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The Importance of Building Chip Stacks

Why do people buy health insurance? Why is auto insurance such a big industry? Why are life insurance companies so successful? Because life is a risky thing, and unpredictable; even if you are the most healthy, best driving, longest lived person in the world, you can never predict when something bad may happen, even something catastrophic. Insurance companies exist to provide a way to manage risk, and important concept in the world of poker as well. No matter how professorial a poker player may get, even the biggest die-hard has to admit that there is an element of luck in the game of poker, regardless of what version of the game you play. The way you play can affect how much of what happens on the felt is due to luck and how much to skill, but luck (or, if you prefer a different term, “randomness”) will always play a factor.

When it comes to playing Texas Hold’em, especially No Limit and specifically tournament play versus cash games, one of the key elements in managing risk is building your chip stack. No matter how well you play someone, at some time, will suck out on you, giving you another bad beat story that nobody really wants to hear but that you will be compelled to tell to every living soul you meet. If you are playing correctly you may actually suffer more from a bad beat than someone who isn’t; say you have the best hand and you move all in and one player just feels like gambling and calls you. Luck could easily bring them the turn and river cards they need to bust you. The best way to guard against those random bits of “bad luck” is to have enough chips that you don’t have to move all in; if you have a good sized chip stack, you can suffer the slings and arrows of misfortune and still hang around long enough to win the day.

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