The great Doyle Brunson once remarked how No-Limit Hold’em was the “Cadillac of poker”. The reference was that this game was tougher than any other in which to play. What Doyle actually meant was that “deep stacked No-Limit Hold’em was the Cadillac of poker”. Back in Doyle’s day, very few players played shallow or bought in for the minimum like they do now. However, deep stacked play is still relevant today and is still causing novices huge problems… but why is that?
Well in my opinion there are essentially two reasons as to why novices really struggle with deep stacked play.
The first reason is because No-Limit Hold’em is only a two card game unlike Omaha where you start with four cards. The natural follow on from this is that it is common knowledge that making a strong hand post flop is much more difficult than it is in Omaha. This means that everyone knows that big bluffs can take down a pot at any moment and any two cards can win on any one individual hand. So this makes it terribly easy for even novice players to attempt to bluff at pots that if they had more experience… they would see that they were better to fold.
There is a greater propensity to get yourself into trouble in a game with only two starting cards where it is common knowledge that you likely haven’t got a pair in your hand and flopping a pair is only done around one time in three. Big hands are hard to make and so bluffs work more often. However, bluffing is a skill and when you bluff, you are risking a significant sum of money which in turn means that your success ratio needs to be high and this is where the skill part comes in… however it is skill that is something that novices don’t yet have.
The second reason as to why novices get themselves into trouble in deep stacked No-Limit Hold’em is because one mistake can be all it takes to lose your entire stack. Imagine an hypothetical situation where you won 49 pots where each pot was $2. This totals $98 but yet what if the 50th pot was a huge loss that cost you $120? You are behind by $22 after 50 pots despite winning 49/50 of them for a strike rate of pots won to pots lost of 98%.
The previous hypothetical example highlights just why No-Limit Hold’em, when played with a deep stack, is so tough to handle for novice players. One moment of madness, indiscipline or lack of knowledge is all it takes to wipe out hours of work. The bottom line is that if you lack experience, then you need to treat the “Cadillac of poker” with the utmost respect. If you don’t, then it will almost certainly come back and bite you in the place where you least want to be bit and that’s in your pocket.