Tournament Poker: Playing With a Big Stack

Learn how to play a poker tournament once you have a big stack.

Being the big stack in a poker tournament is an enviable position. It’s also a powerful place to find yourself in because it comes with great power. You won’t be the big stack very often so taking full advantage of the situation is a must. Here’s how to do exactly that.

What Is Meant By a Big Stack?

Enjoying being the big stack in a poker tournament is more than just having plenty of chips in your arsenal. It is having many more chips that your opponents, or having the most chips on your particular table.

Everyone starts an MTT with oodles of chips, but they’re not considered a big because everyone else is in the same spot. Most players think a big stack has 60, 70, maybe even 100 big blinds. You can actually be considered a big stack if you have 10 big blinds if everyone else is shorter.

Why Is Being a Big Stack a Powerful Position?

A big stack holds all the power in a poker tournament. MTTs are about survival first and foremost then accumulating chips. Being armed with a big stack assures your immediate survival and makes it easier to add to your stack. Ever heard the phrase “money goes to money”? Being flush with chips makes it simpler to get your hands on more.

The main reason is you have the ability to bust anyone at your table. Your opponents know they could bust any time they take you on. This leads to their play becoming more transparent, therefore, making it even easier to win their chips.

It should be obvious by now that being a big stack is majorly advantageous.

What Should Your Strategy Be?

You can afford to loosen up once you are seated with a big stack of chips. We’re not saying go crazy and start three-betting with 7c-2d, but you should play looser. The key is not to be completely relentless but to continually apply pressure to those around you who you can hurt the most.

Position is still vitally important regardless of the size of your stack. Don’t throw solid fundamentals out of the window just because you can afford a few hits to your stack. It only takes a couple of large losses to see your big stack become a medium stack or worse.

Approaching the money bubble is the one exception to not being slightly reckless. This stage of the tournament is where having a big stack reaps the rewards.

Players, particularly short stacks, are hoping and praying to sneak into the money place. Bully them like you’ve never bullied before! Adopting a loose-aggressive style is the way ahead here.

Set them all in when they’re in your blinds if they have 15 or less big blinds and you’re the first to act. They’ll fold quicker than an origami expert almost every time.

Three-bet late position raisers who are simply trying to chip-up during this crucial stage. Your big stack could be a huge one by the time the bubble bursts, giving you a better chance of going all the way in the poker tournament.

Which Players Should I Attack?

Let’s start with who you shouldn’t focus on first: fellow big stacks! Your advantage of being a big stack comes from the fact you have the chance to bust anyone at the table. Lose a chunk of your chips and you take that threat away.

Indeed, you shouldn’t shirk away from tangling with fellow big stacks, but don’t focus your attention on them. Instead, the prime target for you is a medium stack. Determining what defines a medium stack relates to the other stacks at your table.

Medium stacks have the most to lose. They’re basically cruising right now and know they’re one double away from being a in a great position. They’re also aware one mistake could see them become a short stack, or worse, bust.

Shorter stacks are ripe to attacking too, but you need to be aware of pot odds. Raising or three-betting a short stack only for them to shove on you will often see you priced in to call.

For example, the blinds are 5,000/10,000/10,000a at a nine-handed table. There’s 25,000 in the pot when the action folds to you on the button. You raise to 25,000 only for the big blind to raise all-in for 95,000, taking the pot to 135,000.

You only need to call an additional 70,000 to win the pot. You’re getting better than 2:1 on your call so need to mathematically call with a huge range of hands. It’s borderline whether you should call this shove with 7s-4d against a typical shove. Would you feel comfortable in this spot? No, probably not.

This means you should lose the bottom end of your range when it comes to battling with shorties.

Now you have a few pointers for playing poker as the big stack. How you get one, however, is entirely up to you. Good luck!

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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