Ok so we’ve had a good start to our tournament, we’ve cruised through the early levels and picked up some chips to build a nice stack. We’re now entering the “middle stages” where antes come into play, and stack sizes and blind stealing become ultra-important.
Stack Sizes: This is probably the most important consideration at the poker table once we get to the middle stages. Most of the stacks on the table will vary between 10bb and 50bb, with the occasional huge stack. It is imperative we know what actions we can take, given the sizes of the stacks, or the effective stacks behind us. For example, if we have a 30bb stack in the cutoff position, and there are three stacks behind us who all have 20bb, then we simply play our hand as if we also have 20bb.
<10bbs: With this stack size you have only one move, and that is to move all in pre-flop. I’m fairly happy to shove a range like 22+, ATo+, KQ from the early positions, and this will get wider as I move closer to the button. We can realistically shove somewhere in the vicinity of 40% of hands pre-flop from the button, and an even greater number from the small blind.
11-20bbs: We are still fairly constricted with this stack size as opening a pot will, more often than not, commit us to calling a shove, so you should only be opening hands you can comfortably call a three-bet shove. The best aspect of this stack size is that it’s useful for re-steals, and you should be looking to three-bet shove a fairly significant range over late-position raises. Something in the vicinity of 66+, ATo+, KQo + and QJs is fine, and you can go even wider if the original raiser has been active.
21-30bbs: This stack size allows us a bit more room to move and we can now raise with the intention of folding to a shove. We can also three-bet shove over LP raises and open most of our range from any position on the table. It’s best not to open smaller pairs from EP because you will really find it hard to turn a profit with these once stacks become shallower. You should not be three-betting light with the intention of folding to a shove as a three-bet will often be for close to a third of your stack.
e.g. Hero: 5000, MP1: 5000. Blinds: 100/200/25
We hold KTo in the CO. MP1 opens to 500 and we three-bet to 1,475. As you can see our three-bet is for basically 30% of our stack, so if MP1 four-bet shoves over our raise, it would be pretty bad to fold here given how much we have already invested.
31bbs+: Here we have the most freedom and can open our full range from all positions, three-bet for value, three-bet with the intention of folding to a four-bet (this is never great, but if villain has been active and you feel he is opening light, by all means three-bet him). We have all the weapons in our arsenal at our disposal and can use them to put pressure on everyone at the table.
Bet/raise sizing: Due to MTT stack sizes mostly being less than 50bb, the current trend is to make your opening raise sizes smaller. Once I reach the 40/80 level online, I drop my raise size to 2.5 times the BB, and it will even get to as low as 2.2x once we get deeper into a tournament. This is great because it allows us to be more aggressive and open more hands, so even if we have to fold to a re-raise it hasn’t cost us too many chips.
By opening to 2.5x, pots are effectively smaller and this allows us to make smaller continuation bets. If you make your c-bets in the area of 55% of the pot with your entire range, this enables us to bluff more cheaply, and extract value from weaker hands. You can manipulate your c-bets based on the board texture and number of opponents.
Just remember that it’s imperative to pay attention to your opponent’s stack size, as your decisions are always based on effective stacks, not the size of your own stack. Understand what moves are in your arsenal and manipulate your bet sizing to extract maximum profit at the table!
For more poker strategy advice, visit the Hand Discussion forums.