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.

Poker
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.

Thanks

Under the Gun

Don’t worry it doesn’t mean there’s a rifle above your head. Under the gun is a phrase in poker referred to the position when acting first before the flop in Texas Holdem. From a strategic point of view, it is the worst position to be in as you have the least information available at that point. You have 8 players to act behind you before the potential to see the flop. For this reason, it is usually identified as a position that requires playing fewer and stronger hands. Even the loosest of of loose aggressive (LAG) players know that it is unprofitable to play a wide range of hands from under the gun.

Photo by Alex Kalligas (@alkal)

Why do I need to play tighter from Under the Gun?

It is not just about having less information before the flop. One must remember that Texas Holdem is played across multiple rounds of betting and by playing from under the gun, you will often be the first to act on each street or sandwiched between players. This makes it very challenging to play hands and pot control how you wish.
 Let’s take an example, you have A (clubs) 10 (diamonds) and decide to raise from under the gun, you are called by 1 player in mid position (loose), a tight aggressive player on the button and the big blind too. Everyone has deep stacks. The flop is Jc 10c 6s. The big blind checks, what do you do? You are in a tricky position as you have 2 people behind you but you also have 2nd pair and a good kicker. Betting and check- deciding both seem reasonable but what about the turn and river too? What is your plan? You are prone to getting bluffed out as your hand can’t take much resistance and you can’t expect to value bet with impunity. In short, unless you make a very strong hand that is easy to play or you are heads up against one of the blinds, it is not an appealing option to be playing weak or medium strength hands from under the gun, unless you play post flop excellently and have a weak table.

Strong players are opening their range of raising hands when in early position as they have correctly read that players will fold reasonable hands when facing an open raise. There is also deception in open raising the suited connectors and suited aces from early position but a word of caution of to you. This is only profitable to the most experienced of players who are confident in awkward post flop scenarios. By playing a wide range of hands from under the gun, you are going to find yourself in a lot of tricky scenarios that can cost you a lot of chips.

Next time you play and find a King Ten or Ace 8 suited under the gun, think twice before you enter the pot!

Thanks
Texas Holdem Questions

Battle of the Blinds

People don’t talk about blind battles much and I don’t know why? Every round you have a decision to play from these positions and a reasonable amount of the time it’s just the two of you.

How many times does it fold to the small blind and you pray he will give you a walk or you’re in the small blind and dreading raising but do it anyway?

Let’s start with some facts and reasonable assumptions about how our opponents will be playing in the blinds.

  1. People always assume you are stealing in blind battles
  2. People try to bluff more in the blinds both pre and post flop
  3. People don’t like to fold a pair heads up in blind battles

Now we have some basic facts and assumptions, we can adjust our strategy accordingly.

Playing from the Small Blind
As people often think we will be stealing; we need to be more straightforward. Our strategy for playing in the small blind will be to win the pot, what is the best way to accomplish this? I suggest playing the strong hands for value and raising and betting for value and trying to show down our weak showdown hands like Ace or King high by checking and bluff catching.
As weak as it sounds, with our weak hands, to win these pots, we should consider completing and making probe bets after flop hoping the opponent has missed. This is a realistic way of winning the pot as the big blind will respect the fact we have not just tried to steal pre flop and often just fold post flop.
It is not in our interest to raise and inflate the pot from the small blind pre flop with junk hands unless the opponent is very tight or disinterested and likely to fold. The majority of players will defend wide from the big blind so we need to be more careful particularly as they suspect we are stealing. 

Playing from the Big Blind
We will be in position throughout the hand so we should defend wide either by calling pre-flop raises or re raising pre-flop ourselves. Both strategies work very well as we have 2 main ingredients on our side before the flop is even deal. We are the pre-flop aggressor and we have position. When we have strong hands, we also have the mathematical ingredient on our side too.
If you are in the big blind, you should intend on playing as many hands against the small blind as possible as they will often be raising pre-flop just to steal with no consideration on how they will play post flop. In fact, many of these pre-flop raisers will give up on the flop and an even greater give up when called with a continuation bet. This is an effective strategy to countering both strong and weak players.

I hope you found this post useful. If you are interested or have any questions about our services, please contact us today.

Thanks
Texas Holdem Questions