There are two main ways to control the pot size. The first is one that was already talked about, make smallish bets. Small bets, both pre-flop and on the flop, are the key to controlling the size of the pot. Just because you are a ‘small ball’ player it doesn’t mean that you always make small bets. Once you get to the turn and river, is when you can start to make larger bets, either because you have the best hand and want to get value for it, or because you are bluffing and want your opponent to fold.
Another excellent way of controlling the pot size is to check. This might seem like passive play, but if you are unsure if your hand is the best but think it has showdown value, this can be the best approach to reaching that showdown without risking a significant portion of your stack.
The additional benefit of utilizing this approach is that it will often get you value for some of your hands as your opponent continues to bluff into you. Here's an example:
Our hero, the TAG (tight aggressive), has A-Q and raises pre-flop to three times the blind. He gets two callers and the pot size is 1,800. The flop comes A-9-2 and our hero bets 1,200 and is check raised by a player to 3,000. Our hero calls. The turn is another 9 and our hero checks. The flop check raiser bets 5,000 and is called. The river is a 4 and our hero check calls a 10,000 bet. The check raiser shows A-9 and collects 18,000 post-flop chips from our hero.
The small baller, however, decides to take a different approach. He understands that his A-Q is probably good on the A-9-2 flop but because he has position, he sees that everyone has checked to him. If his hand is the best, it's likely his opponents will fold. He thinks to himself then that there is no harm in checking here because if he does have the best hand, he won't get any value by betting, but by checking he will minimize his losses for the times he is behind and maximize his profits for the time he is ahead.
On the turn, a player bets 1,200 into the pot and the small baller decides to just call since the board paired and it's possible his opponent might have a 9. On the river, the same player bets 3,000 and our small baller calls and loses the hand. His loss, however, was only 4,200 as compared to the 18,000 from the TAG. That's a significant difference.
The Main Holdem Strategy Index: The Great Game of Holdem