Understanding SPR and how to play stack sizes right is a big lesson I learned and feel it is one of the most critical elements of long-term poker play that protects you from spewing chips and gaining maximum value where you can.

The idea of SPR (Stack to Pot Ratio) is that the degree of difference between your stack and the pot you are making a decision on matters and influences how you should play.

IE : A stack of $10,000 with a pot of $5,000 is a SPR of 2:1 whilst a stack of $10,000 and a pot of $1,000 is a SPR of 10:1.

The higher the SPR, the bigger your stack is to the big blind/big bet on the table.

In a cash game this is where you have either playing a deep stack game or have won enough from those around the table that you are looking at a stack many multiples of the maximum buy-in.

In a tournament this is more how stacked you are to the blinds and represents your position in the tournament, higher the better.

Furthermore, before I explain the benefits of understanding SPR, its important to make sure you are using the effective SPR, not your own. The effective SPR is the lowest SPR of your opponent assuming a 1:1 headsup situation. So if you have $50k chips and your opponent has $5k, it doesn't matter if your SPR is very high, you can only ever win the blinds, antes and his stack in a best case scenario so you treat the SPR as from his perspective rather than yours.

So, whats the point in looking at SPR?

The idea is that the bigger the SPR figure, the more you are relying on monster hands to win. Think of it this way, if both you and your opponent have 500BB, thats a very deep stack game and its going to be very hard to get all of his chips, it may take a long time and its unlikely you will get them in one hand. It is possible to do it of course but when in a hand you are both considering the risk of losing your whole stack to action as well as getting the other persons chips, so you are only wanting to risk that with the nut hand and such a hand that cant be outdrawn. The closer you are to this ideal situation, the safer you are and the more likely you will be to get paid off in the situation where your opponent also has a monster but yours is better.

For this reason, you are looking at stacking off with Full house, Quads, Nut flush or Nut straight (if no flush possible). Sets are nice but it is top set on a dry board to be good here and anything else such as Two Pair and a Pair won't likely hold up in an all-in pot for such deep stacks.

Think of it logically. If the minimum bet is 1BB, you both have 500BB, going into the hand you might be upwards of 5x (puts 6.5x into the pot) opponent raises to 15x (now 21.5x in the pot) and you call (now 36.5x in the pot), the SPR for you both is still 13:1 which is quite high. To get each other to stack off here you are going to need to likely play all streets and the action is going to be VERY strong each betting round.

In that spot, unless both opponents are very risky and love to gamble, risking such a huge amount of money is not happening without the belief you can't be beat and in this extreme situation, you are still unlikely to get someone to stack off but even to take a big amount of money from them is a challenge with high SPR, so you need massive showdown value because its very unlikely you can win this without showing down the best hand.

Hand selection for high SPR stacks is very much in the suited connector, nut flush draw and big pair range. AA is fine but its not as much of automatic win as it might be with small stack sizes.

On the flip side, low SPR is the reverse. You aren't risking as much from a stack size perspective and the rewards are stronger, for this you can still play a monster to pickup the pot but when both opponents are risking such a smaller SPR, best pair can be good there, it doesn't have to be a flush because decisions can be made early on (all in preflop or on the flop) and aren't dependant on seeing all cards to make a decision.

The idea is that if you are in a low SPR spot, assuming you didn't paint yourself into a very bad corner by moving from a large to small SPR through the course of a hand, you likely had a low SPR starting out and any improvement in your stack such as winning the blinds or getting a fold on the flop will improve your stack substantially.


So when you understand what the SPR is for you and your opponents, you can understand what hand it takes to win and know when you should be going to war with a pair or when you need to get away from a good but not the best hand against certain action, or from a certain opponent in a large SPR pot to avoid spewing your hard earned cash.

This then plays into the idea of pot geometry and if you want to try and play for a big or small pot. Sometimes its worth checking back one street for pot control when you have just a pair because although you expect to win with it, considering you have a high SPR and more streets to come, you might want to avoid bloating the pot by raising street after street only to have to fold to a shove when you feel you are beat and notice you gave away more than you needed.

Typically, a good rule of thumb is to judge the hand you know you have and you think your opponent has. If you have a monster, you want to drive the pot up as much as possible.. so if you don't have a monster but your opponent is looking to play for a bit pot, maybe they have a monster and you need to judge what they have and decide if you are willing to play a small or big pot with the cards you have and the action in front of you.

If your opponent is more agro than you, without showdown value it is very hard to take the lead and get them to fold so the sooner you can get away from the hand the better.

This isn't a must-do rule on playing hands, its just a bit of information on what SPR is and how you can use it.. I would still recommend researching SPR yourself, especially if you feel that you get stuck stacking off and your opponent always has the nuts. Chances are there were things you could have spotted sooner in each hand to get away from it by understanding how your opponent is thinking and what you need to show up with in a high SPR pot