Playing In 100 BB Games
In the online world, 100 big blind games are easily the most popular buy in format. In live poker, they are quite rare. Regardless of where you play, however, the basic strategies in each won't vary all that much. Deep stacked and short stacked games play very differently from one another, and 100 bb games are the perfect medium. In fact, if you are familiar with typical play at both extremes, it wouldn't be too hard for you to take a guess at how the 100 big blind games tend to play out. They have their aggression, they have their passiveness, but it's the mixture of the two that truly defines this type of poker.
The first thing that needs to be noted is that 100 big blind play generally refers to cash game play. While you may very well be in tournaments or sit and gos that are playing this deep, they will have a unique set of skills and strategy unto themselves. For this reason, you should use the advice in this article when considering cash games alone.
A 100 big blind game will largely depend on what the minimum buy in for the table is. If the rule is that anyone with 10 bbs can buy in, the table is going to be a lot different than what you would find if the minimum was 50 bbs. There are even some games that have min and max buy ins that are one in the same, leaving a minimal gap between most stacks at any table. Most of the strategy in this article will hold true regardless of what the minimum buy in is, but it's important to make adjustments should you be seated at a table where there are a number of shortstacks, because they will be making an impact on the dynamics of the game.
Pre-flop strategy in 100 bb Texas Hold'em games does call for playing a lot of pots. You should be playing slightly less than you would if you were deep stacked, but you shouldn't be tightening up. Provided you are at a decent table and/or have position, 100 big blinds is more than enough to aptly maneuver around hands with. You can call realistically priced raises, make 3-bets and fold, and not ever have a terribly dramatic effect on your chip stack. The important thing to remember with any pre-flop decision is how you are going to set yourself up for post-flop play. If you are calling 3-bets that cost you 20 big blinds and will leave your opponent with only 60 bbs, you may have miscalculated the profitability in your play. Though 100 bbs does tend to last, it can also be drained quite quickly if you aren't paying attention.
One of the biggest mistakes in pre-flop play at 100 big blind games is 4-bet folding. At tables with this type of buy in structure (or a table that just happens to be playing at this level), 4-bets are a commitment to the hand. This is one of the reasons why 4-bet bluffs make so little sense. If you are making a pre-flop move, you should generally have an exit route planned. A failed 3-bet can get out of the way with damaged caused, but not complete annihilation. A 4-bet, on the other hand, should mean that you aren't going anywhere. This is both an illustration of why a 4-bet bluff works and why it's a bad idea at the same time.
Eventually you are going to price yourself into a call no matter what two cards you actually hold. Pretend that you were in late position with K3 suited and decided to raise in an attempt to steal. You get re-raised by the big blind. If you are playing $1/$2 and opened to $7, an average 3-bet will be somewhere in the $20 range. At this point you have two options: fold or commit to the hand. A fold is fine and will have only cost you $20, but a 4-bet means that you are now putting in around $60.
If you get re-raised, the pot is now being played for $200 per person. It will cost you $140 more for the chance to win $400 anything else in the middle. At $140 to $400 you are sitting at 3.5:10. Against most hands you should be able to win around this range, if not a little bit off. There's no doubt that you are going to be an underdog, but you can't exactly donate $60 here. As you can see from this example, tricky pre-flop plays in a 100 bb game can very easily get you into a much larger mess than you bargained for.
Post-flop play isn't quite as straightforward as it is pre-flop. You'll have a little bit of room to make some plays, but you shouldn't be going wild. 100 bb stacks just don't lend themselves to plays that require your opponent folding. When you are in a deep stacked game you'll be able to make post-flop check raises and raises that scare away the other players because they don't want to lose several hundred big blinds without the nuts. In 100 big blind games, players will be less apprehensive because they have less on the line. What you should take from all of this is that your opponents are less likely to fold to your bluffs and are more likely to call down light.
Just as you'll have a tough time trying to make plays that are designed to get folds from other players, you will have an easier time getting opponents to put their money in the middle without super strong hands. Check raises on the turn, for example, are usually an extreme sign of strength that a good player will pick up on and will be able to fold to or at least slow down in the face of. With a short stacked game though, many players feel like they have too much money invested into the pot to give up. They will make excuses like needing to pay to see it, or they will simply concede that they know they are beat but they will call anyway. Of course, the particular playing style of any given person will still need to play into how you approach these types of moves.
Value betting with big hands and not getting too fancy is really what it's all about in post-flop 100 bb games. This could be said about most any type of poker, but the big winners in deep stack games do need to have the skills to make complex post-flop plays, where in most limits 100 big blind games just don't require exceptional post-flop skills. Straightforward play can be mundane and does get boring from time to time, but it's worth sticking to because it's a proven winning strategy in these games. If you want to get creative with your play and use a more aggressive strategy, deeper stacked games will create a better opportunity for profit. 100 big blind poker may not be the most glamorous form of the game, but there's no shortage of money flowing in and out of these tables, both online and in the casinos.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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