Introduction to Small Ball Poker
A poker strategy that has exploded in popularity in the last few years, small ball is an overarching poker mentality used successfully by professionals, yet often misunderstood and poorly used by novices. There are several components to playing small ball; hand selection, bet sizing, position and table image.
Small ball poker dictates playing a lot of poker with a variety of hands. If you want to attack many unwanted pots, you need to widen your opening range. This varies player to player, but most professionals accept that suited connectors, suited aces and the paint cards have the most play-ability and equity to warrant including in opening raise ranges.
Small ball poker is what you expect, small bets. Professionals understand that a smaller, probing type bet accomplishes the same thing as a bigger bet and for less risk. This means many cheap bluffs.
The underlying concept is that the player is consistent though. It’s no use sizing your bets differently based on hand strength, otherwise your opponents will correctly read your hand. It doesn’t take long to figure this out.
Consistent bet sizing is critical to small ball poker. It means you can accomplish cheap bluffs but also extract value.
As always, position is important. Small ball experts will play as many pots in position as they can. They understand there are an abundance of chips to be picked up in pots that people aren’t interested in contesting. As such, they will be opening an incredibly high amount of pots in position when it folds to them and also be calling raises in position if multi way and cheap. The reason being they can risk few chips to gain many. They understand the implied odds. They can play the three four of hearts for a small raise when stack sizes are 100 bb + because they are risking 2.5 big blinds to bust a weak player who is prone to overplaying their pocket Aces on a 3s 3h Kd type flop.
The beauty of small ball is the image you project to your opponents. By playing many pots you are giving the illusion you are a bit wild and almost certainly a bluffer. After all, you are playing many pots and often betting and winning without showdown.
On close inspection though, the small ball expert is not betting crazily and big amounts. They are often betting 30-50% of the pot and carefully wagered, often heads up pots or when the time is right. In short, the table image a small ball player projects is perfect! An opponent may notice after hours of lost pots, take a stand and then bust out when they finally realise that the small baller is only playing big pots with monster hands.
Small ball requires a player to be expert before and after the flop, experienced and attentive. Don’t try this style of poker if you are not confident playing many different scenarios. It’s also worth pointing out this is not the ideal strategy for most cash games and is mostly utilised in tournaments to build a stack without much risk.
This article has touched on just a few parts involved in small ball poker. If you are interested in knowing more or want mentoring in small ball, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Keenan Constance @keenangrams