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Chip Stack Management

How to manage the stack

To master all the following poker lessons, it's necessary to understand the importance of stack management. Managing your chip stack refers to tracking the number of chips you have, and how your stack size compares to your opponent's stacks. In addition, you should consider how the blinds' growth affects the situation at the table.

In the course of poker training, you've probably understood that stack management is an art. However, it’s not as complex as it may seem. The first step is to equate your stack size to the number of blinds available. Simply divide the number of chips you hold by the big blind. So, if you hold 2350 chips at a 50/100 blind level, then you've got 23 blinds. In tournaments, the stack is changing fast, as the blinds are growing constantly.

Before entering a hand, you need to evaluate an effective stack size. The shortest stack among the hand's participants is what’s considered the effective stack size of the hand. If you have 40 blinds, and your opp has 20, then the effective stack will make up 20 big blinds. In this hand, you can neither win nor lose more than 20 blinds.

Large stack (45 BBs +)

With such a stack you have room to play your normal game. Having enough blinds you may use various techniques: re-steal and 4-bet bluff, calling in position, playing speculative hands and speculating with small pairs. In other words - just play your best game. The number of chips doesn't restrict your actions. Just watch out your stack size. Once you stack starts to get smaller, either due to the growth of the blinds or losing a couple of hands, don't forget to make a switch!

Medium-Large (35-45 BBs)

With this stack size, you're still safe. You can go on playing your normal game. However, you should understand that having made 4bet, you can no longer fold to the opponent's all-in. You should also avoid raising in early positions, and calling 3bet is recommended in the tight range only. Poker school for beginners advises not to waste chips for non-relevant hands. Remember one lost hand, and you may stay with a short stack.

Medium (23-35 BBs)

With this stack size, each raise must be considered carefully. Play tightly in early positions and be very aggressive in later ones. Bear in mind that your stack is the most inconvenient for the opps, who it will cost a lot to play all their chips against you. Therefore, don't be afraid to re-steal. Opponents with stacks larger than yours will act as tightly as possible, and we will use this to win more chips. Once in such a situation, don't panic. You are still in the game.

Medium-Short (13-22 BBs)

Act carefully. At this tournament’ stage patience is essential. Wait for good hands. Remember: if you raise, you'll no longer be able to put more. You'll have to go all-in in any situation. Therefore, only very strong hands like AA, AK, KK, QQ will be suitable for raising. With the rest of good hands, it's better to go all-in right away. Bear in mind that if a player with a big stack raises in late position, there’s still a possibility that he will go all-in. So, re-steal from the blinds is a very effective technique for such stack size.

Short (5-13 BBs)

You’re now a short-stack and don’t have much room to play with. As long as you have a few blinds, your aim should be to double up and get back in the game. Don't forget that 2012 World Champion Greg Merson stayed with two big blinds in the course of the tournament. Yet, he managed to take control of the situation and win. Yet, in this case, many novices would quickly lose their chips. Use push-fold ranges for CIS. Go all-in, bet narrow when in early positions and wide - when in late ones. And let the luck be with you!

Example of the Game - Playing Carefully With a Big Stack

- No Limit Hold'em Tournament
- Blinds: 100/200
- Large stack 8500, medium stack 5000, small stack 1400

PRE-FLOP. A player with a medium stack limps, and a player with a big stack raises to 600. You are a medium stack player and get pocket 9-spades/9-hearts:

(picture 2)

You decide to call raise and fold if limper will make another raise. But the player in the first position simply called after the blinds have folded. There are three players left in the game.

FLOP. The flop came 5-diamonds/J-spades/6-hearts with the pot of 2100. The player in the first position checks, the player with a large stack puts 1200; it's your turn to act:

(picture 3)

The bet is too big, you've got only 4400 chips, so you can't call. There are two options left: all-in or fold. It all depends on your opp’s style. If he’s too aggressive and prone to make cbet on any flop, then the best option would be to go all-in. If the opponent is tight, the best option is to fold.

Your opp turned out to be very aggressive, and you’ve decided to go all-in. The first player folds right away, the opponent with a large stack does the same, and you significantly increase your stack.

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