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Building a Stack (Poker)

A stack in poker terms is the chips that you have in the game and building a stack simply refers to the process of accumulating chips. In poker, chips is power and the more chips that you have, the more power you will have over your opponents. In any game it is important to build your stack, but also look after your chips to ensure that you continue to build and not squander.

The Risks and Rewards of Building an Early Stack

There are a couple of competing theories about how to attack multi-table tournaments.  One approach says that you should play conservative early and avoid marginal situations when the blinds are low.  The other approach says you should take chances and exploit small edges in order to build a large stack early so you can bully the table later on when the blinds are large.  The latter theory is much more risky, but it can also be more rewarding.

The Risks

In order to build your stack early, you have to play kamikaze poker.  Conventional wisdom says that you should set mine with a medium pocket pair, but if you’re trying to build an early stack you might go all-in hoping to get called by a smaller pocket pair or AK.  You’ll also go all-in if you flop a big draw and your opponent is representing a monster.  The risk is that you’ll bust out early when the cards don’t go your way…which they won’t most of the time.
When you play super-aggressive to build your stack early, you’ll bust out the vast majority of the time, but that’s the risk you take when you try to get a big stack early in the game.

The Rewards

Occasionally the cards will fall your way and when they do, you’ll often become the chip leader by a large margin.  That margin will allow you to take additional risks to build your stack even larger.  Then, when the blinds are large, you can bully the table with frequent steal attempts.  Not many players will want to risk their tournament life late in the game by going up against a chip leader with a reputation for going all-in with almost any hand.  In short, you’ll control the tournament.

It is also important to understand the tournament structure. If you are playing in a re-buy tournament, then these risks are worth every penny, particularly if the buy-in is a modest amount. For instance, you see four players before you go all in and you hold pocket 4's - there's 4 times the amount the chip leader has in the pot. What do you do? Do you think you are ahead? No, you can be almost certain that you are behind, a coin flip at best. The benefit of going all in is that you will have a huge stack if you hit a 4 or by chance they all have big aces and miss. Of course you are odds on to lose but that's the risk that you take. Of course outside of the first hour, this sort of poker is a no-go. You want to get in with the best hand (if shooting all-in) and hope that the cards fall your way.

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