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Dead Money in Poker

The term "dead money" in poker is used in several ways. You can say that a player is dead money, implying that he or she isn't any good. Dead money is also used to describe the extra chips put in the pot when someone misses a blind and has to post both the small and big blind. And you'll hear the term used to describe antes and straddles.

Regardless of how the term is used, the result is pretty much the same -- dead money is extra money in the pot. This creates more incentive, which in turn creates more action.

Dead money in poker is an important concept to understand. It will affect how you strategically approach certain situations. But before I get into that, I'll show you why using some math below.

The Math Behind Dead Money in Poker

In general, dead money will improve risk versus reward scenarios. There is much more reward to win with dead money in the pot and it doesn't require much, if any more risk to win it. To better explain, let's look at a couple examples.

Example #1

One good example of dead money is when there are several limpers in a pot.

Say that the blinds are 25/50 and 7 players have limped in making the pot 425. The big blind has a stack of 1,000 chips. The 425 chips in 'dead money' make up 42.5% of his stack. This is a substantial increase.

If he shoves here, he only needs to win the pot 2.35 times out of 3 attempts to break even. It's safe to say that this is possible. In fact, you probably get folds more often than that. So it's profitable as is, not including the fact that when you're called you're not drawing dead. You still have equity in the hand, so you'll win a fraction of the time then too.

Compare to this to an example that is the complete opposite. Say 1 player limped in making the pot 125 chips. This is much less 'dead money' and only makes up 12.5% of the big blind's stack. If he shoved here, he'd have to win 8 out of 9 attempts just to break even. Winning 8 out of 9 attempts isn't likely and although he'll still have equity when called, I would imagine that it's still a losing proposition in the long run.

Example #2

Another example would be stealing blinds.

Say you were playing in a tournament where the blinds are 100/200 with no antes. There are 300 chips in the pot and it folds to you. You raise to 400 chips (min-raise) to steal.

Raising 400 chips to steal 300 is the same idea as above in example #1. This play will need to work so often in comparison to the times that it doesn't in order for it to be breakeven, much less profitable. In this case, you need to win the pot approximately 1.3 of the time for every 2 steals you make to be breakeven. You'll have to win it a little more in order to be profitable. This isn't ideal, but it's not 'bad' or impossible.

What's better though is when antes are introduced. Say there are antes of 25 chips that need to be posted by each of the 9 players preflop. This makes the pot 525 chips -- 225 chips of which is 'dead money.' If you min-raise to steal here, you're only risking 400 to win 525. You can win less than one time for every 2 attempts to breakeven. Winning once out of every 2 tries nets you a 125-chip profit. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the extra dead money improved the reward aspect of risk vs. reward -- and you didn't risk any more to earn it.

Dead Money Poker Strategy

The "strategy" for when there is dead money is to be more aggressive. You should be stealing blinds, making re-steals and squeezing more often.

But you shouldn't be blindly making plays because there is dead money. Capitalizing on dead money can be swingy. Because in the end, you're still risking more to win less than what's in the pot.

So, what I suggest doing is waiting until there is at least 15-20% of your stack in the middle before thinking about attempting a play. The more of your stack that the pot makes up, the more you can consider making a play as it will take less successful attempts to breakeven, let alone show a profit.

Specific strategies that capitalize on dead money will vary depending on your situation. Here are links to articles written on our sitethat cover some of the most popular plays or situations regarding how and when to capitalize on dead money.

More General Poker Strategy
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