Tiny tip #1

I thought of posting this one last night.  In general, when someone limps in the small blind to your big blind, you should raise.  I find that about 70% of the time they will fold pre-flop or on the flop, making the move profitable with any two cards.  If someone routinely folds pre-flop when you do this, you probably should tread lightly when they check-raise the flop.  They probably really caught a piece.  If a generally aggressive opponent completes and then reraises when you raise, he usually has a big hand.

poker Strategy

Check raising the flop for fun and profit, Part Two

This article is the conclusion of a series. If you haven’t done so already, you should probably read Part One or skip this post too if you are my Mom.

There are five basic results that you will see when you check-raise the flop in terms of how the other players will handle it. I’d say that they happen in approximately this order or frequency:

  1. Call flop raise, fold to turn lead.
  2. Call flop raise, raise turn lead.
  3. Fold to flop raise.
  4. Three bet flop.
  5. Call flop raise, call turn.

Let’s examine each case in detail.

1. Call flop raise, fold to turn lead.

I presume that it goes without saying that when you are simply called on the flop, you need to follow through with a turn bet the overwhelming majority of the time. Even when scary cards come that are likely to have hit the other player’s range, you usually want to go ahead and bet. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, very few players will call the turn again. They will usually fold or raise. Once I play someone often, I make some notes on how they react to the flop check raise because I use it a lot. When someone folds on a board like T75(2) and they raised from middle position, they are most likely folding overcards. Getting about 10:1, this is a pretty terrible fold, but you will see it from some players. Better players will not fold overcards in this spot, so you can usually deduce things about their pre-flop range. Usually, you will get folds from a hand like ATs when the board is Q75(2) because they figure they only have three outs and even then they may not be good. If a better player folds on the T75(2) board, he was either raising A9- or really weak suited connectors. I’m always trying to figure out what people’s ranges are, so this is a good spot to look for clues. The main thing you are trying to figure out when they take this line is what that says about their raising range or their post-flop play. On that particular board, there are very few suited connectors that they would fold. They are either raising A9- or something like 44/33 that they are unwilling to call down with. The fact that so many players take this line is what makes the check-raise so profitable. You should see this line most often on Kxx or Qxx flops or when the board pairs on the turn. This is because those textures are the most likely to both miss the pre-flop raiser and to scare him. When you see someone take this line on a board like the T75(2) example, you should start check-raising lighter, because he is almost certainly giving up too much value. Watch for the flop check-raise and this line when you aren’t in the hand too, because the more often someone does this, the more profitably you can attack them. If they fold too much, you can add more bluffs to your range.

2. Call flop raise, raise turn lead.

On a dry board against most opponents, this will signify an overpair. In fact, against the “right” player, you can fold to this line on the turn when you were on a pure bluff. Generally, only very aggressive and bluffy players with raise the turn on a dry board without a big hand. When you check raise a flop like T75, the other player will usually put you on a hand like JT or KT — top pair with a weakish kicker. If the turn doesn’t change anything most players will only raise when they have AT or better there. Usually you will have to peel the turn even when you know he has a strong hand. Let’s say you defended with 76 and get raised on the T75(2) turn. Even though you are pretty sure he is on AT+, you are getting 7.5:1 to see one more card. You are going to collect at least one more bet on the river, so you really need 5 clean outs and that’s what you have. You also have some great “implied tilt odds” because when you catch a six and check-raise the river to crack his Kings, he is going to have a meltdown. You do have to watch out for sets, which will also play this way. Another factor that will significantly increase the chance of a bluff is if the board picks up a draw. If your opponent is observant and knows that you check-raise a lot, he may bluff raise the turn when he catches a backdoor flush draw or a straight draw (especially with overcards). Some players will know that you fear Aces and will raise the when the board comes T75(A) and they don’t have an Ace. This is where knowing the other player is useful, because you are going to have a river decision to make. It is important to be able to estimate the percentage of his hands that include bluffs based on the board texture. In general, I will let go pure bluffs and gutshot draws to this line and call open-ended draws or pairs. If you are getting better odds because of a cold-caller, obviously call more. If you have to fold the turn to this line, mentally increase the odds of a bluff the next time someone takes it against you.

