There are many different ways to play poker. One concept that has gotten significant attention and has become the way many players play is small ball. The success of players like Daniel Negreanu and Gus Hansen, notorious small ball players, has had poker players from all levels questioning their own playing style and many have went to the books and internet poker instructional sites in an attempt to learn how to play this style.
Why has this approach been so successful though and is it for every one?
It works because it does two things really well. First, it gives players more opportunity to accumulate chips because they are seeing more flops. A typical small baller will see many more flops than your average tight, aggressive player.
The second thing it does is it minimizes losses. While most players are firing out 3/4 to pot sized bets and playing large pots, the small baller is making smallish 1/4 to 1/2 pot bets and checking behind. By doing this, their losses are often much less than a typical player. Here's an example to show you what it’s all about:
Our hero, the small baller, has raised to 2.5 times the big blind pre-flop with K-Q suited and gets two callers. Three players see the flop and there is 1,500 in the pot. The flop comes Q-10-5. Our hero makes a bet of 500 into the 1,500 pot. It is called and raised by another player. Our hero decides to get out of the way and folds having lost a total of 1,000 in the hand.
Now let's look at how this hand would play out with a conventional tight aggressive player (TAG). The TAG opens the action for 3.5 times the big blind pre-flop. The pot is 2,250. The TAG makes a bet of 1,500 and folds to the raise. Their loss on the hand was a total of 2,250. The small ball player saved 1,250 in chips in comparison to the TAG and the result was the same – both players folded. This is why small ball poker can be a very effective method of playing.
The one problem, however, with small ball poker is that it is an extremely volatile style of poker. It requires the player to see a lot of flops and be faced with a lot of tough decisions. While you might save money in a particular hand in comparison to a TAG, you'll also be playing many more hands than the TAG and risking chips more often. If your post-flop skills are average or sub-par, you should work on those skill sets before moving into small ball poker.
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