Pokey’s No-Limit Strategy to Playing Stacks: Part 2

As I mentioned in the first part of this series, implied odds make decisions more difficult for a player. So let’s ramp up the difficulty to “max” and move up to deep-stack poker. When your stack gets to be 100 BBs or more, you’re officially deep-stacked. At this point. implied odds start to dominate over pot odds. Also, speculative hands that can flop monsters go up in value, while top-pair type hands go down in value. Let’s take a look at how deep stacks alter your decision-making process.

Preflop hands.
When you are short-stacked, limping loses a great deal of its appeal because most hands worth limping are also worth a raise. When you are deep-stacked, however, limping becomes much more viable.

This is especially true with hands that are longshots to win, but that produce extremely powerful hands. Types of hands that are often worth seeing a flop with include all pairs, suited aces, suited connectors, unsuited connectors, and even suited one-gappers (hands like 86s don’t connect very often, but when they do connect they’re nearly invisible to your opponent, letting you collect a monumentally large pot). To illustrate the power of a stealthy monster, consider a hand I played just the other day:

At a $100NL table, I was dealt pocket threes in the big blind. Everybody folded to the button, who called, and then the small blind raised to $3. With a very short stack I would have had to fold this hand, but since we both had more than $90 in our stacks (and the button had over $50), this became an easy call. The flop came a nice KJ3 rainbow, and when the dust cleared everyone was all-in. My set of threes held up against the small blind’s pocket aces and the button’s K9o.

Lessons to be learned from this example:
1. Pocket aces are not unsinkable.
2. Even though I was a 4-to-1 dog with my pocket threes against his pocket aces preflop, the implied odds on my hand made calling an easy decision.
3. It is vitally important to know where you stand in any hand you play.
4. You don’t need the immortal nuts to play for your stack.

My opponent didn’t understand his opponents, causing him to lose his entire stack on a relatively weak hand. Yes, I said a relatively weak hand because in the grand scheme of things one pair is puny. While everyone knows pocket aces are the best possible hand preflop, deep-stacked Hold’em is not a preflop game. When you make a strong bet at the pot and one opponent calls while another raises, you need to start worrying about whether top pair or overpair are good anymore. While I’m not advocating a fold every time you’re raised, you do need to be careful. There’s an old saying, “small hands like small pots, and big hands like big pots.” When you’ve got one pair, no matter how good that pair may be, that’s stll a small hand in No-Limit Hold’em. As such, you need to proceed with caution. Try to keep the pot small, because if your opponent is willing to put 100 BBs in the middle, it’s unlikely your one pair is still good.

One last note on this topic: your opponents will usually not understand this rule. As a result, you’ll often see them willingly commit their entire stack with AK on a board of AJ4. Watch for opponents who get married to top pair or overpairs, and then punish them mercilessly when you hit two pair or better on the flop. You’ll take their stack, and then they’ll call you an idiot for risking everything on “just jack-ten”. What they fail to understand, however, is one of the fundamental rules of big-bet poker: small hands know exactly where they stand postflop, but big hands often do not. When you’ve got 22 and you flop AJ9, you can fold without the slightest regret. When you’ve got AK and you flop AJ9, you won’t be sure that your hand is good until you get to
showdown or your opponent folds. Sure, AK holds up much more often than 22, but 22 has a big advantage because while AK usually wins a small pot or loses a big pot, 22 has the opposite situation. Laying down deuces unimproved on the flop is easy, and you lose only your preflop bet. If you do hit your set, however, you stand to gain a great sum from your opponents who will never correctly put you on a hand. In other words, stealth is very good for your stack.

Ultimately, this shows why preflop decisions are fundamentally different in deep-stack poker than they are in short-stacked poker. Let’s look at the preflop raise as a tool in creating this deception.

Raising preflop indicates a strong hand. Your opponents typically raise only when they have a strong hand, and limp when they have something weaker. Don’t make the same mistake that they do! A raise with a relatively weak hand can help you win by confusing your opponent. As a result, you can pick up the pot when the flop misses you, but your opponent thinks it helped you. This play is called a “continuation bet”, meaning you continue the aggression you displayed preflop. For example, say you raise 87s preflop from late position and get a caller. The flop comes AJ9 rainbow and your opponent checks to you. This is a great situation:, and you should immedtiatly bet out and try to take the pot. Sure, the flop looks scary to you, but it looks even scarier to your opponent.

Since he saw you raise preflop, he will usually assume you’ve got high cards. When you bet, you’ll confirm his worst suspicions and often he’ll fold. The flip side of this deception coin is that when you raise preflop with a weaker hand and hit solidly, nobody will trust you. When you raise 65s and get a flop of 874 rainbow, you’re going to make a bunch of money against overpair hands, which are very possible if your opponent called a preflop raise. In short, you’ve got two different ways to take advantage of your deception: by fooling your opponent into thinking your hand is strong when you’re weak, and by fooling your opponent into thinking your hand is weak when you’re really strong. So long as you don’t get overly fancy and fool yourself, a preflop raise with a
speculative hand that can flop well can be a wonderful tool for deception, but it only works in deep-stacked play.

In the third article in this series we will examine the post fop aspect of poker strategy for deep-stack No Limit Hold’em.

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