Deep stack poker has always been the Holy Grail with regards to being able to make money playing either live or online. In fact one sure sign if you ever play poker online is in the sheer number of minimum stack players that you see everywhere you look. If deep stack poker were easy to learn then there would not be anywhere near the sheer number of minimum stack cash game players around that there are today. So just what makes deep stack play so difficult for novice players or even intermediate players for that matter?
Fundamentally there are two reasons as to why novice no limit hold’em players struggle with this form of poker. The first is in the difficulty in being able to make big hands in games like no limit hold’em. In limit hold’em then you can take a hand like top pair all the way to the river and this is simply because of the structured nature of the betting. However in no limit hold’em then the pot grows geometrically and so as we go beyond the flop then you have the potential to lose your entire buy in on one single hand of poker.
Knowing that your opponent may be bluffing and knowing that they are going to find it difficult to make a strong hand means that bluffs are more likely to succeed in no limit hold’em. This of course leads to more players attempting to bluff than in games like limit hold’em. However in no limit hold’em then the bets and raises that you have to make when you bluff and semi-bluff are either a fair percentage of what is in the pot or more than what is in the pot currently. So this means that your strike rate of successful bluffs to non-successful bluffs needs to be very high.
In order for your success strike rate at bluffing to be very high then you have to pick and choose the right moments to bluff and this requires experience and skill. Any fool can bluff at a pot and be successful but your overall profit and loss is dictated by how successful you are long term. The second reason comes down to discipline and is an often understated reason for failure in no limit hold’em. The bottom line in no limit play is that you can actually win a very large percentage of the hands that you play and you can still be a net loser overall.
The following example although extreme is very instructive. Let us say that you play 100 pots at $1-$2 no limit hold’em and you win 90 of those 100 pots. This gives you a 90% strike rate but if your winning pots equate to no more than say a few blind steals or pots won with c-bets then your average winning pot may be only small. Let us say that your average winning pot is $10 and so those 90 pots give you $900 in profit. However if you make several big errors that cost you your entire $200 buy-in and your average losing pot is say $95 when you do lose then you are behind by $50 over those 100 pots despite winning 90% of them.