The size of your chip stack compared to the blinds will often dictate what hands you play, and how to play them.
This is especially true in tournament play, where playing with or against a short stack can change everything.
BE AWARE OF THE EFFECTIVE STACK
The effective stack is the smallest of the stacks involved in the hand.
When playing a hand, always be aware of the effective stack.
The size of the effective stack will often dictate how you play the hand.
“A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.”
ASK YOURSELF 2 QUESTIONS
Who is the effective stack in this hand?
How many big blinds does the effective stack have?
After figuring out how many big blinds the effective stack has, use the guide below to practice playing your hands according to the effective stack size.
GUIDE TO PLAYING STACK SIZES
40 Big Blinds Or More:
With 40 big blinds or more, you can raise a lot of different hands and use a lot of different moves. You have enough chips to make multiple bets or calls and not go broke.
This is a good stack size to call opponents in position, float, and draw to implied odds.
It is also a good stack to put pressure on the lesser stacks, but you must be careful not to make crazy plays just because you have chips.
20 – 40 Big Blinds:
With this stack size, you want to avoid playing marginal hands including low pairs, as your implied odds just aren’t large enough. You may still raise pots, continue bet, and fold if you miss. But you want to avoid calling raises before the flop, and begin to select your hands and spots more carefully.
10 – 20 Big Blinds:
With this stack size, you should focus on remaining tight but also being the first player “all in” when you do find a hand. Avoid raising hands unless you have the intention to go all in with it.
If you have a big hand, by all means you should shove all in, or go over the top and re-raise a player all in. There is no time to wait.
This is also a perfect stack size to re-shove loose players raises before the flop. Though you’ll want to try and pick decent hands to do it with such as QJ or 44, the math behind this play makes it profitable with a much wider range of hands than that.
This is because you still have fold equity over their raise (meaning your opponent can fold). If they fold you will increase your stack by at least 15%. If they call, then you’re rarely worse than a 33% underdog to win a monster pot.
4 – 10 Big Blinds:
The danger zone. You must pick a hand and gamble because time is running out. With 10 big blinds or less, your best move is to pick a hand when everyone has folded to you and shove it all in. Any pocket pair, any two paint cards, and any two decent suited connectors (67 suited +) will be good enough.