22/12/2008

What does it All Mean?

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Over the years I have played more forms of poker than I can care to remember including six-card Omaha. Pot Limit Omaha played with four cards is dubbed the “action game” but what price six-o?

But one of the biggest obstacles for a limit player (which I used to be) when learning no-limit and pot-limit play is that there is an introduction of a totally new dynamic. No longer can you rely on the betting structure to do your work for you, you now not only have to decide whether to bet or not but also how much.

It is the “how much” that causes trouble for an awful lot of players…thankfully. But there is also another game dynamic that is present as well in both limit and especially no-limit and pot-limit games and that is one of stack sizes. In no-limit play, your stack size and the stack sizes of your opponents open up all sorts of strategies and nuances when they are at differing sizes.

But there are psychological factors governing stack size as well. For instance if you sit down in a $2-$4 NLHE game with a $400 maximum buy-in and you see a player with $1100, the chances are that this player is not overly risk averse! A risk averse player would never get to $1100 in the first place most of the time as they would likely cash out long before then.

Of course it could mean something entirely different as it could be an indication of a player who is running his luck as far as it will go. But quite often a stack size can not only indicate a players ability but it can also reveal a lot about their state of mind and outlook to money in general. If you see a player sit down in a $3-$6 with $600 and then see them experience a real brutal beat and go down to $132, if they refuse to top up then this could be quite revealing.

It could mean one of several things actually, it could mean that he is shot taking at this level and playing with his last $132 and doesn’t want to risk anymore. Or it could mean that he is tilting from that beat and looking for the first chance to get that money in the middle in one big blow-out.

One thing is almost certain and that we are not looking at an experienced NL600 player as a strong player at this level would almost certainly top their stack back up to $600 and continue and wouldn’t let one bad beat deter them. So what this player has done is quite revealing.

It is a similar principle with players who buy-in for the minimum. A player who sits in a NL200 game with the minimum $40 is saying several things. Firstly they are also likely to be risk averse. One might argue that they don’t appear to be too risk averse otherwise they wouldn’t be playing poker at all. But what I mean here is that they are risk averse when compared to the norm for a poker player.

It is also possible that their short stack could be part of some strategy to get it all-in as early as possible and basically reduce the game to two betting streets or even one instead of four. This could also be an indication that this player does not feel comfortable playing deep stacked poker and does not trust their ability to sit with 100BB.

It might also mean that this player isn’t playing to a system at all and wants to try and spin some money up without having to buy-in for too much in order to do it. But the almost certain thing here is that this short-stacker will not be loose-aggressive and tossing chips around all over the place.

The amount of the buy-in reveals an awful lot about this players mindset and game plan and possibly their attitude towards risk and money as well. When you know this about a player before they play a single hand then that it a great advantage. I know minimum stackers upset a lot of people but they are still mostly novice poker players who do this at the lower levels although the strategy in the right type of game can be very successful.

They may not be giving you implied odds and they may not pay you off to the tune of 100BB after making a deep stacked error but they will be committing other types of errors. You can make money off these people but you will need to do it differently. When they have position on you then their stack size and mindset dictates that they won’t be exploiting that advantage so you can open up a little more because you don’t have a “proper” player behind you.

When you have position on them then they won’t be denying you chances to steal as they wont be open raising before you very much except when they have a hand. If they are in the blinds then it can be open season and open raising from the button with any two cards may just be the best strategy.

But to round this article off, remember to take a good luck at your opponents stack sizes, what they started out as (if you have that information) and what they bought in for. An awful lot of information can be gleaned from how much your opponents have in front of them and that knowledge can make you substantial money over time.

About the Author