The river presents another challenge. You will be getting a big price to call (nearly 10:1), so you have to have a good understanding of what cards are in his range. If he could be bluffing a busted draw, you will probably have to call down. This sounds like you will always have to call down, but you actually don’t. If you are facing a player who is fairly tight post-flop, especially one who has shown a tendency to check behind with medium strength hands on the river, you can actually fold smaller pairs fairly safely. These players will normally only bet the river with a strong hand or a busted draw. Very few players can call your check-raise, raise the turn and fire again on the river without a pretty strong holding. If the board had a dry texture where his turn range included no logical semi-bluffs, I lay down a wide variety of hands on the river. It is very important that you understand the difference between different situations. If a hand developed multi-way and one player was leading the whole way, I might call his third bet on the river getting less than 10:1 with even weak pairs. This betting pattern conveys a lot more strength and I would generally respect it from all but the most LAG players. This advice applies more to full ring than six max.

To summarize, I handle this line as follows: (1) Three bet two pair or better (this line is more often than not an overpair). Of course this doesn’t apply to flush boards or four straight boards or the like, where I’d call down. You would also tend to just call down with weaker two pair hands against a player who tends to fold a lot, because their range includes way too many monsters. (2) Only fold if the texture is dry and you don’t have outs to beat top pair and the other player is straightforward. (3) Call everything else, but consider folding the river if you can’t beat a bluff or if the board was dry on the turn and your gut says your hand is no good. I usually call down much, much lighter than you probably do and I find a surprising number of folds on the river. When I called down more, I found out that I was beat an extremely high percentage of the time.

3. Fold to flop raise.

Do a dance. Sing a song of praise to the poker Gods. These guys are awesome. You were giving him 7.5:1 and he probably had undercards, like suited connectors to a high flop or a low pair with all overcards. If you play against him a lot, you are probably getting into his head and he just doesn’t want to tangle with you. If you don’t know him, he is probably a pretty timid player. If you see a guy fold here when he raised from MP, you can be absolutely certain that when he takes line 2, he has an overpair or better. I play against players whom I have check-raised many hundreds of times who have never taken this line. Against a good player, this is usually a sign that he is raising light. Usually you have caught him in an ill-advised blind steal. If he ever does this from EP, he’s probably a fish. Guys who take this line obviously get a lot more of the same. The fact that they will use this line generally makes them easier to play because you have a lot more information when they take a different approach. When you see people take this line, you can increase the number of hands you check-raise the flop with.

4. Three bet flop.

This line is the one that I dislike the most. Some players never take it, using only lines 1 and 2. I find them easier to play because it is easier to read their hand. Some players will mix up 1, 2 and 4. That is actually pretty helpful because if they use both 2 and 4, they are probably telling you something about their hand. Most players will prefer to take this line when they have a free card in the back of their mind. If the board is draw-heavy, they probably have one. If the board is dry, they probably have overcards. Aggressive players particularly like this line with AK. If you know that the other player uses line 2, you should generally play as if he is on a draw. If you don’t know him, you can play more defensively.

I generally prefer to just call the three bet and reevaluate the turn. If you cap the flop with hands like top pair, you are probably giving money away even to hands you are currently beating. If he holds two overcards and the flush draw, he is actually the money favorite there. However, if you aren’t willing to cap hands like top pair, you are giving away a lot of information when you cap two pair or better. I used to play where I capped drawing hands (so that I had a chance to win without hitting) and big hands and called one pair type hands. Now I usually call pretty much everything. I’m actually not sure which line I like best, because I don’t play very many players who take this line, so I don’t have a lot of data yet.

