Poker Best Practice Tips: Stack Size Limbo

Jeff Madsen professional poker playerWhen you’re playing a tournament and sitting on around 15 big blinds, you can face some seriously tough pre-flop decisions. Welcome to stack size limbo. It feels likes you have too many chips to push all-in, but a standard pre-flop raise can prove disastrous if an aggressive player comes over the top and puts you to the test.

So, is it best to push or to raise in this kind of situation? First of all, it depends on what type of table you’re playing at. If it’s a table full of aggressive players who are likely to make a move if you come with a standard pre-flop raise, then pushing all-in is probably your best bet.

If you’re at a table that is playing tight, you might be able to get away with making a standard raise. Keep in mind, though, that if you do get re-raised at a tight table, it’s time to let that hand go.

I recently played in a tournament at the Bellagio where I found myself in stack size limbo. I was sitting on approximately 15 big blinds and, unfortunately, at a table full of aggressive players.

The action was folded around to me in late position, and I looked down to see pocket 4s. Not a bad hand, but also no reason to jump for joy, especially at a table full of players who have no problem re-popping you with something like 5-6 suited.

So, it was decision time. If I put in the standard pre-flop raise, there was a pretty good chance that someone would re-raise me and I’d have to make a decision for all of my chips. On the other hand, pushing all-in would pressure the other players and force them to make the tough decisions. Basically, going all-in takes the play away, which is to my advantage.

I decided to push and, although I wouldn’t have hated a call too much, wound up winning the pot when the rest of the players passed. If I’d had 20 big blinds in that situation, I would’ve felt more comfortable putting in a standard raise, since I’d still have enough chips left if I was forced to fold.

So, 20 big blinds for me is definitely too much to just push all-in. There are plenty of online players out there who’ll push with stacks as deep as 20 or even 25 big blinds, but I still feel like you have enough chips left at that point not to get trigger happy and ever have to make that decision.

If you read your table correctly and play your cards right, you should be able to move out of stack size limbo and into deep stack comfort.

a5_wJeff was born in Santa Monica, CA. He won 2 WSOP Bracelets in 2006 and has over $2.2 Million in Career Tournament Earnings.

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Pro Poker Tip: Using Aggression Wisely

David Oppenheim professional poker playerIn the game of Hold ‘em, especially No Limit, aggression is usually rewarded. By being aggressive, you are putting your opponent in an uncomfortable situation and forcing him to either make a hand or make a bluff. You take over control of the pot and put yourself in the driver’s seat.

And yet, for as much good as aggression can do, I still see far too many players either being too aggressive or misusing aggression altogether. Aggression is one of the biggest tools a poker player has, but it needs to be used wisely at all times.

For instance, I see a lot of young players getting out of line and being overly aggressive with hands like A-Q and A-J. They put in huge raises with these hands thinking they’re making a smart move, but really they’re just scaring the dead money away. There are so many bad players in tournaments these days that there’s just no excuse for not being patient – eventually these players will make a mistake and ship you a lot of chips. There’s no need to risk such a large portion of your stack with a hand like that.

Many newer players are guilty of misusing aggression. They see their favorite player on TV pulling off a huge bluff or dominating their table with aggression, and they want to follow suit. The problem is that these newer players really have no idea how to be aggressive. You can’t just be randomly aggressive and hope to take control of the action; your aggression needs to be calculated.

Knowing when to be aggressive is something that comes with time and experience. If you lack that knowledge and have no feel for the game you’re playing, that aggression is going to come back to haunt you.

I would advise all newer players not to focus their game on aggression at first. You want to start out by playing solid, ABC poker. Focus on the basics and, when you have those down, you can start thinking about bringing aggression into your game.

Being aggressive in poker is a very fine art. Watching a player like Phil Ivey at the poker table can be every bit as awe inspiring as looking at a Picasso. But players like Ivey have honed their aggression over time, using their experience at the tables to shape the way they play. Put in your time at the tables, and you too may one day paint a masterpiece.

American players are welcome at FullTiltPoker.comDavid Oppenheim is acclaimed as ‘One of the best high-limit Hold ’em players in the world’ .

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