The role of stack sizes in cash games

The stack sizes have a very significant role in NL Hold’em games. The stack sizes should substantially affect our initial strategy, which we should always choose according to the amount of the chips. I would like to share some thoughts in this subject.

First we should go through the most basic stack sizes.

Short stack, which means 20 BB. I think the most of you know, or at least have heard about, the Short Stack strategy, which was very popular a few years ago. Today, this strategy is a bit old fashioned and demoded for a number of reasons, so I don’t recommend using this strategy. One of the reasons is that, despite you play a lot, you aren’t really developing your game, because this is a very mechanic strategy. In addition you could interfere the others play, because, if a short stacked player is involved in the hand, the others game can change dramatically. Therefore most of the poker rooms increased the minimum buy-in to 35 BB, which falls in the category of Medium stack.

Medium Stack. This means an average depth of 40-60 BB. Basically this medium stack buy-in is not so prevalent in the online poker rooms, who use this buy-in, generally doesn’t have a big bankroll, or don’t want to loose a big amount. Most of the times we will see not so experienced or skilled players with this kind of buy-in, but it could happen, even on higher stakes, that a really good player will be sitting at the table with a medium stack buy-in.

Deep stack. This is our goal in the cash games, preferably we should always play with a full buy-in, because with this can we maximize our profit, and in deep stack cash games can we use our edge.

stack sizes

In the beginning of the article I mentioned, that the stack sizes should be closely related to the initial strategy. The short stack strategy is based on the tight preflop hand selection. In the case of SS strategy on the flop usually all the money goes in, that’s why we need those kind of hands, which can easily be the best hand on the flop. These are the premium cards, like big pocket pairs, AK, AQ, and hands like that. As we go towards to the deeper stacks, the gap between the strong and weak hands is reducing. 100BB deep the suited connectors, and the low pocket pairs become playable, because if we hit the flop, we have a very strong hand, and we can win our opponent’s whole stack. The premium cards however loose a bit from their role, because rarely will we playing 200 BB pots with a single pair, or if we do this, we can easily be surprised.

In the following 3 examples I would like to illustrate the difference of the short stack and deep stack thinking.

Example No. 1: You are sitting in the big blind with 20 BB stack, so you are playing the short stack strategy. Your hole cards: AK. It’s folded to the button, who raises to 3BB, you reraise to 9,5BB, and your opponent calls. The flop: K72. It’s a quite good flop for you, top pair top kicker is a very strong hand in this situation. You go all-in with your remaining 10,5BB stack, your opponent calls, and shows KQ, your cards hold up, and you win the 40BB pot. Fair simple choreography, there is nothing to say to this hand. Read More →


Turbo Strategy

No matter what the level of turbo you are playing, from 10p to £50, the style of play you must use, is TIGHT/AGG. (Learn how to fight and aggressive poker player during a heads-up tournament). The key is to pick your own spots ALWAYS, rather than shove with A-10 under the gun, wait till your by the button with 7-3 and everyone has folded to you and take the blinds.

My advice is to stay super tight while the blinds are meaningless, then just start picking your spots once the antes kick in. If someone else has shoved all in, and your thinking your A-10 looks good, don’t do it, that’s his spot, pick your own.

turbo strategy poker

Because there’s no room for play in turbos, its all in or fold once the blinds hit 300-600 ( in the type of sng’s I’m playing here 45 player games) so don’t get involved unless its on your terms.

If you shove with 7-6 suited (click here to learn the power of suited cards in poker) and the BB calls you , so be it lets gamble, its on your terms, you didn’t call your chips off, you made the play , it was your balls , so lets do it!

That’s the attitude to adopt in these crazy games!
Pick your own spots, that’s how to beat them!

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Putting Yourself In Their Shoes

In live poker you can see your opponents eyes or the colour of their face drain away as you check raise them. This is a easy way of picking up tells.
In Online Poker these options are taken away from us, so we try to pick up on betting patterns and how active opponents are at your table. It is here you will find out what type of poker players your opponent is and what type of poker player you are.

