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Have seen this multiple times, in both cash games and tournaments. Just wondering when is this an important factor? How does it affect strategy?

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It affects strategy in no-limit, and especially pot-limit play. Some simple examples: There's $300 in the pot, and you plan to try a $200 bluff to take it. Well, if one of your opponent's only has $50 left, then you're really only betting $50 at him, and he can call with much less risk. Similarly, if you make a $50 bet on an early round, and your opponent only has $80 in his stack, he will be more inclined to call than if he had $500, because in the latter case he has to worry about your future bets as well.

Another case: There's $100 in the pot, your opponent bets $20, and you have a gutshot. You only have 6-to-1 pot odds for an 11-to-1 draw. But consider this: if you and your opponent both have a lot more chips, and you think he will bet when your well-hidden gutshot card comes, and you think he'll reluctantly call your raise, then you'll get paid off at much more than 11-to-1 when you hit. This is called implied odds. So this is an automatic fold with small stacks, a reasonable call with large ones.

In pot limit, you often have a monster, suspect your opponent has a strong second place, and you have to figure out whether betting out or check-raising will get all your opponent's chips in. That's a function of the size of the pot and the size of his stack.

There are thousands of other cases. I wouldn't say that your opponent's stack size matters on every hand (after all, you'll routinely fold most hands), but it matters quite often.

Roy Cooke's book on no-limit poker has an entire chapter called "How deep are you", in which every exercise is a sample hand with different answers depending on stack sizes.

  • It sounds like you are saying, "If your opponent asks how many chips you have, beware - he or she is probably computing implied odds and thus has something like an inside straight draw, or are otherwise trying to figure out how to get all your chips into the pot!" – user1934 Jul 20 '15 at 18:37

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