Playing Big Stack in a Poker Tournament

Guest Post by Ivan Potocki, February 5, 2014

Whether you play live or online poker tournaments, and regardless if you play professionally, part-time, or just for fun, accumulating a big stack at some point is an achievement in its own right. However, it does not mean the same thing for the different types of players, and this article will focus on some of the advantages and disadvantages of playing the big stack, especially if you are inexperienced in these situations.

big stack in a poker tournament

Let us skip through all the boring parts of grinding and folding and get to the point where you have finally accumulated that big stack. Maybe you played really well and made great reads, or perhaps you just got lucky and hit hard on the cards you were dealt. It doesn't matter = now you are there. You have a big stack, perhaps you are even the tournament's chip leader. It feels good. It feels really good, even after you have played hundreds or even thousands of tournaments. So, how should you proceed?

One of the things I cannot emphasize enough (and I see this mistake repeated time and time again by recreational players) is that it is not your duty or your mission to eliminate players. You are there to win the tournament - to take home the prize, not the scalps. Unless you're playing a bounty tournament, eliminating a couple more players is not a particular achievement. The only thing you should be thinking about is how to make your big stack even bigger. And you will only achieve this by playing right, not by gambling. Too much gambling will usually lead to your stack shrinking and your feeling disappointment and missed opportunity.

So what is the right approach? If you are not experienced in playing big stack poker, once you have accumulated a lot of chips, you should consider tightening up. I know that this may not sound right, but especially pertaining to your calling ranges, you should play much tighter. The power of the big stack comes from the initiative - from the pressure you can put on your opponents with the constant threat of busting them out. You should be the one running the show, not the one calling their bets when they have big hands just because you have chips to spare.

You should be opening a lot of pots - this is where your power comes from - but once you face aggression and you have a weak hand, do not let your ego and the amount of chips you have in front of you tempt you into calling their re-raises. If you think another raise will get them out of the pot, all the better. Use your big stack in that way, but do not allow yourself to be the one on the defensive. Once you are the one defending, the value of your stack decreases dramatically. In that case, your opponents dictate the action and you are basically just looking to get lucky against them.

Playing big stack poker is admittedly hard, even for players with a lot of experience under their belt, but following these few guidelines should enable you to ride your big stack all the way to the final table and to the heads-up at its end - at least a bit more often.

Until my next entry, stay well and run good!


Ivan PotockiIvan Potocki is a veteran Titan Poker player who was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and spent part of his childhood under war conditions. He studied English language and literature and discovered Texas Hold’em while in college. After working different jobs he turned to poker full time and this serves as his main source of income.


Further Reading:  

short poker stack
Surviving a Short Poker Stack

big slick
The Pre-flop Perils of Big Slick

texas hold'em

Texas Hold'em Poker Guide

poker better than sex

Why Poker Is Better than Sex


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