When I just call the three bet, I tend to donk the turn fairly often. If the board had a flush draw that didn’t come in or was dry and no ace or king came, I don’t want to allow the other guy to have his free card. I also do this with stronger hands so that when he raises his overpair I can punish him with three bets. If I just had one pair and he raises again, I’d usually have to peel getting 8.5:1. At this point, I can’t really give you a cookie cutter line. I know players who take the free showdown line a ton and I’ve actually called the flop 3 bet, donked the turn and called a raise and donked the river again. Think about his range and what hands are likely. Let’s say you flopped a crappy two pair from the BB and the board was two diamonds. The turn is an offsuit Ace and you donk and he raises. If you think it is likely that he was raising the nut flush draw on the flop and raising the pair of Aces, you should three bet. You are a 63% favorite against top pair with a flush draw.

5. Call flop raise, call turn.

This is almost always a weak hand. Normally you will see this from poor players who have a small pocket pair and they are hell-bent on showdown. Probably your image is very bluffy and they can’t stand to let it go. On our hypothetical T75(2) board, it could also be a hand like A5s which has enough to call down but doesn’t want to get frisky or a draw like 98s. Some players will also play AK unimproved like this, especially if you play at lower limits. Your decision is pretty much poker 101. On the river, do you beat middle pair or not? If there is a possible busted draw, do you get more value to check and hope he bluffs or do you get more calls from weaker pairs? If you have a weak hand like third pair, do you have a better chance of getting a call from a weaker hand or do you have a better chance of getting a better hand to check behind? Could you ever get a fold from a better hand?

poker Strategy

Check-raising the flop for fun and profit, Part One

First things first. I may have “stole” some of this material from a number of poker books. At this point, I have read so much and forgot even more, so I no longer remember which ideas are my own and which ideas I learned from the greats. Also, I make no promises that this is all bulletproof advice. Just like anyone, I have leaks in my game. Some of what I do might work for me because of my image and may not work for you. Some of what I do probably doesn’t work for me and I don’t know any better. If you think an idea is nuts, feel free to me why either here or at ITH. I’m always happy when I learn something new.

For the most part, I use the flop check-raise from the BB, usually when I have defended my blind against a single raiser (or sometimes when a raiser raised a limper who has tagged along). The limper who tagged along is usually a bozo and doesn’t change too much.  You should not be heads-up from the SB too often, because usually you should be 3 betting form the SB when you intend to play, especially against a loose raiser or when you have a vulnerable hand like 77.  Sometimes, I might have a hand like A6s where I just call from the SB and the BB folds anyhow and I would be in the same situation, but usually I’m 3 betting or folding from the SB.  There are a few other “standard” check-raise situations that you should probably know about.

For instance, if you have seen a flop with multiple limpers from a blind and the flop is relatively harmless, you often are correct to raise if it checks around to the button (or the virtual button, whoever is last to act) and he bets. Any good aggressive player is going to be tempted to bet in position when the entire field checks. If the flop is dry and raggy, he probably didn’t connect with it. You can profitably check-raise any two quite frequently in this spot. Other limpers who checked once are rarely going to be willing to call two cold here, especially if you have chosen a dry flop that doesn’t give many draw-chasers a shot. People love to chase overcards for one bet on the flop, but two bets cause them to back away quite nicely. If the Button just calls you, you pretty much have to fire away at the turn again. That will take it down a ridiculous percentage of the time.

The other classic check-raise situation is a very big hand or very big draw when you act immediately before the pre-flop raiser. You know he is going to bet and you can usually trap the field for two (or maybe even three!) bets. Use this for big flush draws and sets and the like. Don’t misunderstand the relative strength of your hand. With two pair, you are vulnerable and would usually rather bet into the raiser and see him raise it up and chase away the other players.

But these aren’t the situations I want to discuss. I’m interested here in blind defense against a single raiser. If your games don’t put you in this situation very often, you aren’t going to find this series that useful. I’m jealous, because games where you find multiple players seeing every flop are much better games than the games I play, but the dynamics of those tables are different. In my games, the guys in late position are going to find something worth raising nearly all the time. I’m usually going to be defending my blind with a extremely wide range against these guys, because they are raising me with a similarly wide range. Against early positions raisers I will tighten up, but basically I’m adjusting to their projected range. PokerTracker says I fold my BB to a steal about 30% of the time and my VP$IP in the BB is about 45%, so I’m probably looser than you in the BB. My W$WSF is 36% from the BB and I lose about 0.22 BB/hand from that seat.

