stack at the table, and therefore it won't often be the case that every player at the table is sitting there with a deepstack.
Deepstacked poker is very complex as many new factors come into play. We will be discussing some of these factors and determine how to handle them and how to adjust your game. To start off with we will be looking at some preflop examples.
Not everyone is sitting with a deepstack
One problem with playing deepstacked is that there will usually be a number of players at the table playing with normal stacks. Often you will at most see one, maybe two other players with deepstacks. This means you need to take this into account when playing. You always need to pay attention to see where the deepstacks are sitting, whether or not they are already in the pot or folded in front of you.
If you are sitting at the table with one other deepstack and everybody else is playing a normal stack of 100 big blinds it is often difficult to adjust your preflop game to this. Depending on your position in relation to this player you can decide to 3-bet more often or increase your opening bets. At the same time you need to watch out that you don't lose value against the smaller stacks. When sitting deeper, you can play more hands with which you want to see a flop, but at the same time you create great steal opportunities for the smaller stacks. Therefore you always have to pay attention to the smaller stacks as well and not only focus on the other big stack at the table. These smaller stacks will affect the rest of the hand and can already become a problem preflop.
Betsizes and range
The effective stacksize is sufficient to result in more calls but also offers more possibilities to 3-bet and 4-bet bluff. I would also recommend adjusting your betsizes. For example, start opening to 4-5 big blinds when sitting 200bb deep and increase your 3-bets, especially when out of position. You need to bear in mind that your opponent will often have a wider 3-bet call range when sitting with a deepstack compared to playing a normal 100bb stack. In 3-bet pots it is even profitable to play your small pairs for setvalue and to call your marginal suited connectors when in position.
Especially in 3-bet pots you will find that more players call with a wider range. On the other hand, you will see less players putting their full stacks at risk. While with 100bb stacks you might see a 5-bet all-in bluff with every now and then, this will rarely happen with deepstacks. The risk-to-yield ratio is just not appealing enough. If, for example, a player 4-bets to 28bb and an opponent goes all-in for 100bb, then the all-in call range is often not that much larger than when someone goes all-in for 200bb. The problem is that the difference in call range for a 200bb all-in (compared to a 100bb all-in) needs to be proportional to the risk of losing an extra 100bb. This means that there should be a big difference between both ranges.
However, instead of going all-in, you can introduce the 5-bet bluff, where you let your opponents play for stacks, just like with 4-bet bluffs and 100bb stacks. You will also find that players will call your 4-bets more often instead of folding or pushing all-in because players are more reluctant to play for full stacks. This means that hands like AK, JJ and even QQ are no preflop all-in hands or all-in call hands anymore against most of your opponents. You will definitely be seeing a lot less all-ins with deepstacks because players take more care of their stacks and won't go all-in with much less than the nuts.
Position is of utmost importance when playing deepstacked. Seeing as you will see more flops when deepstacked, it is important to play these hands in position. Therefore, you should try and avoid playing big pots with marginal hands when out of position. It can be a difficult task to win a pot against a good player when out of position, even when holding top pair or even two pair. In the same way it can be difficult to play a draw out of position in a big pot. In these situations it is often pretty clear that your are playing a "reasonable hand", and therefore your opponent in position will, at the very least, force you to make a difficult decision.
Because the stacks are so deep you will often need all three streets in order to reach an all-in. This allows you to make plenty of use of your poker skills to create an edge against your opponent. Bear in mind that all-ins are limited and you will almost never get paid off with marginal hands. Once you have reached the postflop phase and you end up being all-in, this is often the result of you making or calling a large bet on the river that puts you all-in.
Postflop your position remains to be important. Even with preflop premiums like Aces or Kings it will be hard to play postflop when sitting out of position. Every flop on which you don't hit trips and your opponent calls or raises your continuation bet while you are sitting out of position will often make sure that you don't feel very comfortable putting all your money at risk with simply your one pair. When in position you dictate the action and you have the possibility to end betting rounds and to decide how much money you want to invest into the pot.
The value of your hand is, of course, also very important and stands in proportion to the stacksizes. For example, when playing for 50-100 big blinds, you wouldn't have too much of a problem going all-in with on a flop. When playing 200 big blinds, however, you will find it a lot less appealing to go all-in. The chance that your top-pair/top-kicker is still good is relatively small and really you are hoping for a split pot.
The same can be said for marginal hands like KJ, KQ, AT, AJ. Hands like these will almost always cause problems whenever you end up flopping top pair or even two pair. You will often pick up small pots and lose the big ones. Suited (gapped-)connectors are much more profitable to play. Hands like , and also have gigantic implied odds. If you hit your hand is often well disguised. You should always try and play these types of hands in position in relation to your opponent. You thereby control the size of the pot and make life very difficult for your opponent.
Now, I'm not saying that betsizes aren't important when playing with normal stacks, but here you often face the challenge of how to get your stack into the middle in two streets. When playing deepstack, this will almost always take three streets, unless you flop the nuts against the second nuts or you have a monster draw. Therefore, slowplaying your set you hit on the flop is often not a good option. Especially if your opponent is giving you the impression that he is holding a reasonable to good hand you should be trying to build up a pot as soon as possible, but do so in a controlled manner. If you hit a set of 2's on a 2-6-T flop, it doesn't make much sense to play your set very aggressively because if you do end up getting all your money in the middle, you are likely to be up against a better set. If, on the other hand, you flop a set of 10's on a A-T-7s, then it's just a question of building up a pot. Especially out of position this is important because you don't want to give away a free card and you want his entire stack.
If you don't feel comfortable playing with deep stack I would recommend leaving the table. If you let the stack sizes effect your game it is better to leave the table and play on somewhere else with normal stacks.
The hand below is an example of deepstack play and shows a player completely overplaying his hand out of position and getting into trouble with his two pair.
When playing deepstacked, try to refrain from playing marginal hands out of position. Being in position enables y7ou to keep the pot small. You always try to force your opponent to make difficult decisions and avoid having to make them yourself. This works best when you are sitting in position. When sitting out of position, you want to make your opponent pay by making bigger 3-bets.
Keep in mind that light all-in calls don't often occur in deepstacked games, but players do tend to call 3-bets with a wider range, especially in position. Of course you can do this as well. Postflop you play the strong hands and, when in position, also the good implied odds hands. Try to give your opponent as many difficult decisions to make as possible.