Deep Stack Strategy
Deep stack play calls for an entirely different set of skills than what you would normally implement in a 100 bb or even 150 bb game. The dynamics of every deep stack game will allow players to get involved in more pots, make trickier plays post-flop, and will generally leave more room for maneuverability. Some players will find that they are best suited for deeper stacked games, while others are going to learn that the game just isn't what they are cut out for. Of course, if you want to be a top winning player, you'll need to learn how to win in both deep stacked and shorter games.
The changes between deep stacked and normal games start at the pre-flop action. You'll need to carefully think out each decision that you make, because every pot could potentially represent an up or down swing of a handful of buy ins. Because of this, the first thing that's required for deep stack play is an ample bankroll. You shouldn't be playing in a deep stacked game based on 100 bb gamebankroll requirements.
For example, if you normally play 2/5 NLHE and the max buy in is $500, $10,000 will generally be enough to carry in your bankroll (using live figures as an example). If you then join a 2/5 NLHE game where the max buy in is $1000, however, you are going to be in awfully dangerous territory. Players often times make the mistake of counting realistic bankroll sizes based on the limit of the game instead of the buy in, but this is most definitely the wrong approach. Once you have your bankroll taken care of, the next step is to consider the various elements of actual game play at deep stacked tables.
Pre-Flop Deep Stack Adjustments
In deep stacked games, you'll have a lot more freedom in the plays that you can effectively make. Where calling big 3 bets with suited connectors would be a terrible idea in most games, a deep stack will give you the opportunity to put more at risk pre-flop for the potential to win a massive pot post-flop.
Position is important no matter what type of game you are playing, but its importance is magnified when you are playing with several hundred big blinds. A good player will be looking to play in as many big pots as possible when they have a speculative hand at a deep stacked table. In fact, the more abstract (yet playable) your hand is, the more likely that you are to win a big pot with it. Hands that are normally huge, like pocket kings or AK, won't have nearly as much value in deep stack games. The reason for this is that you need a large portion of the money to go in pre-flop in order to really make a lot of money with big starting hands.
Because you'll be playing with hundreds of big blinds, however, this will be all but impossible barring a set up hand or your opponent attempting to make a play. Of course, you still want to play these hands, and you should be working even harder to get as much money in pre-flop as possible. At a deep stacked table, getting a player to pot commit to any hand will be far from easy, so don't feel like your opponents are as attached to a hand as you might be.
Post-Flop Deep Stack Adjustments
Post-flop adjustments are virtually unending in deep stacked games, but some areas of concern are more pertinent than others. For example, draw type hands are going to come up an awful lot in these games, especially when you are looking to play more pots pre-flop with speculative hands than you normally would. As a result of this, you'll need to be prepared to maneuver your way through many tricky spots with draws, which often times will mean a lot of money is on the line.
Passive play is generally less optimal in a deep stacked game than it is in a regular game. The reason for this is that you'll have the ability and the chips required to push your opponents off their hand. Many players tend to become more apprehensive when they begin to compile a big stack. They don't want to make a false step and wind up losing what amounts to a handful of buy ins. Because of this, the best strategy is to constantly apply pressure. This is an approach that is valuable in just about any NLHE game, but more big blinds means that you'll have more firing power.
There are three primary types of hands that you'll flop: a strong made hand, a draw, or nothing at all. Since mediocre hands tend to play themselves, they are being discounted in this discussion. Now, in deep stack play, think about what you want to do when you manage to flop a big hand. It's impossible to generalize the single best strategy since there are so many variables involved, but there's one thing that you should be doing each and every time.
Planning ahead is absolutely critical to your success in deep stack games. Often times when you are facing an aggressive opponent, you'll be able to let them bet into you and manage to win their stack. In deep stacked games, however, you will need to figure out a way to get them to put in more chips, since three bets usually won't mean all of their money. This is a very broad strategy, but don't be overly passive in games where you are sitting with a big hand and several hundred big blinds. You'll win some big pots, but you will also be sacrificing an awful lot of money in the process.
Draw heavy hands are where you'll encounter a lot of swings in deep stack play. You'll be forced to make some plays that are quite risky, but this is really the only way to do it. You can't be afraid to put pressure on your opponents. There's no time that you'll be able to squeeze out more fold equity with drawing hands than when you are playing deep. Be aggressive, make moves, and don't be afraid to get your entire stack in the middle. With this in mind, you should always make sure that you aren't being reckless with your chips, because there's a very thin line between maniacal play and genius play.
When you totally brick a flop in a deep stacked game, you'll still have multiple opportunities to take down the pot. Just as you can make more plays and raises with draws, missed hands too will allow for room to steal pots away. The one thing to consider when you try to steal a pot, however, is that you are potentially walking into a big mess should you end up going to the turn.
If you felt you could steal away the pot on the flop, that's perfectly fine, but this doesn't mean that you need to continue firing away on the turn and river as well. Be aggressive and very precautious at the same time when you have nothing and are trying to make a play. In shorter stacked games, making plays is something that should involve minimal risk (at least on the flop), but in deeper stacked games there's almost always more inherent risk involved simply due to how much money is in play.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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