So, when do you check-raise? Obviously, we start out with those hands where we connect with the flop. In general, if I catch a piece of the board, I’m looking to check-raise. It would give away too much information to the more observant opponents if I only did this with medium hands and played my monsters differently, so I’m going to have to handle both of them the same. If I started with a pocket pair, I’ll be check-raising pretty much every flop. There are exceptions which are based on the other players range and how it connects with the flop. If the other player is very tight pre-flop and very showdown bound, then holding 22 on a board of A98 is a pretty bad situation against an EP raise. If you believe his range from UTG is something like AA-TT/AK, then you should just check-fold there. In general, on Ace-high flops against tight raisers, I will not checkraise unless I believe that they can be scared off of a hand like JJ by aggression. In my games, people who call down with AJ unimproved are much more common than people who fold JJ, so it won’t happen that often. Even against looser late position raisers, Ace high flops are mostly bad news. Until someone’s pre-flop raise percentage goes up to extremely high levels, they will still be very heavily weighted towards Aces.

Heads-up, I absolutely never donk bet. I will check-call, check-fold and check-raise, with a strong preference for the latter two. We’ve discussed check-raising when you hit the flop (with a few exceptions), but if you check-fold when you miss and check-raise when you hit, you are going to be pretty easy to play against. Worse than that, if you start with unpaired and unsuited cards, you are going to miss about 67% of the time. So we’re going to have to mix in some bluffs as well. The most obvious spot is to check-raise when you pick up a draw. Any flush draw or open-ended straight draw is a clear spot for the check-raise. Any gutshot plus an overcard or two is a good spot. However, even just check-raising the draws is not enough, in my opinion. This is where you have to consider how likely the flop was to fit in with the aggressor’s range. If he raised UTG, you tend to give up easier (and call fewer hands pre-flop). If he raised on the Button, you tend to raise a lot more, because his range includes a whole lot of crap. A non-intuitive concept is that you are usually better off check-raising King or Queen high boards than all rags. If the board is all rags he is more likely to hold overcards and more likely to correctly peel one and hope to catch. The pair that you are representing make not scare him that much. If you do check-raise the raggy flop, you have to be careful if the turn brings an overcard. A King-high flop is a lot better most of the time. If he raised with suited connectors that whiffed, he may figure that his outs are no good against your likely pair of Kings. Additionally, a King is not that likely to help him. I like to bluff on Queen high boards against loose raisers as well. As I have advocated before, time spent playing around with pre-flop raise percentages and how they fit with various boards is often helpful. If the player is especially loose, I’ll take a shot at monotone boards and paired boards more often as well. On a board of something like T77, the other guy will assume that a flop check-raise from you means you have a ten every single time.

The other factor involves your opponent’s tendencies. Some guys will actually fold to the check-raise then and there. If they do it often, you need to oblige them by check-raising more often. The other pattern that is going to earn you a steady diet of check-raises from me is the guy who calls every time on the flop and folds the turn fairly often. At the other end of the spectrum, some guys are extremely stubborn and will call down most of the time with unimproved Aces or small pairs. You are going to be forced to bluff a little less against them (and you want to be more like them against me). Other players are hyper-aggro, tending to three-bet with unimproved AK/AQ hands and much worse. These guys are fine for you and you should bluff them the usual amount (we’ll talk about why later).

So we have the skeleton of a plan now. We’re going to check-raise most every time we connect with the flop, unless it is a real bad flop in terms of hitting his range (like Ace high against a tight EP raiser who isn’t folding ever). We’re going to check-raise when we called pre-flop with a pair. We’re going to check-raise when we have even fairly weak draws. If the other player has enough weaknesses (he raises too loose and the flop was bad for his range or he likes to fold too much), we’ll check-raise most every flop unless we’ve been in his face a lot lately. I would guess that I end up check-raising about 60% of the flops where I call pre-flop, check-calling about 10% and check-folding about 30%. I think PokerTracker 3 can tell me that, but I don’t know for sure.

