Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stack-to-Pot Ratio, Part 2: What Does It Mean?

In the last post, I showed how to calculate SPR. In this post, I want to describe what SPR represents, and why it should be important to you.

SPR is effectively a measure of how much future risk you're undertaking (i.e., the potential loss of your entire stack) vs. the immediate reward for beginning to take that risk (i.e., the flop pot size). Another way to think about SPR is that the higher the ratio, the more maneuvering room you have after the flop to raise, re-raise, float, bluff, etc. Conversely, a low SPR means there is less maneuvering room. Said another way, low SPRs mean decisions are easier post flop and the relative risk is low. Ergo, the lower the SPR, the faster you get pot committed; the higher the SPR, the slower you should be to feeling pot committed.

Low SPR situations are simple to play. With a low SPR, you're not going to be able to do things like float the flop and check raise all-in on the turn as a bluff. Your opponent will essentially be pot committed by that point, and he will (rightfully) feel he needs to call, despite the strength you're representing. Further, implied odds tend to low with low SPRs; there simply isn't much money left behind to go after. For this reason, low SPRs mean draws and speculative hands are not very useful, but big cards and overpairs are.* If you've got a low enough SPR and a one pair hand on a coordinated flop, getting it all in is often the right play.

High SPR situations, on the other hand, offer a lot more ability to get tricky post-flop. High SPRs also mean that implied odds are good. It also, unfortunately, means that one pair hands rarely hold up by the river if you're getting action back from your opponent. This is why suited connectors, gappers, and other "small ball" hands that guys like Negreanu play are so profitable for them-- they're playing deep stack poker with high SPRs. Bluffing and "bust'em" hands make up a big part of their ranges, so it's difficult and dangerous to tangle with them unless you know what you're doing. Further, guys like this are also masters of dumping big one- (and even two-) pair hands on even semi-coordinated board and/or when they think their opponents' range hits the board.

In the next installment, I'll give some guidelines on what constitutes "high" and "low" SPRs.

All-in for now...
*This is the reason professional short stackers seem to only play pairs and big Aces. With their small stacks, they only play the types of hands that work well with low SPRs, and getting it all in preflop or on the flop is correct.

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