“Small Ball” is an advanced style of play that was initially coined by Dan Harrington in his Harrington on Hold’em series of tournament strategy books.
However, this term and style of play later gained more recognition through strategy articles and videos by Daniel Negreanu
Essentially, small ball poker involves playing a wider range of starting hands more aggressively, but only using small bets and raises to save you from losing too much money when certain plays do not work out.
Small ball poker is intended to primarily be used in MTTs as opposed to SNGs and cash games.
Small ball poker tips.
– Play as many hands in position as you can.
– Learn how to play post-flop well.
– Use good starting hand selection.
– When playing weaker starting hands, play hands that have drawing potential (can make flushes or straights).
When playing small ball, you have to try and take advantage of position as frequently as possible. It is not going to be an effective style of playing if you are raising 2.5BB from under the gun or in any early position on a regular basis. The chances are that you are going to get a caller and be out of position in a pot with a hand that is probably marginal.
Save the raises for when you are closer to the button and there are little to no players already in the pot. Playing small ball poker relies on you being able to play well post flop because you are entering so many pots and allowing other players to do so cheaply. It is going to be far easier to outplay your opponents if there are less of them in the hand and if you have position.
You have to be an experienced player to be able to profitably employ the small ball playing style.
Small ball poker starting hand selection.
Another key point to playing successful small ball poker is starting hand selection. If you are going to enter a pot by raising with a less than a premium hand, then it is important that the hand you raise with has some kind of potential.
Although we are raising with less than premium hands, it does not necessarily mean that are trying to take down the blinds alone on every hand. There is a high chance that we are going to get a caller because our raises are relatively small, and so we are going to need a hand that we can work with after the flop.
The type of hands we want to play when playing small ball are connecting cards and suited cards that have some potential if/when we go to the flop.
By playing hands with potential it gives us some room to make plays and possibly make very strong hands on or after the flop. However, you should avoid getting too involved in hands when you hit middle or top pair. The chances are you will have a weak kicker, and as a general rule these types of pots should never become too big if you are going to win them.
Where is small ball poker most effective?
Small ball poker is going to be most effective in situations where the blinds are small relative to the size of the stacks. Therefore, this will be at the start of MTTs and SNGs and in cash games.
Small ball would be most suited to cash games and the early stages of tournaments.
Toward the end of tournaments the blinds will usually be too great in relation to the size of the stacks to play small ball, as there will be little room post flop plays. The last thing you want to be doing in a tournament is committing a quarter or more of your stack into a pot with a marginal hand before the flop.
Small ball would therefore be most effective at the start of tournaments. It would be fine to use in MTTs, but with SNGs there is a problem in that the structure is usually quite fast, and the period to play effective small ball will not last for long.
In addition, the image you create will become almost worthless near the end of the SNG tournament because the blinds will become so great that opponents will be forced into folding or calling regardless of what your image might have been at the start of the tournament.
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