A while back, PokerStars introduced an optional feature allowing players to set chip stacks to display in number of big blinds. This has proved to be a really handy feature for cash game and tournament players alike.
Here’s a reminder of how to change your chip stack settings, as well as a discussion on the reasons why you might want to display stacks in this way.
How to set your chip stack to big blinds
Setting your chip stack to big blinds is easy. Here’s how.
If you’re playing on desktop, go to the lobby and click
“Settings” —→ “Table Appearance” —→ “Table Display”.
This will bring up a number of options for you to choose from. Then simply tick or untick the boxes.
If you’re playing on mobile, you can find these options at
“Settings and Tools” —→ “Table Settings”.
You can also quickly access these settings from within the games you’re playing, without having to go to the lobby. This allows you to quickly flip between stack size options. Click
“Table” —→“Table Settings”
What’s the point?
When you make nearly any decision in poker, you’ll have to calculate your own stack size, as well as your opponents’ stack sizes, relative to the blinds.
The bets you can feasibly make with you stack, known as your stack utility, will differ greatly depending on how many big blinds you have. For example, with a 5bb-10bb stack you’re largely confined to shoving all-in pre-flop, whereas with 40bb you lots of potential for creative pre-flop or post-flop betting lines.
It’s important anyway to know your own stack sizes and your opponents’ stack sizes in number of big blinds. Setting chip stacks to display this way simply eliminates the need to make this calculation. It makes life easier.
Chip stacks in tournaments
To illustrate, imagine you had 60,000 chips in a tournament. What does this actually mean? That depends on the blind level.
If the blinds are at 50/100, then you have 600 big blinds, which is a very deep stack that allows you to play lots of betting lines and post-flop poker. If, however, the blinds are at 3,000/6,000, then you have just 10 big blinds, and would be looking to make pre-flop shoves.
In tournament poker, the blinds are forever increasing. This forces the action and effectively cuts the size of your stack with each jump. Setting your stacks to display in big blinds will help you to keep up with the blind levels and how they are impacting your stack.
Chip stacks in cash games
In cash games the situation is a little different. Your chip stack is the cash that you buy-in for. So, if you make a $1 bet, that’s $1 of real money going in the middle. The blinds also stay at the same level in cash game poker.
It’s still useful to have chip stacks set to big blinds. This way, you can quickly make calculations about stacks, pots, and bet sizes.
You can change chip stacks settings individually for tournaments and cash games in the “Table Display” menu, so you have total flexibility when it comes to your preferences for both.
The fear factor
The other night I was running quite deep in an MTT, when I started to feel intimidated by my own stack. I simply wasn’t used to having 400,000 chips. And if I wanted to make the serious money, I would need at least one million of the little buggers. It all seemed too much.
I switched my settings, and it quickly became apparent that I had 20 big blinds. Somehow that didn’t seem like as much of a big deal. I was no longer dealing in hundreds of thousands of chips. Changing the displays helped me to put my stack into perspective and reduced the fear.
It’s a fear that’s probably no longer an issue for top pros, but if you still feel it then try changing chip stacks to big blinds.
Cash game players may also feel this fear, for different reasons. Sometimes seeing dollars go straight into the middle is hard. It makes bluffing that little bit more stressful, even when you have a strong sense that it will pay off. You may find it mentally easier to see the action in big blinds than in dollars (although you should always be aware that it’s still real money).
It’s all up to you
In any case, it’s all up to you. What’s great about this feature is that you can leave the settings as they are, change stack sizes to big blinds only when you feel the need, and have separate settings for cash games and tournaments.
If you haven’t done so yet, then test out the feature for yourself and see which you prefer.