dougtales You have tripled-up or better, and now sit on well over 400 big blinds. What do you do? No doubt, it’s a good problem to have. Coach Doug Hull has some useful tips and additional resources to teach you how to avoid leveling yourself and hold on to your riches:

I recently got a question from a poker friend. They wanted to know what to do when they come to the point where they have gotten to a triple-up in their cash game. This is an enviable situation. There are some common concerns in this spot. Let’s take a look at them and some resources where the Red Chip Poker podcast has discussed them already.


Should I start to bully the table?

This is a common reaction and often a misconception. You are never the “chip leader” at a cash game. At most, you are going to be “tied for first” because of effective stacks. If you have just achieved a personal record for flopping sets and getting paid and ran your $300 stack up to $1800, you really do not have $1800 at risk. Look at the next biggest stack, if it is $500 then you are really not abnormally deep since you are $500 deep and only with that particular player. There may be an emotional or psychological rush to having this monster stack, but it has no basis in math.

Second, people constantly get this wrong, but it is the short stacks that are (or should be) the bullies at the table. Listen here for the podcast on short stacking in cash games. A short example that illustrates this:

The other deep stack player with $500 at the $1-2 game opens UTG for $15. it is folded around to you on the button. With a nice suited connector like 78s you are delighted to see a flop. Listen here for more from Ed Miller and Doug Hull on these speculative hands. This holding does not hit a strong hand very often, but when it does, it is likely to be a nutted hand that is worthy of getting these stacks in with. Also, with position and plenty of post-flop action to come, this hand will do well against the other deep player.

While you are dreaming of flops like 269 with your flush draw on board, a very rude short stack of $80 ships all-in from the big blind. Your intended victim folds and now you must also. All of the advantages and potential reward you had against the deep stack just vanished. Your strategy at this point versus the short stack is to show him the winning hand at showdown. You are not going to be able to do that often enough to justify the $65 to win the $110 in the pot.

This is how the little short stack can and should be bullying you and your deep stack. As Rorschach said in the Watchmen “None of you seem to understand, I am not locked in here with you, you are locked in here with me!”

Should I lock up a win?

James and I covered the “lock up a win” fallacy in a podcast all about when to buy in and cash out in poker.

Presuming you are a winning player, the chips in front of you represent only a small amount of the chips you have won over a lifetime. When I look at my chart from the last 7000 hours of play, even the largest stack I have ever wielded at a table is about one pixel tall. Unnoticeable.

Life is one long poker game. The times you check in and out of the game are unimportant. It is like in the stock market, watching your stocks daily is a sure path to madness. I took out a ton of volatility from the stock market by only looking to see where things were at once a month rather than daily. I think the same thing is true in poker.

It is tough, but realizing and truly embracing that this session does not matter is the answer. You can not time the market, you can not time the game.

An exception: This is not grounded in math. About a year ago, a Red Chipper suffering an inevitable downswing texted me his story. I responded “Nit it up, book a win.” If having this win on the books is going to have a good psychological effect, book it. Maybe it turns your miserable down swing month into a break-even month. Maybe you have never booked a four-figure win at $1-$2. For newer players, maybe you have never doubled up. If the unquantifiable personal psychological aspects of this win matter, do it. Don’t make it a habit to leave good games, but sometimes it is right for you.

Showing 3 comments
  • Don

    Good post. Sounds like my 1|2 game last week. Two nights of grinding. First night early up to 3x buy-in, to loose it all to a gambler looking and finding a straight flush on the river. Buy-in again, regrind to even for both buy-ins then leave. Next night, grind and leave up x3. Feels good but two nights average is really up x1.5 and up x2 for the month. It’s a marathon, but keep track for sure.

  • Michael

    Great article, and great example with the shortie squeeze shoving. One general question: When you do build up a monster stack in cash (or are perceived to have positive momentum from winning pots over the last few orbits), have you ever had the experience where many others at the table seem to start to fear you a little more and you are able to take down more pots (your PFRs get through a little more often, your cbets get through a little more often, etc.)?

    I’m unable to quantify this, but I have experienced this many times. I’ve also experienced the inverse in cash: if I have been playing for two hours and am still stuck on a 100bb stack, or have been seen to be losing pots recently (e.g. betting and eventually having to fold later in the hand, or I haven’t shown down a strong hand in the past hour), then I am less likely to get credit for having a strong hand at this moment and more likely to get resistance/action when I open-raise, cbet, etc.

    Have others experienced the same?

  • Doug Hull

    Thanks for the kind words. Often your image is not “loose or tight” but “winning or losing”.