Deep-Stacked Play in NLHE Part 2

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In article 1 we discussed some of the opening thoughts and mentality of deep stack NLHE. We also touched on some basic pre-flop strategy as well. This article will touch on some post-flop strategy (outlook and plays).

Post-Flop Mentality: One of the most important things in the post-flop game is formulating a plan for your hand and your opponent. Street by street poker can lead to disastrous decisions.

Thought Process: Small Mistakes Can Lead to Huge Ones-

Before we hop into the flop discussion, it is important to understand the above statement: Small mistakes can lead to huge ones. This concept is seen in all forms of poker and is very applicable to deep stack NLHE. What does this mean?

Hand 1.0: We raise PF with 99 and get one caller. We are 200bbs deep in a 6-max game and Out of Position (OOP). The flop is Ts 7c 5s and we bet. Our opponent raises 3x our bet and we decide to call. The turn is the 2h and we check, our opponent bets, and we call again. We decide that if we are calling the flop, then we should call the turn bet if the turn is favorable. The river is a brick and we check once again, our opponent bets, and we are stuck in a difficult decision.

Did we play this hand incorrectly? Against some opponents, no, we played it fine. There are certainly situations when you will have to counter your opponent’s aggression by taking more passive lines and making tougher calls.

With that being said, against many opponents, we can simply fold the flop. This is one mistake that grew into a much larger one as the action continued. We compounded our flop mistake by making another tough (and perhaps poor) turn call. Instead of simply folding the flop, we continued to make larger and larger mistakes.

Another short example may be that we call a 3-bet OOP with K9s. The flop is Kxx and we check/call his bet. The turn may brick and we call yet another bet. The river bricks and we face yet another bet. This entire hand all stemmed from one early mistake (calling a 3-bet OOP with K9s) and snowballed from there. (Disclaimer: There are obviously times when this play may be fine; however, in a general sense, it is not).

What does this have to do with deep stack NLHE? The lesson to take away from this article is not necessarily this specific turn play or the K9s hand. It is to understand that small mistakes in poker can lead to much larger ones on later streets. This is especially important to note in deep stacked poker; where calling with marginal hands out of position can lead to larger problems (due to stack sizes) on later streets.

Here is a fantastic article on the subject:

The Power of Position:

Position is everything in poker; even more so in deep stacked games. So many more post flop options are available with deep stacks and position.

Hand 2.0: 200bb deep/6-max-MP opens PF 3x, you flat call on the button with 87s. The flop is 5s 4d Tc. Villain bets. With position and deep stacks, we can literally do anything at this point- raising can be a very powerful play against the right opponents. Floating (calling the flop with the intention of taking it away on later streets) can be a very good option as well. Though we can do both of these plays with 100bbs, villain will have much less fear against aggression with an over pair, something that may not be said with deeper stacks.

Understand position and the quality of your hand- In all forms of poker, speculative hands can be called more frequently in position and less so out of position. This is amplified in deep stack NLH. 3-betting speculative hands may be a better option instead of flat calling out of position (OOP) pre-flop.

Flop Considerations-

Flop play differs greatly from 100bb > stack poker. As stated previously, there are many more options. Though the actual plays are the same (leading, check-raising, check-calling), the later streets play differently.

Flop Options

Hand 3.0: 6-max, 200bb stacks. A loose player opens from MP for 3x and we call from the BB with Ac 3c. The flop is 2c 4c Ts and we bet into the pre-flop raiser (MP) (which is also called donk betting).

This is an excellent play to use when deeper. Contrast this situation in 100bb stacks- Villain can comfortably raise our donk bet and (generally) feel comfortable getting his stack in with an over pair. But with 200bbs, many players will be more hesitant.

What if villain were to raise our bet in this instance? 3-betting is a fantastic option. The bet/3-bet is a very strong play when deep. Some thoughts:

    1. It allows us to balance our range a bit by doing this play with hands other than strong static hands (such as sets). Though balance is not essential in most games, it is important to think about when playing against better players.
    2. It allows us to regain the initiative and more freedom on later streets. If villain raises us, 3-betting should garner a fair amount of fold equity. If villain flat calls our donk bet, we can bluff various turns (or check/call or check/raise depending on the card). In short, it allows us many more options than the normal check/call line.
    3. Bet-3-betting is still a solid option with 100bb stacks. The primary difference between 100bb and 200bb with this play is play on future streets- with 100bbs, there is not much room left if we bet, villain raises, and we 3-bet. With 100bbs, it might even be a shove for our 3-bet, effectively ending the action. With 200bbs, we are allowed to play the turn and probably the river.

There is more discussion on bet-3-betting -(HERE)

Check raising is another alternative to playing the hand (as well as the standard check/call line). Like bet-3-betting, check-raising is a fantastic play to use when deep. It allows us to regain the initiative from our opponent and allows us more options on later streets. And also like bet-betting, it allows us to balance our range a bit. Our opponent can no longer jam over our check-raise as he could with 100bb stacks. We are also able to play future streets in a more aggressive manner (and it allows us to gain more value when we actually hit our hand).

On the Other Side of the Coin

We briefly discussed some alternative lines to playing draws on the flop. But what about more static hands such as over pairs? How does their play differ when deeper?

Hand 3.0: 9-handed, 200bb deep: We open AA from MP and get 1 caller (a competent regular) from the SB. The flop is 7c 8c 3d. Villain bets into us. What is our play?

With 100bbs, this may just be an easy raise spot (obviously ‘it depends’). With 200bbs, our play changes- what do we have to gain by raising in this spot? Unless villain is a poor player who overvalues his top pair hands (something like 8x/weak over pair such as 99), he probably will not commit his 200bb stack in this situation. In general, this is a way ahead or way behind spot- we are generally crushing our opponent’s range (in that he might have something like A8 or a mid pair, where we have 70% equity or so against) OR way behind (in which he might have a set or 2 pair).

With 200bbs, we must be cautious and aware of future actions. This means that we cannot blindly raise, thinking we will always be getting value from something like K8- we must a) worry about a potential 3-bet from villain (in which case we puke) and b) we must worry about future streets. Knowing that our equity is very static in this spot may lead us to call and see safe turns before deciding to continue. These situations are obviously very situational and there will definitely be spots where raising is the correct play- but the important thing to take away from this hand is a) turn and river situations when raising as opposed to calling and b) what we are going to do if we get 3-bet on the flop.

Flop Play Conclusion

There are many more considerations when playing the flop. These are but a few thoughts in deep stacked NLHE. The most important things to consider are future plans on later streets- how does your hand equity stand with the board? How aggressive is your opponent? Do you want to get to showdown? And so on.

The next article will conclude the deep stacked NLHE series. We will discuss alternative plays in deep stack NLHE, polarization, and other concepts.