Next installment, I’ll talk about how the other guy is going to react and what you should do in turn.

poker Strategy

A tip that might help you improve your game

Suited had the idea for me to write this particular blog entry.  I was telling her about an experience I had last night where someone started to berate me for being such a bad player.  This happens to me fairly often because I seem to play a bit different than anyone else I see.  I make fairly outrageous bluffs that sometimes backfire or I will call down with fairly weak hands or I will three bet with 33 or whatever and people think that my play is atrocious.  Sometimes it probably is, but more often there is a method to my madness that the other player doesn’t understand.  In this particular case, the other player went into a fairly extended rant about how badly I play and included a line similar to “I don’t know how you always seem to win, you are such a moron.”  I was telling Suited that this should be a red flag for any thinking player.  If you see someone regularly beating a game and you think they are making stupid plays, you should give careful thought to what they are doing because there is a very good chance that they know something that you don’t.

When I was a beginning player building up my bankroll at the low limit tables, I used to railbird icfishies, who was at the time the highest stakes player at ITH.  I watched often and I saw a lot of plays from him and others that made no sense to me.  They certainly weren’t going to be found in the pages of any of the poker books I had read at that point.  I slowly started to build an opinion of who was a great player and who was merely good or average.  At the 100/200 game, the merely good were losing money in those days.  I learned which players were winning over time and I paid more attention to what they did.  I realized that the winning players shared a number of characteristics.  They won a lot more pots without showdown than other players did.  They made plays that I had previously scoffed at and labeled as “calling station” plays in other situations.  When I would see them make big failed bluffs, I realized that a lot of the other pots where they took the same line were also often bluffs and tried to understand why they picked those particular spots to bluff.

When I saw that a particular player at my levels was winning or was causing me problems or making me uncomfortable at the table, I tried to figure out what they were doing and how I could adopt their tactics into my play.  When a player that I respected did something that seemed dumb, I made sure to give it some extra thought to try to figure out if it really was a mistake that they made or if it might be something that made them better that I didn’t understand yet.

I often see people post about what a fish their opponent was when I actually think that their play made sense.  Certainly, some people are fish, but you should make sure that this guy you think is a fish isn’t really a shark in fish’s clothing.  Spend some time in poker tracker looking at the hands of the big winners in your database to figure out if they know something you don’t.  Rail some of the 100/200 or 200/400 games and see if you don’t learn something.  I like to watch a guy named “PapaWarbucks” on stars.  He is one of the high stakes posters from 2+2 (I forget which one now) and I’ve picked up a number of cool tricks from him.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t play all that often.

poker Strategy

An essay on being an effective big-stack bully

I got a nice message from one of my poker buds asking me to elaborate on how I “bully” the table as a big stack. He mentioned that he often loses a lot of money using this approach, which suggests that he does it wrong. I thought it might have enough general interest to post here instead of replying by email.

First of all, consider if you want to bully at all. At some stages, a big chip leader has no business getting involved in a lot of pots. If you are a big chip leader, but the tourney is still in the middle stages and the blinds are still relatively small, you should play tighter, not looser! If you have enough chips to be a mid-stack at the final table when 50 players are left, you don’t need to do very much. Wait for big hands and just cherry-pick the very best stealing situations. A big stack donking off his chips in the middle going in a pot he didn’t even need to be involved with is sad. Don’t be that guy! Also, consider the table conditions. Is the table hyper-aggressive and your reputation not that good? Then don’t bully. Wait for your spot and pounce!

