Playing a big stack in a sng:
In a sng your big stack is never as big as it looks. I play at PokerStars, which has an excellent single and multi-table (MTT) structure. There are 9 players at the table and each player is given 1500 chips and the blinds increase every 10 minutes. Therefore, in total, there are 13500 on the table and your job is to amass all those chips and it's not over until someone does.
Typically, as the sng is played out, players will be dropping out one or more at a time and stack sizes will skew, as some players double up, some players get shortstacked, and others retain their original stack size. As the blinds increase, the shorter stacks will experience pressure to accumulate chips; the middle stacks will be looking to add to their stacks but won't be under any pressure to take considerable risks; and the big stacks, meanwhile, (although they may not know it) are still quite vulnerable to falling into middle or shortstack status if they make a mistake or suffer a bad beat.
A lot of big stacks think they can bully and play table captain just because they have a larger stack than others. Their big stack is an illusion, because one mistake against a shortstack and the shortstack moves up to middle stack and the big stack moves down to middle stack. One mistake against a middle stack and the big stack is now shortstack and the middle stack is now big stack. And one mistake against another big stack and they are either crippled or eliminated.
This is the difference between a big stack in a sng and a big stack in an MTT. In an MTT you can accumulate a really big stack, whereas in a sng you can rarely accumulate such a big stack that allows you to cavalierly begin raising or calling big raises with hands that do not warrant a call, raise or reraise. This is a bit of an equalizer for the smaller stacks in a sng. Unbeknownst to some big stack table captains who like to throw their chips around, they are only one beat, or one silly misplay from reducing their own stack to such a point that they are now under severe pressure themselves due to the increasing blinds, and if that happens, the tables will have turned. Therefore, it's almost never in the big stacks' best interest to play table captain in a sng. That doesn't mean, however, that the big stack can't apply pressure, or play from position (by calling small raises with good, but not great, hands while in late position), or open-raising from late position to steal the blinds, just as any player might do. In fact, they should do this, it's one of their only luxuries as a big stack in a sng, because they can afford to do it. However, they should not be calling shortstack all-ins with speculative hands, or, reraising middle stacks out of the blinds with dominated hands, except on a bluff reraise against a suspected blind steal. The players who are raising into big stacks on their left are well aware, or should be, of who they're raising into. The big stack can bust them, but they're raising into the big stacks' direction anyway. So the big stack should show some respect.
Big stacks often become big stacks in one of two ways. Either they get a big stack by catching a monster flop, such as a set, and crack aces or top pair and double up. Or, they play LAG poker, limping and raising into many pots early, and pushing their edges to the max to get as much value out of their hands as possible. This is good LAG poker. However, many LAGS don't know how to change speeds and manage their stack. If they continue to play this way, overplaying hands essentially, sooner or later they will run up against someone with aces or kings while they hold a junk pair or a dominated hand, such as KQ or Ax, and double up the shortstack or get into a big battle over a pot with a middle stack and lose a huge chunk of their own stack. The player who flopped a set, on the other hand, may think that his big stack is now license to bully. Not so. The table saw the hand played out, saw that he had flopped a set, will give him credit for catching a nice hand and playing it well enough to get full value (unless his opponent was a complete donkey), but won't give him credit for being a great player just because he caught some cards and now has a big stack. Everyone gets fortunate enough to flop sets or nut straights and nut flushes. Those hands can practically play themselves. The players who catch big monster flops are fortunate to have amassed a big stack, but are misguided if they think they can play table captain just because they caught cards. The other players will give him respect for his stack, but nothing else. The big stack can raise with marginal hands all he wants but it won't push a smaller stack off of AK.
So the big stack is never safe. That's why you should avoid the temptation to considerably change your own game while managing your sng as a big stack. You still need to accumulate chips and you do that by making the best decisions possible. That's how you probably became big stack anyway, so don't change it if it ain't broke.
Here are some things big stacks can do that make sense:
- they can
steal blinds from middle stacks that are vulnerable to bubbling (most
middle stacks won't risk going up against the big stack from out of position
on the bubble unless they have a big hand, thus they'll fold all else)
Here are some things big stacks should not do, but often do anyway:
- they shouldn't
steal blinds from short stacks with trash, (the shortstacks are looking
to take a stand, and if they reraise all-in then the big stack will probably
have a mandatory call with a trash hand)
Here's a special note on the last item, of calling shortstack all-ins with crap just to take a shot at eliminating a player. Outside of playing table bully, this is probably the second worse thing big stacks will do, but shouldn't. When the bigger stack calls and loses the all-in he is changing the table dynamics considerably, because now the player who was once short stacked is now middle stacked, or at worst, out of the danger zone for the time being. And the extra chips he now has in his stack can now be used to do damage against any other player at the table. If you are a big stack and a shortstack goes all-in, you need a hand you can call with confidence in order to play. Ordinarily it makes sense that you can relax your standards somewhat knowing that the shortstack is going to take some random stabs at pots preflop with some peculiar card combinations, but the hands you call those all-ins with should be solid starting hands, because the hand is going to a showdown, like it or not, because you are the caller, not the raiser - and that's a huge difference. If you fear your hand is beat preflop, then fold! The shortstack will still be shortstacked if you fold, he's not going anywhere but out of this tournament as he gets blinded out, so he will continue to be under pressure to double up even if you let him take the blinds this orbit. But sooner or later someone at the table will eventually catch the shortstacks' moves at pots and bust him with a legitimate hand. It's in everyone's best interest at the table (except the shortstack, of course) that the table play against the shortstack in this fashion and continue to play against all shortstacks this way until they're all eliminated and the bigger stacks are in the money.
See what might happen if you play your big stack like a big stack donkey. God Bless You.