Skill #9. Playing Deep – P2: NOT A TOTALLY DIFFERENT GAME

Note that theoretically, strategic changes remain moderate when you increase stacks from 200 big blinds, to 400 or even 500 big blinds. That extra stack depth, even in games playing deep, usually allows only one additional pot-sized bet in a given hand. So at a point in a hand where you’d be looking to get all-in with a “normal” stack depth, there’s typically only a single bet or raise left behind in a “deeper” game.

Yet, this one extra bet does a few things. One, it increases the value of position. This means a player in position can play more loosely pre-flop, while out-of-position players should play slightly tighter.

Two, it means you should bluff a bit more on early streets, since there’s potentially one extra bet with which to fire a final barrel after you’ve completed other betting lines.

Three, it means you should be considerably tighter with the set of hands you’re willing to get all-in. It only makes sense you should be choosier with hands you play for $6,000 than those you play for $2,000.


One of this book’s main themes is that players at all levels tend to play too many hands pre-flop, and they tend to get rid of these extra junk hands one of three ways.

When your opponents get rid of hands by folding, stack depth won’t often come into play. If they’re folding on the turn, it doesn’t matter if you have $800 behind or $8,000. You can play these players roughly as you would with a normal stack.

When your opponents deal with extra hands by calling down, it’s fairly obvious how to exploit them. You refuse to pay them off (i.e., Skill #2) for that extra stack depth, but you make sure to get that extra depth into play against them when you have the nuts or near-nuts.

Finally, when players tend to bluff with their extra junk hands, you may have a problem. Deeper stacks promote a looser, bluffier style. With position you can play more hands pre-flop, you can bluff with more hands on the flop, and you can protect that looseness with the threat of a huge river bet.

But all is not lost. First of all, I reiterate that you’re never required to play super deep. You’re welcome to buy in for $600 at, say, a 5-10 game. Even if you were to double up twice (a good session by any measure), you’d still be only 240 big-blinds deep— not the 400 or more I’m talking about here. In fact, buying in short to a high-stakes game is a relatively easy way to get an edge for a good win rate. Your opponents in these games will play too many hands pre-flop and will plan to bluff their way out of bad

situations. When you’re a short stack, there’s too little money behind to bluff, and your opponents will just be stuck with their bad hands.

This fact is not lost on the regular inhabitants of such games, who will complain about you if you short stack their games too much.

But let’s assume you want to play deep like everyone else. How do you get an edge against LAGs who are playing a style that’s favored by the structure of no-limit at higher levels?

First, you have to make sure you’re psychologically comfortable with deeper stacks. If you’re afraid of getting stacked, you won’t succeed. Do not play deep unless you’re comfortable with the idea of getting stacked two or three times, even. Of course, no one wants to lose. But you can’t play in fear of it. Even a whiff of fear will come through, and you’ll make exactly the errors your opponents expect you to make, which is obviously a bad situation.

Okay, so you’re playing deep and doing so comfortably. You need to be loose and hang in there, in position, early in your hands.

For example, say you’re playing 5-10 with $5,000 stacks.

Two players limp, and you raise to $50 on the button with

J♠8♠. The small blind reraises to $150. The limpers fold. You should probably call the reraise. You don’t want to get pushed off your hands in position, or else you’ll be playing too many of your hands from out of position. This is a situation where playing deep encourages you to loosen up with the added advantage of position.

Once you have made these basic adjustments, you’ll need to focus on outplaying your opponents using the skills we’ve discussed. Most important is an understanding of board textures, an ability to use live reads, and emotional numbing.

Loose-aggressive players at 5-10 will tend to make mistakes for large chunks of their stacks if you wait long enough. These players tend to misunderstand board textures, which means they’re prone to running bluffs in spots where they’re representing fewer hands than they think they are.

Also, players in these games often have little emotional control and are prone to act out. When stacks are deep, going on tilt tends to take on a bigger role as it can determine who wins and who loses over the long term.

Also, live reads become extremely important. If your opponent is consistently better at picking up and using live reads, you’re going to have a tough time winning even if you better understand the theoretical side of the game. If you don’t feel like you often find useful live read information to aid your decision-making, and if you also feel frustrated because your results at deep-stacked 5- 10 aren’t what you’d hoped they’d be, a live read imbalance is the most likely culprit.

Your opponents are probably picking up information that you leak unwittingly, and you’re not picking up enough information on them to balance. Try buying in short (making live read information less valuable), and work actively on improving your live read skills.


As you can see, this section is not a detailed guide to winning deep-stacked games. Honestly, the way to win deep-stacked is to be “better at poker” than other players. Better at poker means to understand the fundamentals of the game better—pre-flop ranges, board textures, and so forth. Better at poker also means to perform better at the live read side of the game. When you play deep, live reads become perhaps the most important skill of all.

But I included this section, among other reasons, to dispel deep-stack myths. To that extent, always remember:

  1. You’re under no obligation to play deep-stacked just because your opponents are. They hold no advantage even if they all have ten times your stack on the table. In fact, you’re the one that holds a modest advantage.
  2. Do not play deep-stacked unless you’re comfortable with the stakes involved, and you’re ready to get stacked two or three times. Players comfortable at this level will suspect you aren’t ready to play for stacks, and they will test you.
  3. Many of the plays that may look like mistakes if you’re used to playing shallow stacks are either not mistakes with deep stacks, or they’re only minor mistakes. Don’t fool yourself into thinking a game is soft just because you see people calling 3-bets loosely pre-flop.
  4. You still likely want to play tighter than the average player in these games. Even though playing looser is forgiven in some circumstances with deeper stacks, most players still play too many hands.
  5. To win against aggressive recreational players at this level, you have to use the hard poker skills of understanding board texture, making live reads, and numbing yourself emotionally. If you do these things consistently better than recreational players, and you’re patient, you’ll catch them making stack-sized errors. And when stacks are $5,000 or more, winning a stack is very sweet indeed.
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