What is Small Ball Poker?

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.

Hand Selection

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.

Bet Sizing

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.

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Photo by Keenan Constance @keenangrams

Position

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, that they can play the 3h 4h 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.

Table Image

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 40-50% 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.  

Warning

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 info@texasholdemquestions.com.

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Table Image – Does It Matter?

How are you perceived at the poker table? Do you know or care? You should, because your image will be a factor when playing poker. Whether it’s trying to get a bluff through or getting paid off, your table image will be taking into account by your opponents. Everyone has an image they are projecting at the poker table, whether they know it or not. Within an hour or so of playing, a strong and experienced player will already have tagged the majority of the table, almost entirely based on how they have played and appeared.

Loosey Goose Image

These are ten a penny online at the casino. The player involved in every pot, playing too many hands. Often bluffing and paying off bets all over the place. The loose player image is a good one to have as it means you are likely to get paid. A strong player will often do their best to get this image without actually playing crazy. This can be achieved by playing many small pots and attacking many pots with small bets, but not actually investing a lot of chips or money.

Tight Nitty Image

This is the player folding, hand after hand, round after round and patiently waiting for the premium hands to come along. How these players think they will get paid is beyond me, but in low stakes online and great games live, they do! The benefit of having a nitty image is if you have the ability to change gears, you can pull off many bluffs (against the right opponents). The reason is simple, if you have folded for 2 hours and now 3 bet, your opponents will give you credit – and rightly so.

Fishy/Donkey Image

This is just a bad player, it is similar to a loose image, however, a loose player can still be a strong player. Where a loose player is involved in lots of pots and trying bluff, a fish/donkey is just playing bad poker. This image is not desirable as it a strong player will target you all day long. It is not in your interest to get into personal battles or be known as the worst player at the table.

Professional

On the face of it, having the image of a professional seems great. People respect you and how you play. The reality is though, this isn’t the most desirable image as people will try to stay out of pots with you. Getting paid can be difficult and people often want to impress you and will potentially fold big hands or try bluffs on you. If you’re on your A game and pick up on this, it’s fine, but the fact is, you won’t always be and you can be in a pickle sizing your opponent up.  

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Photo by Markus Spiske @markusspiske

Table Image Tips

Change up your style, don’t be predictable and be confined to one image. It’s important to be difficult to read and cause confusion for your opponents. Soon as they know how you play; you’ve lost the battle. It’s best to be aware of your current image and shift to another and exploit your existing image. This takes a lot of practice but it is essentially what the best players are regularly doing. They know you saw them pull off a bluff 5 minutes ago and have gone into lock-down for 10 minutes. You need to do likewise to be a big winner at poker.

I hope you found this article useful. Feel free to email us if you are interested in knowing more about table image and how to use it to your advantage.

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