Poker players are always looking for new strategies to take their games to the next level. "Small Ball" poker is an innovative way to look at poker and a profitable way of attacking certain opponents. Small ball is normally a strategy geared towards multi-table tournament players but its ideas can be applied to all forms of poker.
Most of the time when we play poker if we have a good hand we want to make the pot larger, if we have a poor hand we want to keep the pot smaller. This is at the core of the small ball poker philosophy.
Small ball poker involves opening up your range of starting hands and using smaller but tactful raises to gain information about your opponent's hands, manipulate pot size and pull off cheaper bluffs. The advantage of small ball is limiting your exposure, so, when your plays happen not to work, you lose less.
As mentioned previously, small ball is recommended by experts for use in MTTs and some early stages of SNGs. Small Ball strategy is also effective in cash games. Though, it can be a slightly more dangerous slope and takes a keen understanding of your opponents and their tendencies.
One of the main reasons small ball is an effective strategy is because by showing down and raising poorer hands your table image will be wild and unpredictable. Since it is a loose aggressive style, players may just brand you as a fish and call you down extremely light. Of course, your bet sizes will be smaller and you will be manipulating the size of pot based on the strength of your hand. In lots of cases, other players may mark you forever as a fish because of one weird bluff, strange raise or a poor hand at showdown. You have to use this to your advantage.
Part of the small ball poker strategy is to play more hands and open up your starting hand range but this doesn't mean to raise every hand in position or play junk such as 72o or 92o. Players will need to open up their ranges to hands like 65s, 97s, JTs and so on. These hands can be especially effective in position and have the potential to flop some very strong draws or monster hands. Even if you miss the flop entirely, your opponent will miss the flop 70% of the time and a quick continuation bet may take it down. However, you'll need to be careful if you only hit the flop marginally. You don't want to get yourself involved into a large pot when you hit middle pair or top pair with a weak kicker, if you face a lot of resistance, just fold and move onto the next hand.
Experience is important when playing small ball because you are often times putting yourself in some tough situations. You'll be playing a lot more hands, which can be both good and bad. The amount of hands played will only increase your understanding of poker and since you will be playing more pots, so it will improve your game post flop. On the flip side, variance will increase. The more pots you play, the more your bankroll will fluctuate.
It is also important to realize when small ball is an effective strategy and when it is not. If your steals or opening raises pre-flop are constantly getting re-raised and you are facing a lot of resistance, you will need to tighten your range. Also, if you are in a game full of loose aggressive players or fish, you may need to change your strategy. These types of players will call you down light and have no qualms about going to the river with a weak hand. In games like this, it is much better to employ the tight aggressive strategy most players are used to (but not to the point of playing like a rock).
Small ball poker is not a strategy that should be used by beginning poker players. It can lead to disastrous results if it is used incorrectly or in the wrong type of game. Once a player has built a solid foundation of his or her game, only then is it worth trying to learn new strategies such as a small ball poker.
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