Building a Stack

A constant, yet important challenge in sng and multi-table tournaments is building your stack. Always being in ‘build mode’ will help prevent becoming short so often, forcing you to resort to push/fold strategies. With a bigger stack comes more leverage, too, giving you more fold equity and the opportunity to abuse tense situations like the bubble.

Building a stack is easier said than done, though. While you can pick up the occasional pot whenever you’d like, I’ve found through experience that there are optimal tactics and situations that boost your chances of success. I want to share those with you now.

4 Tactics to Help You Build Your Stack

1. Steal the blinds. This is one of the better tactics for building a stack. That’s because there are fewer players to go through, which means the chances are lower that you’ll come across a player with a good hand. Even if you are called you’ll have the benefit of being in position.

To make this tactic work I suggest stealing from tighter players that are position-aware. Stack size is important, too. You’re going to have less fold equity against players that are on the short side, as they can shove over you if there is enough dead money in the pot.

2. Re-steal. You can use this play in one of two scenarios. One, when effective stacks are deep enough that you can 3-bet your opponent. In this case I would 3-bet an opponent that opens / steals with some regularity, so that you know his range his wide. He’ll be more likely to fold. The second scenario is when you’re short, but deep enough to maintain some fold equity if you were to shove.

To make this tactic work you need to have fold equity against your opponent, either in terms of stack sizes, your opponent’s playing style (tight or loose/aggressive/smart) or the situation, like the money bubble. You should have a relatively tight, too.

3. Play post flop. Another tactic to use is simply playing your opponents post flop. Sit and goes are predominately a pre flop game, so many players aren’t skilled with hand reading, turn and river betting. Combine that with shallower stacks (compared to cash games) and you have an edge that you can exploit.

For this tactic to work I recommend isolating weak-tight players. They’re capable of folding, and will often give up on the flop or turn.

4. Isolate short stacks. This is a swingier tactic for building stacks, because you’re pitting your range against a short stacks and will see all 5 cards. So you’ll have a 10-15% edge at best. However, if you’re deep enough that picking off the occasional short stack won’t hurt you, then isolating the short stacks can be a great way to build or maintain your stack.

For you to be successful with this tactic, you need to have a good understanding of ranges and how they change according to player (type), stack size, position, remaining players and situation.

The 5 Best Situations to Build a Stack

There are 5 situations that are more optimal for building stacks than others.

1. Antes. The reason why antes are a good time for building stacks is because they create so much additional dead money. Take a 100/200/25 level for instance – without antes there are only 300 chips in the pot. The antes are 225, making up 75% of the pot. That’s huge.

Additionally, the added chips in the pot gives us the opportunity to steal profitably (more often) versus stealing when there aren’t antes.

2. Money bubble. The money bubble isn’t always the difference between busting and making good money. For example, in a 90 or 180-man the best money is up top within the last 3-5 players. However, many players approach these with the desire to cash at all costs instead of playing to win. You can use this mindset to your advantage, and abuse the medium size stacks on the bubble. It doesn’t take too many pots to change the chip positions, counts and table dynamics.

3. Table change. Another good situation to try to add to your stack is when there has been a table change, preferably when you’re moved to another table. The players won’t have a read on you, which may give you the opportunity to steal a couple of blinds or 3-bet a couple of players with a smaller chance of being played back at.

4. Medium sized stacks to your left. The best players to target are the ones that aren’t so deep that they can afford to splash around in pots with you, yet aren’t so short that they have nothing left to lose. They still have equity in the tournament. So I would try to target these players whenever possible. If you see a medium sized stack in the big blind, so long as you think you can raise through the rest of the players ok, you can widen your range here since your fold equity will be higher compared to other stack sizes. Exponentially so if combined with a tense scenario like the bubble or pay bump.

5. Number of players. Like a table change, another good opportunity to pick up some chips is to open up your range when the players get smaller. For example, in an 18-man sit and go a good spot to pick up a few chips is on the final table bubble when there are 5-7 players left. Many players don’t adjust their ranges for fewer number of players and more frequent blinds. But if you do you’re sure to see an increase in your stack size.