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Holdem Poker Tips and Strategy from Jeff Madsen – Stack Size Limbo


When you’re playing a tournament and sitting on around 15 big blinds, you can face some seriously tough pre-flop decisions. Welcome to stack size limbo. It feels likes you have too many chips to push all-in, but a standard pre-flop raise can prove disastrous if an aggressive player comes over the top and puts you to the test.

So, is it best to push or to raise in this kind of situation? First of all, it depends on what type of table you’re playing at. If it’s a table full of aggressive players who are likely to make a move if you come with a standard pre-flop raise, then pushing all-in is probably your best bet.

If you’re at a table that is playing tight, you might be able to get away with making a standard raise. Keep in mind, though, that if you do get re-raised at a tight table, it’s time to let that hand go.

I recently played in a tournament at the Bellagio where I found myself in stack size limbo. I was sitting on approximately 15 big blinds and, unfortunately, at a table full of aggressive players.

The action was folded around to me in late position, and I looked down to see pocket 4s. Not a bad hand, but also no reason to jump for joy, especially at a table full of players who have no problem re-popping you with something like 5-6 suited.

So, it was decision time. If I put in the standard pre-flop raise, there was a pretty good chance that someone would re-raise me and I’d have to make a decision for all of my chips. On the other hand, pushing all-in would pressure the other players and force them to make the tough decisions. Basically, going all-in takes the play away, which is to my advantage.

I decided to push and, although I wouldn’t have hated a call too much, wound up winning the pot when the rest of the players passed. If I’d had 20 big blinds in that situation, I would’ve felt more comfortable putting in a standard raise, since I’d still have enough chips left if I was forced to fold.

So, 20 big blinds for me is definitely too much to just push all-in. There are plenty of online players out there who’ll push with stacks as deep as 20 or even 25 big blinds, but I still feel like you have enough chips left at that point not to get trigger happy and ever have to make that decision.

If you read your table correctly and play your cards right, you should be able to move out of stack size limbo and into deep stack comfort.

November 2, 2012 in
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