If you are still with me, you believe that you are in a position to be the bully. You have a lot of chips and you want to get more so that you can win this thing. Maybe you are the chip leader at your fairly timid table, but you are not in great overall position. Maybe you aren’t going to go hog-wild, but you want to do a better job in the spots where you do apply pressure. Here are the three main tools of the bully:

1. Blind Steals

Everyone knows about blind stealing for fun and profit. It is an essential part of tourney strategy late in the game. As a big stack, the dynamic changes a bit for you. You are something to be feared (you could bust every one of them) and something to be coveted (you can give that ever-elusive double). There are a couple of keys to effective bullying. First, you lower your raising requirements. Middle pairs and hands like ATs that you would have thrown away earlier are now clear raising hands. When you have a good hand, you can raise it up no matter what the rest of this section says because you don’t mind if you get called when you raised 99 or AQ. You want them to think you could be getting great cards all the time. You should also always raise big hands like KK or AA because this might be the moment that they decide to get a spine. Also when you get cute and limp and then show down KK, what does that tell everyone about your other raises? I should also say a word about bet sizing. Once the blinds and antes start to get serious, I tend to lower my standard pre-flop raise from 3x BB to 2.5x BB. It seems to still win the blinds about as often and saves me some money when I fold to a resteal.
Raising with slightly looser requirements is one thing, but most everyone understands that. The next big step is raising with absolute crap. The art of raising with crap is knowing when to do it. You need to look around your table and pick your targets. First of all, you want to identify the tightest players. Many tourneys feature nits who have made it deep by playing 7% of their hands and still inexplicably getting action when they play AA. These guys are dead meat for you. If one of them is on the blind and you are the first-in, jump on them. They like to fold, you like chips, everyone is happy. The next thing to look at is chip stacks. Really big stacks will look at your 2.5 BB raise and the antes and the big ole pot odds and implied odds and toss in a few more chips every time. This means you’ll have to risk another 3 or 4 BBs on the flop to take their money and run the risk of getting hurt. You don’t like that. Avoid the big stacks without a hand unless they are tight or unimaginative. By unimaginative, I mean someone who has shown a tendency to call pre-flop and check-fold the flop a lot. You are happy to play with those guys. Finally, avoid raising the small stacks. They might feel too short to fold or they might make a “what the hell” push with modest holdings. You would rather not have to call them with 83s and show the table just what you have been up to. In a certain range, their push would require you to call with any two. You don’t want to raise someone with crap if you would obligated to call when they push no matter what. Avoid the shorties, unless you have the other factors working in favor of a steal.

In addition to chip stacks, you should look for certain situations. The most obvious one is the payout bubble. As the bubble nears, everyone gets very very defensive. You want to maximize your stealing in this situation. Whereas you usually want to appear that you might be raising legitimate hands, you don’t really care if they know you are raising with crap on the bubble, because they still won’t call you even when they know you are robbing them blind. This also repeats on the final table bubble, because the big payouts start to come into play. Sometimes at the final table, a short stack will clearly decide that they can fold into 5th and they’d rather do that than try to win. If you see someone in that mode, take their chips.
Finally, we should briefly discuss how you will handle being reraised. If you were raising slightly looser than usual, but have a semi-reasonable hand, you would usually call — especially if the guy who came over the top of you isn’t already committed to the pot. If he is already pretty much stuck to the pot, evaluate it the same you would evaluate calling an all-in (outside the scope of this little talk, although I think I’ve posted about that math elsewhere). If you were raising with trash then it is trickier. If you have a reasonable chance to use technique 2 below, generally call him. Especially in position. If you are out of position, he has been reasonably tight and/or you don’t think he has enough chips to fold post-flop you should walk away to fight another day. When you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar raising crap and have to lay it down to a resteal, don’t insta-fold. You might as well hold up a sign reading “I’m full of shit.” I also don’t like to showboat and take forever to decide. Take a little while, but don’t showboat. Some players can effectively ask the other guy what he has or say “I’m not sure I can fold this pair” or some BS. When you take a while to decide and/or chat it up, some players cannot resist showing their AA or their bluff. This is a very desirable side effect and you should encourage that as much as possible.

