So this is a topic I’ve been thinking about recently and though I’d blog about it to share my thoughts with you.   The casino nearest to my house has recently converted all the $1-$3 NL games to Big Stack games from 100 BB cap games.  What this means is, you can always put enough money on the table to match the big stack.   So when a new table opens, everyone is still capped at a max $300 buy in.  But after the first hand is complete it becomes  a big stack cap.  In other words, let’s say in that first hand 2 players get all in, with one doubling up to $600.  The player who  just busted can rebuy up to $600 to match the big stack at the table.  And in fact, all the other players could, if they wished, top their stacks off to $600 as well.  The cap on the buy in/top off, for the rest of this game, is however much money the biggest stack at the table has.  If someone’s been on a heater and has 2K in front of them, a new player taking a seat could buy in directly for up to 2K.   This obviously changes the game a bit and has some implications about game play.  The game plays “bigger” than $1-$3 when there are several deep stacks around the table.   Opponents may or may not be comfortable or skilled playing 300+ bb’s deep.  Mistakes are more costly deep stacked.   Obviously I think this is a fantastic rule change, if there is a fish at the table with a big stack, it’s great to be able to top up immediately to cover them.   But for the purposes of this blog I want to talk specifically about buying in deep.  It’s actually not dissimilar from the deep stack (250bb) buy in games  on PokerStars which is a very nice option to have. 
So after being involved in several of these big stack cap sessions now, I’ve decided I prefer to not buy in for the big stack, but rather for the standard 100 bb’s generally.  Here are the reasons that lead me to this feeling:

1) The good players in the player pool always top up to be deep.  These aren’t the players who provide a big edge for me, and playing deep against them just increases variance generally since they won’t be making lots of mistakes or big mistakes.  Position is the key element here.  If I have position on them, I don’t mind being deep with them at all.  If they have position on me however, I think it’s –EV for me to be playing too many pots OOP deep against them anyway.  So having a more standard 100bb buy in removes some of that edge they get from having position on me through out hands.

2) The fish don’t buy in deep.  When a fish is deep, the vast majority of the time it’s because they got lucky or had been running good.  For the most part, the fish still take the standard buy in ranging from $100(minimum) to $300.  And, as is usually the case with bad players, their stacks tend to go down, not up.

3) I’m most experienced with 100bb stacks.  That’s not to say I’m not comfortable or confident playing deeper, I am, but certainly due in large part  to 100bb cap games online I have the most experience playing this stack size, and am very familiar with standard lines on this stack.  So while I get a feel for the table and the opponents, and am gathering reads, having a stack size that’s right in my wheelhouse of experience helps reduce some of the “unknown” variables.

Now, if a player I know is a fish has a big pile of chips, then I will just go ahead and buy in deep directly.   But without any such read, I think it’s my preference not to buy deep.  I can top off my stack at any time between hands, and I do keep additional $25 and $100 chips in my pocket for this purpose when playing there.  If after the first orbit of play I have learned that the guy with $800 in front of him is a whale, no worries, out come the green and black chips to add to my stack.  If the deep stacks are to my left and being played by decent players, and the players on my right have smaller stacks, then I can mitigate my risk in a marginal EV situation by only playing 100bb’s, while perhaps waiting for a seat change or even table change if there’s a juicy looking game going in the room.

The bottom line is I can always add money to my stack, but once it’s on the table I can’t take it off unless I’m leaving.  So until I have the details of what I’m facing filled in, leaving myself this flexibility makes the most sense to me rather than just auto-buying in for the biggest stack.  I hope you found these thoughts useful and something to think about for your own cash game options.