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End Game Stack Management

By David “the Maven” Chicotsky

When we’re deep in a tournament, the different chip stacks at the table will have the effect of causing us to make fewer or more plays. Instead of simply estimating if a certain play is chip positive expected value, we must also calculate if the play is expected to be positive relative to our tournament equity.

 Deep in a tournament, I recommend taking inventory of the different chip stacks at the table - re-calculating the stacks after each hand. Look for similar stacks, and put them in different categories. For example, if there are 12 players left and we are an average stack - the first thing we’ll want to do is look for similar stacks as ourselves. Let’s say there are 6 similar stacks as ours, 2 stacks that are much larger than ours, and 3 much smaller stacks.

 In this position in the tournament we’d want to be careful not to call off our stack too lightly against a similarly stacked opponent. We’d also make sure to try and put pressure on the smaller stacks by raising their blinds. We very likely will do our best to stay out of the way of the much larger stacks. By recognizing the stacks at the table, we’re able to define parameters that we can efficiently work within.

 Knowing your position in the tournament will give you better context to properly evaluate each individual situation you encounter. When we’re a bigger stack we’re more inclined to use our stack-leverage against our opponents - making them assume more relative risk for the same amount of reward.

 Remember that when an opponent has fewer chips than you, on the margin - each blind is worth more to them than it is to you. If we can risk 8 blinds (representing 15% of our stack) into a player that 8 blinds is a large percentage of their stack (let’s say 35% of their stack), we have found a generally favorable situation to engage. In tournaments it’s not just about building up your stack, it’s also about using the stack that you’ve built to get more.

David “The Maven” Chicotsky is the 2008 Online Player of the Year and a former No. 1 ranked online tournament poker player. He is also an experienced poker coach and can be reached at

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