2. Take some flops and force them to make tough decisions post-flop

This is really the key tool in the bully arsenal. Stack sizes are everything here. You can call raises a bit looser with your big stack. You are looking for situations where you will win the pots where neither of you hit the flop good. Obviously, he is going to win with AA or when he flops two pair or some other good fit and you will win when you flop good. However, the majority of hands will result in a flop that doesn’t hit either one of you. As the big stack, you have a much better chance to win these pots. Taking a stab at the pot doesn’t risk as much for you as it does for them. Take advantage of this by seeing some flops, especially in position. You should also defend your BB more actively — you’ll take it away from them and they’ll stop trying to steal and you’ll get a free ride a lot more.

The most critical aspect of doing this effectively is bet sizing. As you undoubtedly know, in the later stages of a tourney a shorter stack should no longer raise pre-flop — he should just push. The reason is so that no one will consider calling or re-raising with a plan to put a move on him later. By doing so, the short stack maxmizes his fold equity and ensures that his opponents will have no fold equity to use against him. You can’t bluff an all-in player. You will want to use that same principle. If you are looking at a pot of 10k and your opponent has 10k left, a bet of 10k will ensure that he doesn’t think he can raise you off the pot. He has to decide between calling you and showing the best hand or folding. He will hesitate to call with even a modest hand because he doesn’t want to go home, especially on a modest holding. But let’s think a bit deeper. Did you really have to bet his entire stack to achieve this same effect? What if you had bet 5k? You have now cut your risk of loss in half (you are only risking 5k) but he has essentially the same decision to make. He doesn’t want to raise you with air, because you would have to call 5k to win 25k. You aren’t going to fold there, so a bluff makes no sense for him at all. You have threatened him with losing his entire remaining 10k without risking 10k of your own. This is the critical tool of the big stack bully. You need to size your bets so that the other player believes that calling is essentially deciding to risk his tourney life on this hand, but you want to do this with the smallest bet that will achieve this goal. This is part math and part psychology, but the magic point is usually around half the other player’s remaining stack. If betting half his stack would be a stupid overbet, obviously don’t do that. If you both have comfortable playing stacks, then just play poker. I’d still use my big stack to take more stabs at pots than usual, but now you make more typical bets of half to three quarters of the pot (maybe even the whole pot, depending on the situation).

When you call from the BB, you have to think about stack sizes there too. If the other player is going to commit himself to the pot with a bet, don’t try to check-raise bluff him. He will feel like he is marching off a cliff, but he’ll have to call. If the pot size and his stack dictate that a continuation bet will stick him to pot, then you have to make the first stab. Make a lead bet on the flop that requires him to make a decision. If you check and he checks behind, it is probably more worth a stab at the pot on the turn.

In general, your big stack allows you take more shots at pots that look like they might go unclaimed. You should dial up your willingness to take a shot at them. This includes those silly small bets into family pots that you would usually never make. A small bet from a big stack into a family pot is much scarier than the idiots who min-bet in level 2. I promise you.

Finally, consider the classic raise a buncha limpers ploy. The open-limper probably has crap and the callers probably have crap. You can often take it down with a nice raise there. This one is a bit more risk, but again — you have chips so you can take more chances than the next guy.

3. Resteal

Most big stacks do this too often and #2 not enough. Resteal logic is much like steal logic. Look for the right players to do it from (either they should be raising too often or they should be in a real obvious steal situation where they are likely to be doing it with air). Look for the right cards to do it with (a good playable hand that you don’t hate showing down). If you get both, of course you should resteal. If you only have one, look to the stack sizes. Don’t resteal from the people who can’t afford to fold. A shorter stack is going to go ahead and go all-in with 66 where he might have folded the flop if you smooth called and pushed. His AQ is going to look a lot less pretty on the K99 flop. Unlike steals, you can tend to resteal more from bigger stacks. They are more likely to be stealing with air and more unhappy about tangling with you of all people. Of course, pay attention. If a guy hasn’t raised since Carter was in office, just lay your 88 down.
A less obvious factor is that you like to resteal from the people to your immediate right. You want them scared to make moves in front of you, so that you have more opportunities to steal yourself. A few well-timed resteals will keep them in line.

I hope some of these help you to be a better bully. Don’t try it on my table, though. That would be rude.