Poker Chip Stack Sizes
You can learn a lot about your opponents starting with the size of their poker chip stack. You will usually find that the good poker players have the large chip stacks and the weaker players have the smaller chip stacks. There are a couple of reasons for this.
The better players generally win, so they tend to have a large bankroll.
The weaker players generally lose, so it is natural that their bankrolls are often small.
A common mistake that many weak players make is that they play at limits that are either too high for their bankroll or play at a higher limit where the competition is too tough for them.
Of course this isn’t always 100% accurate. There will be times when a good player is on a losing streak and bad player gets on a bit of a winning streak but it does serve as a pretty good indicator of whether you are up against a good player or a weak player. You can get an indication about new opponents by looking at their stack size when you first sit down at the table. This is especially true at the higher limits, which requires a larger bankroll to play. The size of your opponents stack is going to be your first impression. When the cards are dealt you’ll begin acquiring additional information about your opponent which may or may not change that first impression.
A player with a small stack usually falls into one of two categories – The first is someone who plays a lot of hands, which is probably why his stack is so low. The other type of player is one who just moved up from a lower limit game. This player probably is playing very tight since he is scared of losing a lot of money. With either type of player, you can use this information to your advantage. Play aggressively against the scared player and don’t try to bluff the loose player.
An exception to this rule is when the players stack becomes so low that they will go broke with just a few more bets. In this case, both types of players generally tighten up a lot waiting for that big hand. This is a great time to play aggressively against them both before and on the flop. Attempting to steal the blinds on them can be very effective as they tighten up.
On the flop, try to be the aggressor and then back off if your opponent either bets first or raises. Since he is playing survival poker, it is doubtful that he is bluffing. Playing aggressively is usually very profitable against opponents with small stacks and since there is not much risk to you, you can back off if your opponent shows any signs of strength.
When it comes to your own chip stack you want to be playing with a stack large enough so that you can play a hand effectively. For example, say if you are playing in a $5-$10 game of hold ’em and you have about $50 in chips. With a few big bets/calls you can easily run out of chips during a hand. If you are playing a tight-aggressive strategy which is the style that I recommend, you definitely don’t want this to happen. Be sure to buy more chips so that you are playing with a large enough stack for the limits that you are at.
I would recommend that at minimum your chip stack be 10 times the big bet. So in a $5-$10 game of hold ’em, you need at least $100 in your stack before any given hand. I personally like to have at least 25-30 times the big bet for a stack of about $250 to $300. This way if I feel I have the best hand and am up against an opponent who keeps raising and re-raising me I can play the hand how I want to and not worry about running out of chips.