top corner

Playing a Short Stack vs. Playing a Deep Stack in MTTs

Short stacks and deep stacks are quite the contradiction. A short stack can be very nerve racking to manage, but a big stack will make you feel like the king of the world. Each type of stack will call for its own unique approach in tournament poker. Of course, your stack size is not the only thing that matters when it comes to tournament strategy.

For many players, though, simply adjusting to their new found wealth (or lack thereof) can be a major hurdle. Stack sizes are one of the easiest measurements to use when determining how to approach any particular event. The key to success in managing your stack is finding the perfect medium between loose/tight and profitable.

A lot of players will either go crazy or play way too tight when they experience a shift in stack size, but this is never going to work out in the majority of online poker tournaments. You need to be comfortable with the stack size that you have, otherwise you will be preparing to dump your chips off to one of your opponents.

The differences between short stack play and deep stack play are large in some aspects but minute in others. Both stack sizes will allow for a bit of robotic and systematic play, but only a big stack will give you the ability to try new things out and play without fear. A small stack needs to be willing to go big or go home, while a deep stack should be thinking the exact opposite. These are just a handful of the ways that big and small stacks vary.

If you are able to become a master at how to play a short stack, there is a good chance that you will also be able to master the big stack. Both stack sizes call for their own skill sets, but they are much more of a math than they are an art or a science. Tournament poker largely relies of creativity and the willingness to make moved on a whim, but this is not how playing a skewed stack works. You should always be very systematic in your approach and remember that you should not be getting out of line one way or the other.

Players who try to get tricky with abnormal stack sizes will end up punishing themselves. A short stack who shoves too often will get their money in bad and a big stack who plays too tight will five up tons of free chips. These stacks are not as difficult to play as they seem - it is only a matter of practice, understanding, and application.

Playing the Short Stack

Playing the short stack is never fun, every tournament player is well aware of that. You can remove a lot of the pain, though, if you know what you are doing. Your ultimate goal as a short stack should be obvious: to get back to a comfortable amount of chips. There are really only a few ways that this can be done.

In fact, there is actually just one way that you should play a short stack. Look for opportunities to either double up or steal the blinds. Doubling up requires no further stipulations, but stealing the blinds is situational. You don’t want to go all in order to steal the blinds if you are either unlikely to force folds or you will not truly improve your situation.

Shoving all in with a small stack to steal the blinds is something that you should do when the blinds are high and your stack is still going to be worth something to someone else. If you have a pittance of chips, some players will call you off anyway, even if they have a very mediocre hand. Take a look at the pot odds that you will present to players who you want to fold. If you would call in their shoes, it won’t make sense to see if they will do the opposite.

Playing the Deep Stack

Having a deep stack is one of the best feeling in tournament poker. You know that you are in good position to make a deep run if you aren’t in the middle of one already. Aside from this, your big stack size will allow you to play aggressively and even take some hits without severe repercussions. The real danger for big stacks is when they start to either get a bit too comfortable to start to play too wildly.

Players who sit back and relax with a big stack probably got their abundance of chips by sitting around and laying a cooler on someone. These are the players you should attack because they won’t mind that they are bleeding off a little bit of chips each hand that they play. If you are this player, though, change your strategy immediately.

A big stack has the chance to steal pot after pot, either through pre flop play, post flop play, or both. You should always bully the other players around. Players with a big stack in the later stages of a tournament have the biggest advantage. When play gets deep, the blinds get high, and when the blinds get high, you can bulk up your stack without even taking a flop. To sum deep stack play up, keep the pressure on your shorter stacked opponents, but do everything you can to ensure that you don’t become one of the short stacks yourself.

More Poker Tournament Strategy
bottom corner