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Geoff Fisk

What Is Match the Stack Poker?


Some poker cash games, including selected games at the Lodge, run with “Match the Stack” rules on buying in.

Poker games that run with the Match the Stack (MTS) rule in place can often play quite differently than games with a traditional buy-in structure. Let’s take a look at Match the Stack poker and how it can affect the dynamics of a poker cash game.

What Does Match The Stack Mean?

“Match the Stack” is a rule applied to some poker games, and in particular poker cash games. If a poker game is playing with the Match the Stack rule in place, any player entering the game can buy-in for an amount that matches the biggest stack at the table.

MTS games differ from other cash games at poker rooms, which cap the max buy-in for a particular game. Some of the cash games at the Lodge play with Match the Stack rules, while some don’t.

For instance, here’s a look at the No-Limit Hold’em cash games offered at the Lodge:

Texas Hold’em Cash Games At The Lodge

  • $1/$1 No-Limit Hold’em ($40-$200 buy-in)
  • $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em w/Bomb Pots ($100-$300 buy-in)
  • $1/$3 No-Limit Hold’em w/Bomb Pots ($200-$1,000 buy-in)
  • $2/$5 No-Limit Hold’em w/Bomb Pots ($200-$2,000 buy-in)
  • $5/$10 No-Limit Hold’em w/Bomb Pots ($500-$3,000 buy-in), Match the Stack

For comparison, let’s consider the difference between the $2/5 game and the $5/$10 game.

When you take a seat at the $2/$5 game, you can start the game with anywhere from $200 to $2,000 in chips. The amount you start the game with is up to you, but you must put at least $200 on the table, and can’t put more than $2,000 on the table.

The $2/$5 game doesn’t include Match the Stack rules, and the max buy-in is capped at $2,000 at all times.

The $5/$10 game, by comparison, does include the MTS rule on buy-ins. The minimum buy-in dictates that you must put at least $500 on the table when you sit down in the $5/$10 game.

The max buy-in is listed at $3,000, but that amount goes up depending on how many chips are in front of the player with the biggest stack.

If you sit down at the $5/$10 game, and no player has more than $3,000 in chips, the max you can enter the game with is $3,000.

The stacks in the $5/$10 at the Lodge will often get bigger than $3,000, however. Suppose you sit in on the game and the player with the biggest stack at the table has $10,000.

The max buy-in at that point is $10,000. Whenever a new player enters the game, their maximum allowed buy-in is equal to the largest stack size at the table.

How Match The Stack Affects A Poker Game

Live poker cash games generally play as deep stack games when compared to online games or multi-table poker tournaments.

Online poker cash games generally allow a maximum buy-in of 100 big blinds. For instance, a typical $2/$5 game online allows a maximum buy-in of $500.

The $2/$5 game at the Lodge allows you to sit down in the game with a maximum chip stack of $2,000. This amount (400 big blinds) enables you to start the game with a pretty big stack compared to online poker.

Suppose every player at a $2/$5 game at the Lodge buys in for $2,000. Two poker players, Player A and Player B get into an all-in preflop situation, with Player A holding Pocket Aces and Player B holding Pocket Kings.

Player A wins, and doubles up to $4,000. Player B can rebuy for a max of $2,000. Player A is now the biggest stack at the table, while all other players have $2,000. If Player A gets into another big pot in the following hand, the most they can possibly lose is $2,000.

Let’s look at that same scenario with Match the Stack rules applied to the game. When Player A doubles up to $4,000, the max buy-in immediately goes up to $4,000.

At that point, all players in the game can top up (add more chips to their stack) to a max amount of $4,000. If Player A goes heads-up with another $4,000 stack, they stand to lose $4,000.

If a player doubles up from $4,000 to $8,000, all players at the table (and all incoming players) can now buy-in for a max of $8,000.

With the Match the Stack rules allowing an $8,000 buy-in, the Lodge $2/$5 is quickly approaching a high-stakes poker game. Even a $1,000 stack (200 big blinds) seems like a short stack in this scenario.

The Lodge Approach To Match The Stack

Match the Stack is a staple of Texas poker, and many players at the Lodge love the format. You won’t find MTS at too many Las Vegas poker rooms or online games, but you will often see it on the Lodge livestream and other high-stakes cash games at the club.

The Lodge reserves Match the Stack for higher-stakes games, however, so you won’t see it applied to stakes of $2/$5 and lower for No-Limit Hold’em.

For Pot-Limit Omaha, the $1/$2/$5 games feature MTS rules, while the $1/$1 PLO games cap the buy-in at $300.

The Lodge conducted a player survey on preferred max buy-in and Match the Stack rules in cash games. The current structures offered at the club were created with the results from that survey in mind.

Lodge co-owner Doug Polk offered the following insights on Match the Stack:

“I think match the stack (MTS) is incredibly predatory. At basically every table I’ve been at with MTS, the moment a weaker player doubles every regular pulls out money to cover him,” Polk said.

“How are recreational players supposed to feel about that? I don’t think it’s a good look for the game or the room. Now, additionally, that player has to play way bigger in a game that might have multiple straddles and the players to their direct left are deep stacked to try to stack them. This forces that player to either play tight (bad for the game), get stacked and leave (bad for the game), or just leave because they are uncomfortable (bad for the game).

“I think MTS is truly a terrible buy-in option for the average players at these limits and is one of the reasons why $1/$3 and $2/$5 run so much less often,” Polk said.

Final Thoughts On Match The Stack

Some of the biggest pots you’ll see on the Lodge live stream (with Match the Stack rules in place) can rival a WSOP final table payout for the winner. While this might make for good poker vlog content, Lodge management reserves Match the Stack for only the highest-stakes cash games at the club.

The max buy-in caps on all other games still allow for huge pots, especially considering the high-action nature of the games at the Lodge. First-time visitors to the Lodge will notice that the No-Limit games across all stakes play much bigger than a typical game at a given stake.

For example, the $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em Games ($300 max buy-in) often feature straddles, and include a bomb pot at every dealer change. These two factors alone lead to big pots and plenty of money on the table.

Even without Match the Stack in place, the $1/$2, $1/$3, and $2/$5 games offer the opportunity to win big money at the Lodge.

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