In micro level sng’s ($1-$5) a good way to spot strength/bluffs in your opponents is to put yourself in their shoes. You know the things that you do if you flop the nuts or the things you do if your bluffing.

So if they are check raising you, if their making C-BETS, just ask yourself what you would have to be holding if you was in their situation to be making the play that they are.


You are sitting in the BB with A-Q, its folded to the cutoff who raises 3x and you make the call. Flop comes down 2-7-5 and you check to the OR who checks behind you.

Whats the first thing you think ….. he has trips? Why? Cause that’s what you’d have done in their situation if you flopped trips.

Always look how they’ve played the hand and ask yourself if you were in their seat what would you have to be holding to play the hand in the way they have.
By doing this you can minimize their range of hands to 2-3 options.

Once you start playing against better players at bigger levels, the majority of people know this, so they make their bluffs appear like they have the nuts, or their nuts to appear like bluffs.

It’s a ” you know that i know, that you know, i know ” kinda attitude , cause its a huge mind game against strong players. But I’ll save that theory for later or you can read other tips in this poker blog.

In micro levels, everyone’s doing pretty much the same plays, so just put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself questions. Even when your the one in control of the hand and your making the bets, put yourself in your opponents shoes and ask yourself if i was sitting in their seat what would make me believe they have the nuts.

Because if you make yourself believe you have the nuts, then trust me they will to.

The 4 Online Poker Player Styles

Getting a good read on your players means you need to know what to look for. Here we break players styles down into four distinct categories:

Loose-Aggressive, Tight Aggressive, Loose-Passive and Tight-Passive

The “Loose” or “Tight” part will tell you how many hands a player plays in (Loose for a lot, tight for only a few) and the “Agressive” or “Passive” part will tell you about the player’s betting strategy.

If you are able to recognize these playing styles and assign them to different poker players than you are one step closer to being able to combat their actions and kick their ass.

Online Poker Player Styles


The Loose Agressive player is one of the most common players in the online poker world. They have a tendancy to bet often, big and often go all-in. These players can be quite tricky to get a proper read on because it is hard to tell when he does have a good hand or when he is bluffing.


The Tight-Aggressive player will only bet when they have one of the absolute best hands possible. As opposed to the Loose-Aggressive player who will bluff often the Tight-Aggressive player will hardly ever bet (if at all). However when the tight-aggressive player does have a good hand they will bet big and often.


The Loose-Passive player is the player that wants to get a peek at every single hand but doesn’t want to pay for it or get involved in the betting. They often check or call to relatively small bets so that they can see the cards but mostly wont force any betting to take place by raising.


The Tight-Passive player is the player that hardly plays at all. They play hardly any hands at all and even when they do get a great hand they will simply call instead of raising and trying to get a big pot for their cards.

Generally in online poker tournaments the Tight-Agressive is seen to be the best strategy of all four.

Chasing a Flush Online

Chasing a flush refers to betting post-flop in the hopes that you will make a flush, even though you might not have anything at the time. For example if you have a 4 of Hearts and an Ace of Hearts and the Flop came up with 5H, 9S, 10H than you would have a flush draw meaning that if you hit one more heart you have a flush.

So should you bet or call in the hopes that you will get a flush draw? Well that depends on the situation. For a starters many people seem to think that faced with this situation you have a 50% of hitting the flush draw but that is wrong.

Flush Online

Seeing as you are holding two hearts and there are two more hearts on the table this means that 4 of the suit are already in play – leaving on 9 that can help you. Statistically this means that the chances of hitting another heart on either the turn or the river is 42%.

Furthermore if you do not hit the heart on the turn than most likely you are already committed to the pot and will feel obligated to call any more raises to see the river – even though the probably of hitting it will have dropped dramatically to 21%.

So what should you do? Just remember that chasing a flush is an extremely risky strategy – I’m not saying that you should never do it but only in the right situation. If you feel like you are being made to over commit to the pot – don’t do it. If it’s simple a case of calling a small raise than go for it, just make sure you know the odds.

