The Great Paradox Of Deep Stack Play

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I have been coaching someone of late but it is only when you start to impart poker knowledge that you begin to realise how difficult it is to actually learn how to play poker. There is a world of difference between playing poker and playing it well enough to make very good money at it. In deep stack play, the dynamics really are quite confusing for novices.

There is a great paradox at work in deep stacked No-Limit Hold’em play. You are always looking to extract value from decent hands but pot escalation is always on the agenda.

So you always have to balance between getting value and controlling the pot size. Against better players you may need to fire several streets with hands like top pair just so your more observant opponents can see that your range isn’t polarised between fresh air and strong hands on the river. However, against weaker players that will only really stack off with strong hands and will not call down unless they have a strong hand then this really doesn’t apply! So the balance that you achieve between extracting value and controlling the pot is key to success at lower stakes games.

Let us look at an example here to see what I mean. We raise with the Ac-Qd and are called by the two blinds. The flop is Ah-Jc-8s and both blinds check to us. Here, we can be reasonably confident that we have the best hand and so can bet the flop for value as many weaker hands will call. If we raised to say 3.5bb pre-flop then the pot will be 10.5bb and a c-bet may be around the 7bb mark. Now, look what happens if both blinds call, making the pot 31.5bb with two rounds to go.

Are we happy that we have found some value or are we unhappy that the pot is really starting to escalate? We had to find some value on the flop but it is also true that we do not want to get all-in with a hand like top pair and queen kicker for 100bb or more either. So somewhere along the line we need to escalate pot control above value. If we fail to improve on the turn then any bet that we make on the turn for value is going to be much thinner than what it had been on the flop.

Many players worry about giving free cards but checking and giving your opponents a free card is by far the lesser of the two evils. For a free card to be bad then two negative things both have to happen. Your opponent first has to hold the hand that you think they may be drawing to and they then have to hit it. On the flip side, escalating the pot with a mediocre hand is guaranteed to happen if you persevere in pushing the betting yourself.

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