Deepstacked Play

A lot of players have a difficult time adjusting when the stacks get deeper. The important thing to understand about deepstacked play is that both implied and reverse implied odds become more significant. While it’s probably rarely (if ever) a mistake to shove all-in with bottom set 100bb deep, it could become quite dangerous to become attached to a non-nut hand as stacks get deeper.

I can remember one specific example presented by a player called Samoleus on this subject. The question was this: You’re playing HU. You raise 99 on the button, and villain reraises. You call. The flop is A93r. How deep do you have to be before you don’t get all the money in? At 100bb this is a dream flop. At 200bb, we’re still going with our hand. What about 500bb? 1000bb? At some point, our hand starts to adopt reverse implied odds instead of implied odds.

The point is this: when deepstacked, the nuts matter. “Coolers”, the classic “unavoidable” situations where all the money goes in (usually when the best hand and the second best hand are very close in value, like an A-high flush over a K-high flush) suddenly become far more important. So, deepstacked, we learn the following things:

  •   High pairs are much better than low pairs. Not just because high pairs usually win at showdown, but because they’re never over-setted. Getting over-setted when deepstacked is very bad. We want to avoid that, or at the very least, to be careful with easily over-valued hands (like low sets).
  •   Suited Aces increase in value. Over-flushing somebody is generally a “cooler” at 100bb, but deepstacked it carries much more weight.
  •   Connectedness increases in value. Making nut straights is much better deepstacked than normal because our hand is disguised. I once got stacked in a pot 350bb deep with 99 on a J93Q board against T8. This is a lot more powerful than making a flush, which is relatively obvious and would almost certainly prevent a good player from getting 300bb in the pot.

So, while nut-type hands (nut flushes, nut straights, and high sets) increase in value, non-nut hands (non-nut flushes, low straights, low sets) decrease in value due to larger reverse implied odds.

Understanding how coolers work is an important concept for deepstacked play. If we have KK, and a villain sitting with 50bb shoves all-in preflop, we can’t fold. If he has AA, we got coolered. Most players just assume that coolers are equal for all players, and that there’s no possible way to control who gets coolered more or less. This is way off. We can control which hands we play, and how we play them. I’m very prone to 4-bet AA every time somebody 3-bets me when deep, because I cooler a ton of hands— AK, KK, QQ, maybe even JJ and AQ all 5-bet shove in preflop. However, what about QQ? Now, KK and AA shove in preflop (bad for us), AK shoves in preflop (negligible), and maybe JJ and AQ. It’s bad for us if we “maybe” cooler somebody sometimes, yet we find ourselves getting coolered far more often. (Caveat: Obviously if somebody is 3-betting a ton, you can 4-bet QQ both for thin value and to collect dead money which will more than compensate for times when you get coolered. Or, if somebody is extremely likely to shove hands like JJ, AQ, and TT preflop, by all means 4-bet QQ for value). In general, though, keep an eye on which hands let you cooler the other guy and which hands get you coolered.

The last thing to remember about deepstacked play is that your fold equity doesn’t usually increase as much as it theoretically should. In truth, players should be folding hands like overpairs or top pair much more often because of the additional reverse implied odds. However, this just doesn’t usually happen.* So, you can increase your bluffing frequencies somewhat because it’s theoretically correct, but remember there’s a difference between game theory optimal (GTO) and practically optimal. This means that you shouldn’t go nuts bluffing when deepstacked, because people still don’t fold as often as they should.

*So, we can still value-bet very aggressively with hands like bottom set. The danger, though, is when people start getting aggressive deep-stacked. Most players will happily call all the way down with an overpair even when deep but develop a very nut-heavy polarized raising range. In this sense, playing deepstacked becomes very similar to playing against a passive player at 100bb—they’ll call down with a lot of things but they’ll never raise thinly.

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