What makes games like no limit Texas hold’em so interesting is that almost no two table line ups will ever be the same. A mixture of different players, stack sizes, frame of mind and everything else means that an almost infinite number of variables exist. However some poker games have a very close similarity with others and this allows experienced players to do well. Here I want to discuss the key game dynamics that make the difference between a top online player and one that is mediocre. One of the biggest factors is stack size along with player type.
Stack size has a big influence on strategy and we can see why now. Let us say that it has been folded around to you on the button and you have a hand like Q-J. Now although it is obvious that you are going to play this hand, the question is that whichever players are sitting to your left in the blinds dictate what your raise size should be and also if you should call the 3/bet if and when that happens. Let us say that there is pro short stack player in the big blind who likes to 3/bet.
Here there is an interesting dynamic because instead of making it a pot sized raise to 3.5bb then you could raise smaller to perhaps 2.5bb. This makes it more difficult for a short stack to profitably shove all in against you. However if you are facing a very aggressive short stack player and they make it 8bb to go and have a 25bb stack then you have two options but one of those options is very bad and that is calling. If you call the 3/bet then you are simply inviting your opponent to shove on the flop whatever comes.
This forces you to hit the board in some way. Whether you fold or shove depends on your estimation of your opponents range. If you think that they are 3/betting widely and trying to force fold equity then you can shove and it be profitable to do so. If you feel that your short stack opponent is only 3/betting with a tight range. However if the player in the big blind is say 200bb deep and so are you then this is when calling a 3/bet is a good option because you have enough room to play some poker post flop. You are also correct to raise to 3.5bb as well pre-flop because you do not fear the 3/bet as much.
Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador at 888poker