Deep-Stacked MTT Strategy: Day 1, 6,000 to Go

The field

If you want to be successful at the WSOP this year, you'll need to have a solid understanding of deep-stacked tournament play.

With starting stacks now three times the buy-in, solid deep-stack play is going to be a prerequisite to going deep in any series event.

And that means if you're used to playing standard live poker tournaments - where the structures are typically so fast only a fraction of the tournament would qualify as deep-stacked - you'll need to adjust your game.

Do You Play Cash Games?

A deep-stacked tourney is almost identical in play to a deep-stacked cash game, and all of the elements of a cash game that can typically be missing from a tournament are there.

Set mining for example, which can be a bad idea in a short-stack scenario, again becomes the bread and butter of your strategy.

In a true deep-stack format, you can raise, re-raise and still fold in the same hand. This allows for much more creative and skill-based plays.

Your goal is to play smaller pots, risking as little as possible, until you grab hold of a monster.

Don't needlessly risk your chips - you can almost be guaranteed to find a more favorable spot if you're just willing to wait.

Hand Selection

At the beginning of a major deep-stacked tournament, when your M is 200*, you have enough chips to play in any style you choose. All choices, lines and hands you may choose to play in a cash game, can be played here.

One wrong choice can be the difference from being on the table, or on the rail.

Now is the time to play suited connectors or even suited one-gappers (if that's the kind of game you play). The longer you wait, and the lower your M becomes, the more restricted you become in your options.

Your goal is to get to the flop cheap with hands that have the possibility of flopping something huge, and concealed. No one pays off a straight when there are four connected cards on the board; you want to have the cards in the middle to keep your hand strength off their radar.

You also want to play hands that either flop huge, or are easy folds. The last thing you should do is stack off at this point with bottom two pair or worse.

As your M begins to shrink, you need to start cutting out the low-probability/high-reward hands, as their initial investment becomes too high, forcing you to commit a large percentage of your stack on a long-shot.

*M=The value of your stack divided by the total amount of all blinds and antes: 30,000/150=200

The All-In

One of the trademarks of standard tournament poker is the all-in, as most tournaments have only a few levels of deep-stacked play before players are forced into "push or fold" mode.

The more deep stacked you are though, the less often you should be moving all in.

Think back to all the deep-stacked cash games you've played. When you and your opponents still have large stacks, how often do you get those large stacks all in?

It's a very rare occurrence two players with stacks well over 200bb will get it all in. It does happen, but it's rare enough that it's quite a memorable event.

Deep-stacked tournament poker is no different. Unless you have the nuts, and another player willing to stack off, it almost never makes sense to get all of your chips across the line.

If you're wondering why, take a look at the numbers:

Blinds: 25/50

Your stack: 27,000

Your opponent's stack: 32,000

Preflop: You raise 3x the bb (150). Only your opponent calls. Pot now 300.

Sick Table!
The game grows far more intense around the bubble.

Flop: You bet pot, your opponent calls. Pot 900

Turn: You bet pot again, your opponent calls. Pot is now 2,700

River: You bet pot one more time; your opponent calls. Pot now 8,100

In this scenario, with one player being very aggressive and the other player just calling, the final pot is 8,100 - less than one-third of the total stacks of each player.

To get their whole stacks in, the players would have to bet over three times as many chips across the four betting rounds.

In other words, the type of action needed to get over 540bb in the pot is absolutely sick.

Although it does happen - mostly when two players both flop extremely strong hands - you shouldn't be thinking of the early stages of these tournaments as a time to move all in.

Your goal in deep-stacked MTTs is to play the cash-game grind.  Forget about doubling up.

You're looking to slowly and consistently grow your stack. You can increase your stack 50%-100% during a long tournament day without ever being involved in a very large pot.

Because you have no need to grow your stack immediately, you have no need to put your chips at risk. Protect your stack until you have the best of it, and then make your move.

Play smart, and you'll have no need to get lucky in the opening rounds.

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