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I've been playing in a "home" game (NLHE $1/$3 with a min/max buy-in of $60/$300) from time to time and I've noticed that one player has taken it upon himself to be the banker. He doesn't buy-in per se, but rather cover his losses at the end of the night.

Where this seems unusual is that the bank, and his chipstack, are often one and the same. If a player cashes out, he pays them and their chips end up added to his.

The net result seems to be that he has a perpetual big stack of 3-5 times the average stack at the table. This may seem like a dumb question, but that this put him at a significant advantage?

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Remember that stack size is relative. For example, If you have $60 in your stack, it doesn't matter if your opponent has 2x, 3x, 20x your stack, because your top-end risk is only ever $60 at any one time. –  Toby Booth Jul 28 '12 at 18:20

2 Answers 2

If you are a better player than the rest of the players at the table, you want a stack as large as everyone else at the table so that you maximize your winning hands.

Having $1 or $1,000,000 more than everyone else at the table makes no difference in terms of the game itself (but might make a difference psychologically).

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Of course it is. If you're a player who knows the game, then having a big stack will also give you a crucial psychological advantage. Your opponents will fold to your bets and raises much more often, this will allow you to make much more effective bluffs. They know that the guy with the big stack is able to go all-in without a significant risk to himself. Which means he's much more likely to do it, even with marginal hands.

This big stack effect is amazingly powerful, surprisingly even. Even good players, that know this fact well, can't supress it.

There are 2 key characteristics of the big stack effect:

  • big stacks get bigger over time. You can easily see this in both cash games and tournaments. People fold easily against his bets or raises and he can easily collect the pot. This is until...
  • big stacks are big targets. Everyone at the table focuses on them and tries to get their chips. At one point, someone will find a way to make a big bluff or a smart slow play and they will hit the big stack. Hard (see |1| at the bottom). And, in an instant, the big stack becomes an average stack. This happens especially in No-Limit games because of the ability of players to go all-in whenever they want.

If, when you play, you find yourself among the biggest stacks, do this:

  • put pressure on the average stacks. They will fold a lot because they don't want to be put against a big decision. They will play very tight and conservative. You will win a lot of pots because of this.
  • put pressure on the short stacks as well. They will probably just wait for a good / premium hand to go all-in with. All you have to do is keep the pressure on and make a simple decision to call or fold when they do go all-in.
  • Be careful if you play against people with solid stacks (above average, but below the top) or players that are very good. You have a very big stack, so you can afford to avoid them. This way, they won't be able to put pressure on you.
  • If you do play against solid players and/or solid stacks, think very very very good about every decision. You can be easily tempted to call a bet or a raise (because of your stack) when such a decision doesn't make much sense.

Bottom line: Having a big stack gives you an obvious advantage. But it's an advantage that is easily lost. Just be careful with it, especially if you're not used to being in this position.

|1| = this is usually the reason why the guy who is chip leader in the middle stage of a tournament can finish in a mediocre position (for example 20th / 100 participants). If I remember correctly, this happened once at a WSOP Main Event final table. The chip leader finished 9th i.e. he was the first one knocked out.

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