The Different Stack Sizes in Heads Up Poker
March 11, 2009
If you are playing in a heads up match or you have managed to make it down to the heads up stage in a tournament you should be aware that there are different ways to play depending on the size of your stack. Let’s take a look at the differences in strategy between playing as the large stack compared to the short stack.
Playing with the Big Stack
Obviously, this is the spot you want to be in because you have more chips and are the odds on favourite to win the tournament. You should be trying to raise your opponents short stack often and make him feel like he has to risk his entire stack to win the pot. Don’t just call his raises hoping to win the pot because this is basically just giving him chips.
If your opponent has less than 20 big blinds then your 3 times the big blind raise will be basically threatening his entire stack. He should understand that if he calls a fifth of his stack pre-flop that he will likely have to be all-in or folding on the flop. Put pressure on him and let him know that you are ready to end this tournament.
Once his stack gets below 10 times the big blind you should be pushing all-in on him more than half the time. You are both getting random hands, but the difference is you can afford to lose and he can’t. Stealing his blinds are great for you because it keeps his stack dwindling and if he does decide to call all-in even if he doubles up he will still have a short stack and then you can start attacking it again.
Your big stack is a huge advantage. Just keep the pressure on and eventually you will win the hand when all the chips are in the middle.
Playing with the Short Stack
This isn’t as bad a situation as it seems. You are one of the last 2 players in the tournament and you still have a shot at the title if you play right. You should play very aggressive and move all your chips into the middle often as this will take away the big stacks gambling power. The cards you can push all-in with have a much greater range than the cards you can call all-in with.
Hopefully the big stack will fold and you can build your stack back up from collecting the large blinds. Eventually though the big stack will call and this is when you’ll have to get lucky. If you push all-in and find yourself in a coin flip situation this is good. However, if you call all-in though you want to have the best hand pre-flop.
When your stack is below 10 times the big blind you have to play an all-in or fold game. You should be pushing all-in with any above average hand and calling all-in with any top 20% hand. As your stack gets smaller you have to push and call with a greater number of hands and vice versa as your stack increases. Hopefully you will get lucky a few times in a row and get back to even in chips and then anything can happen.
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