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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Re-Raise Early Position Opens

When was the last time you 3 bet an early position raise with junk? How many times in your last session? This move is really underused these days and barely discussed but there is a lot to be said for putting in a re-raise again an early position open from an active player. I find this play to be one of the most profitable pre flop moves available at the moment.

Why?
Most good thinking players have opened their game up enough that they are quite liberal opening from anywhere on the table these days, even early position. A good player will be opening suited connectors and suited aces from early position. They will open these because they are hands with great play-ability and equity, even multi-way, and they are representing something stronger too so it fits in line with stories told post flop.
They won’t hesitate to fold pre flop when facing a re raise as they no longer have the lead in the hand and want to play in position. The best way to counter this strategy is to simply re raise and pick it up before the flop. This works very well against the good players, and when you are in position in the hand. 
The weak players will often open raise wide pre flop too. They will occasionally call the re-raise pre flop but then fold unless they flop well so a continuation bet is usually all that is needed to win the pot.
Either way, the strategy is effective against both types of player. The key component is that your opponent has shown a willingness to open wide from early position.

When?
You can do this at any point in a tournament but please make sure you and your opponents have sufficient stack size and that you are not committed for lots of chips. It’s usually a good idea to do this with hands that have poor equity or showdown value as you know you are not losing anything if you get 4 bet and you are unlikely to get stubborn post flop. You know you are playing this as a bluff. It’s ok to do it with Ace rag too as this has some blocker value. 
I don’t recommend doing this with hands that play well post flop as much as you should be more inclined to play post flop with these hands, particularly in position.

I demonstrated this strategy recently in a low stakes MTT on PokerStars.  I made a point of trying to find as many opportunities to re-raise pre flop, in position. It’s quite fun to employ this strategy and very effective! Check it out below in our training video page.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please email info@texasholdemquestions with feedback and questions.

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