How to Play Pocket Nines

Pocket 9’s are quite a strong hand to have. It is quite possible that you can take the pot with your pocket nines and it is more than okay to be somewhat aggressive with them but it is crucial not too be overly aggressive and play too fast.

A better strategy is to not play aggressively until post flop. If the flop comes out and it is looking like you have the top pair than playing aggressive is fine, if you raise pre-flop and get called only to find an ace on the flop you are in a tight situation as you are already somewhat committed to the pot yet there is a chance one of the other players could be holding another ace. However there are exceptions when it may be good raise pre-flop with pocket nines.

Play Pocket Nines

The following are two good strategies on how 99 should be played preflop depending on what kind of player you are:

How a Loose Player should play pocket 9’s preflop:

If you are in the early position raise an unopened pot, re-raise a raise howeer if someone re-raises then fold.

If you are in the middle position than you should call a raise

If you are in the late position than you should raise an unraised pot if there’s 3 or more people in the pot yet fold if one of those player re-raises.

If you are on the blinds than you should raise an unraised pot, calling a raise yet fold to any re-raise. Read More →

Hand analysis – Spot the fish and eat him

The following hand happened to me also on a live event. We were in the early stage of the tourney, and it was a slow blind structured, deep stack tournament. At my table there was a player who was much weaker than the usual. These kind of players are really a true gift at the tables, all you have to worry about, that you can take his money, before the others does. So he was a real sucker, he saw the flop with almost every hand, and he got the river almost every time. In one case he was really lucky, he called down to the river with a single gutshot, and it has fallen to him, so he won a 3-way all-in, and had about a massive 100K stack, when the average was 35K. That’s what we want to see, a real fish sitting with huge chip towers.

I was in a good shape too; I had about 70K, when the following hand happened. It was a couple of hand later, that my opponent has won the 3-way all-in. So this fish as first speaker preflop (UTG) goes all-in with his 100K stack, and I was sitting in the button with AQ. It was folded to me, and I started to think.

On one side there was my 70K stack, which was more than enough, two times the average, so I was in good shape. On the other side was the fish, who was offering his entire stack to me. What could he have? – started to think. This man until this point wasn’t even raising, he was just calling, and always limping before the flop, and after the flop he was very passive. And now he goes all-in UTG. Generally the bad players don’t push their strongest cards so aggressively, they are just too afraid of not winning anything with their best hands. Read More →

Playing vs. the Shortstacks (cash)

Chances are you have played a cash game against one of these guys. These are the people who show up at your table with the minimum buy in. Shortstack players are annoying players to play against. I try to avoid tables that have too many shortstacks because it is very hard to get value out of them. You might hit quads against them and all you are going to get is the minimum buy-in, lame. I would much rather hit my quads against a player who is playing with a full stack.

I have found that these short stack players usually play one of two ways. Some of them play very tight pre-flop so when they have a hand they try to get their minimum buy-in into the pot as quick as possible. I think these type of shortstackers are a bit more rare than the next type but still pretty easy to play against (raise their blinds and fold to their re-raises or their initial raises). The second type of short stack player is the one who likes to call a lot of hands pre-flop. They want to see a bunch of flops so they can push all in when they hit any part of the flop. They often will call you pre-flop with just about anything. This is the type of shortstacker I would like to talk about for the rest of this post.

When you think about it, this type of player is pretty easy to play against post-flop. When they hit any part of the flop they will usually bet or raise you. If you do not have anything, you should probably just give up the pot when they bet or raise your bet. The good news is they are typically very reluctant to call unless they hit the flop OR are on a straight/flush draw. This means you can continuation bet the flop (even just 60%-70% of the pot if you have nothing) and they will fold when they have missed.

