There is nothing more exciting than having a monster-sized stack in a No Limit Hold ’em tournament. There are many ways to use that big pile of chips to gather even more chips. Sheer aggression is one. But that approach can also jeopardize your stack if you aren’t careful.
While you want to use a big stack to bully the table, it’s equally important to protect your chips so that you can continue to be the dominant force. If you’re reckless with your chips and lose a big pot, it will limit your arsenal of weapons greatly.
Here are six things to think about the next time you’re sitting on a big stack in a tournament.
• Attack the short stacks — When players are down to a few chips, their options are limited. They’re forced to wait for any decent hand to move all in.
In the meantime, push them around with your big stack. Even if they do play with you, the damage to your chip fortress would be minimal.
When there are short stacks in the blinds, be aggressive and raise with a variety of hands. It’s not all that important how strong your cards are. What matters is whether your opponents have a hand strong enough to stand up to yours.
• Avoid the big stacks — The last thing you want to do is tangle with another player who also has a monster stack, unless, of course, you have a premium hand. The targets that you should be bluffing at are the chip-challenged opponents. Remember, you always want to protect your big stack, so when you’re up against a player that could cripple your stack, proceed with caution. Don’t get involved unless you have a quality hand.
• Don’t play big pots — One way to protect your stack is to avoid playing big pots in marginal situations. Your goal is to increase your chip count slowly by avoiding major risks. So, in situations where you aren’t totally sure you have the best hand, play cautiously. Stay aggressive in small pots, but don’t risk a large percentage of your chips unless you have a pair of aces or close to it.
• Be creative — One of the luxuries of having a big stack is that you can use every trick in the book: slow playing, trapping, bluffing, semi-bluffing and others. While you want to be aggressive throughout, having a big stack affords you opportunities to mix it up, try out new tactics, and play hands deceptively.
When opponents think they have you figured out, it’s time to throw a curveball and play a hand in an uncharacteristic style. This will be great for your table image as it makes you an unpredictable player.
• Strike fear in your opponents — You want to be an imposing figure at the table when you’re a big stack. Your opponents should fear you whether you’re betting, sitting in the big blind or haven’t even acted yet. When they’re afraid to play with you, you control the table.
• Be a constant presence — Let opponents know you’re there to play, not to sit on your stack.
You need your competitors to believe you are on a mission. That alone will make you a pain in everyone’s side. Cultivate that aggressive image, and opponents will be convinced that you’ll play that way all day long. If players fear you, they’ll often throw away hands they might otherwise raise you with.