Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: Deep-Stack Play in No Limit Live Games

In a recent column, I covered deep-stack play in tournaments. This week, let’s look at how to play a healthy stack in live games.

Playing No Limit Hold’em with a large amount of chips in comparison to the blinds is the most skillful form of poker in the world. It’s certainly more challenging than a short-stack poker tournament where blind levels escalate very quickly.

Deep-stack poker is defined by the number of bets players have in relation to the big blind. In some tournaments, like a $20 buy-in sit-and-go with $1/$2 blinds, the game literally starts out short-stacked with players having just 10 bets. Betting options are extremely limited as players are often forced to move all-in before or after the flop.

Compare that to a deep-stack game where the blinds are still $1/$2 but the average buy-in is $500. Now, it’s a completely different ballgame. When players have 250 bets in front of them, you’ll rarely see anyone moving all-in, especially before the flop.

Let’s check out a hand example in these two different game formats.

Holding pocket aces, you raise to $6 in a short buy-in game.  An opponent has pocket queens, and with just $20 in front of him, his obvious play is to go all-in. End of story.

Now compare that to a deep-stack game where you’d likely see a very different betting pattern. In this game, you might also raise to $6 with the pocket rockets, and the guy with the queens might still re-raise to $20. But playing with a deep-stack, you’d probably re-raise again before the flop to, say, $60. Facing your re-raise, your opponent just might fold his hand, fearing that you have K-K or better, and that his big stack may very well be at risk.

For a $20 bet and no more betting to follow, it’s worth taking the risk. But for a $60 bet and more betting to come, it’s a potential stack destroyer.

You see, short buy-in poker makes for easy decisions as illustrated in the first example. Playing with a deep-stack, however, is much more difficult because it creates tough decisions, especially for less skilled players.

Here’s one key adjustment that you should make to your game when playing deep-stack poker: Make larger pre-flop raises. Table action typically plays much looser before the flop when players have deep stacks so the amount you raise becomes less significant. If someone has a hand that they’d call $6 with, well, they’d likely call $8 too. Knowing this, raise more to build the pot when you’ve got a hand that you think is strong enough to raise and win with.

Besides, with no antes and just $3 in the pot, you aren’t going to make a lot of profit by stealing blinds anyway. Also, in this type of game, there’s actually a lot less re-raising before the flop. Even if you are re-raised, the loss to your stack will be minimal if you are forced to fold. When a typical re-raise might only cost you one percent of your stack, that’s something you can live with.

Another concern is the implied odds after the flop.

In a short buy-in game, when you make a big raise before the flop, the pot will be so large in relation to the stacks that other players will often move all-in if they have any sort of hand at all. That’s just not the case when playing deep-stack poker.

Since you and your opponent still have plenty of chips remaining, the implied odds increase significantly when you increase the raise even slightly to $8 pre-flop. By making the pot just a little bigger before the flop, chances increase that you’ll win your opponent’s entire stack if you get lucky and hit the right board.



Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.


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