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Small Ball Poker

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Poker small ball

"Small Ball" is an advanced style of poker play invented by professional poker player Daniel Negreanu.

Probably, many poker players had used the style before but Negreanu was the one put a name to it.

What is small ball poker?

Small ball poker consists on playing a broader selection of starting hands in a more aggressive way, but just using small bets and raises in order to avoid losing too much money when specific plays don't work out as expected.

This style of play should be mainly used in MTTs and not in SNGs and cash games.

Small ball poker video

In this video you'll find a basic overview of the small ball style.

It involves some bad acting, but at the same time includes all the essential information for basic small ball strategy.

Why can small ball poker be effective?

  • You'll give yourself a loose table image.
  • Your opponents will tend to call more often with weaker hands.
  • You can make the most of this when you have a strong hand.

With the small ball poker style you give yourself a very loose table image, which can be pretty effective because you'll get more action from the other players when you have a good holding. This happens because they will see you as a loose aggressive player, and as a result they'll believe that you are more likely to try to bluff them out of the pot.

When you use this poker play style correctly, the amount of money you'll win when your opponents call you down holding sub standard hands should be more than the amount of money you'll lose from raising and betting when you don't have a strong hand. This is why you should make small raises and bets instead of large bets.

The benefit in small ball poker comes from those opponents who call you down with mediocre holdings since they don't think you have a strong hand.

The small bet style is based on the image you create for yourself at the table. This style is effective because the other players will be eager to call you down holding marginal hands based on the way you have been playing. This means that the small bets and raises that made you win or lose pots in previous hands set things up for bigger hands that will come later in the game.

Small ball poker works if your opponents are aware of your style of play

Remember that in order for small ball poker to work you rely on the fact that your opponents should be aware of the way in which you are playing. Your success will be limited if the other players don't think about your poker hold'em play style.

If your opponents at the table play in a loose style and call your bets no matter what table image your project, then you should play in a tight-aggressive style instead of using the small ball technique.

How to play small ball poker

  • You should play as many hands in position as possible.
  • You need to learn how to play post-flop well.
  • You should use a good starting hand selection.
  • When you play weaker starting hands, choose to play hands that have drawing potential (the ones that can make flushes or straights).

When you use the small ball style, you should always take advantage of your position at the table. If you regularly raise 2.5BB in any early position, small ball will not be so effective because you are likely to get a caller and be out of position in a pot in which you hold a hand that is likely to be marginal.

Try to raise when your position is closer to the button and when there are almost no players or no players already in the pot. In order to play small ball poker you need to be able to play well post flop since you'll be entering a lot of pot and at the same time allow other opponents to do the same cheaply. You'll find it simpler to beat your opponents if you have position and if not many of them are left in the hand.

Using the small ball playing style in a profitable way requires you to be an experienced player.

Starting hand selection in small ball poker

Starting hand selection is also important to play small ball poker successfully. Your hand needs to have some potential if you choose to raise to enter a pot.

Just because you raise with less than a premium hand does not mean that you will necessarily try to take down the blinds alone on every poker hand. Since your raises are relatively small, there is a good chance that one of your opponents will call on you, which means you will need a hand to work with after the flop.

Connecting cards and suited cards are the hands you need to play small ball because they have potential if/when you go to the flop.

Having hands with potential allows you to make plays and even make a strong hand on or after the flop. If you have middle or top pair, the best is to avoid getting too involved. There are good chances that you'll get a weak kicker and in general these kind of poker pots should never get too big for you to win them.

When is small ball poker most effective?

When blinds are small compared to the size of the stacks, which happens at the beginning of MTTs, SNGs and cash games, small ball poker is more effective.

When tournaments are about to end the blinds are generally too big compared to the size of the stacks and small ball is not a good option because there will be little room for post flop plays. You don't want to commit a quarter or more of your stack in a tournament when you have a marginal holding before the flop.

This means that small ball is most useful at the beginning of tournaments. There would be no problem in using it in MTTs but in SNGs the structure is fast and this is a problem because the period you get to play effective small ball is short.

Besides, your poker Texas Hold'em table image will almost have no value by the end of the SNG tournament since the blinds will be large enough to force opponents to fold or call no matter what table image you had when the tournament started.

What is my opinion of small ball poker?

Basically, when you play small ball poker you are playing LAG but you make smaller bets.

The small ball strategy of raising small amounts from any position holding marginal hands is not effective. However, the small ball play style has a few effective points:

  • You can use your position to your advantage. Basically, you are not just playing your cards but your position.
  • You can play more aggressively in order to "buy position".

Small ball poker can be tricky for amateur players. You need a good post-flop game in order to play small ball poker.

As you acquire more experience, you'll probably develop a more loose-aggressive style of play, which does not mean you'll be playing "small ball poker". Daniel Negreanu seems to be working too hard to coin a super great new playing style, but the truth is that it is just a weaker version of an existing style.

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