Shortstacks poker

Now, lets say they called your continuation bet on the flop, now what? Well, it should be good news for you because it tells you a lot about their hand. I find when they simply call your bet it usually means that they are weak (maybe hit bottom pair) or they are on some sort of draw. Some would say they could be slowrolling you with a made hand like trips but if that is the case they really can not hurt you too much because they are short stacked. If I have a hand on the flop I do not worry about them having trips, if they have it I lose the minimum buy in which is not a big deal because usually you can lose much more when an opponent hits trips against you. You probably are not going to fold top pair to a shortstack so lets not worry about hands like trips. Also for the rest of the hand lets say we have top pair top kicker. At this stage of the hand they are ALMOST pot committed with any 2 cards. Remember, they called your pre-flop raise and your flop bet, chances are they have already invested 25%-30% of their chips into the pot. Read More →

The preflop bet sizing in NL Hold’em tourneys

One of the greatest features of NL Hold’em games is that the player can choose the amount of bets and raises, which is only limited by the stack size. In this article I review the proper preflop bet sizes. It is a generally accepted concept that the proper preflop bet size is between 3 and 5 BB. In general you should always bet the same amount, because if you vary your bet sizes preflop, the good players can easily spot that, and they will be able to obtain very valuable information.

The best is to always bet 3BB and for every limper you should count a further BB. So if you bet with two limpers in front of you, then you should raise to 5BB. This is the proper way at the early stages of tournaments, when you should always play a little tighter. So in the early stages you should play fewer hands, but bet them harder.

As we move further in the tourneys, and the blinds are increasing, and the antes come in the picture, the blind stealing will have a greater importance, so you should play a little looser, and you should raise with a little more hands, and try to get the blinds without fight. At these stages the 3-5x raises will be too high, so you shouldn’t raise so big amounts. Our main goal will be to steal the blinds without fight as many times as possible. If nobody has anything, then the 2-2,5x raises will be more than enough, but if they reraise us, then we can get out of the hand relatively cheap. So in the later stages of the tourneys we should raise more times, but less amount, the size of our bet shouldn’t exceed 2-2,5BB. This amount applies on KT and AA as well. So don’t fall into the trap, that with the strong hands you raise bigger, because the good opponents spot this very quickly. The only exception, where we can raise a little bit more, when it’s folded to us on the button and the blinds are short stacked, and we would call their all-in anyways. At this situation we can raise to 3BB indicating the blinds, that we won’t fold if they push back to us.

I hope you found this article useful, and you will apply this concept in the tournaments. Believe me, the small raises can be very efficient, if nobody has anything, but you can save a lot of money, when your opponents have better cards. And the most important thing, that the sizes of the raises should always be the same, because you can provide a lot of information to your opponents, if you vary your bet sizes depending on the strength of your cards.

Leveling Up vs. Adding Tables – Part 2

My personal battle.

Then I had my first wave of big (at least big to me) swings.  I would lose $50, then win $50, then lose $75, then win $50 and so on. I found my bankroll was back to $550 and one night I remember tilting.  Now I am not usually a player who tilts that much but when I do I usually realize it pretty quickly. The best way to combat tilting is to step away from the game but this is hard to do.  I felt like I was only “semi-tilting”. Playing a few more hands than normal but still playing solid for the most part. When I find myself in this spot I try to tighten my game up. I try to slow everything down and only play tier one hands. This usually helps stop the bleeding and can quickly take me out of my “tilt zone” when one of my big hands pays off.

This particular night though, this night I did something different, something that I would not recommend.  Rather than tightening up my play at my four tables, I added two ADDITIONAL tables. I thought to myself, well this will FORCE me to play tighter because I will be playing more tables. At the same time it will get me to my premier hands much quicker.  This method actually worked very well for me. I ended the night up $80 and I felt pretty good.

The next day I talked to Marios about my ordeal. As expected he told me it was not very smart at all and if I wanted to add additional tables I should try it at the $10NL level. I felt like a school boy again. I knew what I had done was wrong, but it worked. I didn’t want to go back down to the $10NL tables but I knew my teacher was correct so I did what any school boy would do, I ignored him and went back to playing 4 tables of $25NL.

After a few days of playing some more $25NL I was not really gaining any ground at all. I had big swings and usually would end up even or close to even on each session. What was worse though is I was finding myself bored at the tables. I felt like I wanted more action. So I decided to listen to finally listen to my teacher Marios. I went back down to the $10NL tables and played nine tables at a time! Read More →