How to Play “Small Ball” Poker

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What is playing “Small Ball” Poker?

The term “small ball” in Poker is used when describing a player using tactics to control the size of the pot.  Usually betting small, or just calling a player, in efforts to keep from being priced into calling an all-in bet.  Tactics of a “small ball” player include: min-raising, check-calling, and smooth calling with larger pairs or other dominant hands.  This approach is typically used in tournament play and rarely migrates to cash game, unless playing “nose bleeds” high stakes.

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How does “Small Ball” allow more flops?

When the pot stays small, it’s cheaper/easier to sneak in with unpredictable hands and crush flops, essentially crushing stacks.  Also, you accomplish the same goals (making people fold, or a double-up), but for a much cheaper price getting there.  This approach of play also helps when your wrong, it now costs you less, because you’ve used “small ball” to control the pot sizing.  Now, your goal in small ball is to not donate chips with loose-aggressive calls and bets, but keep a tight game by using your small ball approach to get those extra looks in favorable positions at the table.

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Can I play “Small Ball” with every player?

No.  The situation aspect is key.  For example, if you have an aggressive player whom plays a variety of hand ranges, be cautious using the “small ball” approach.  They are likely to raise with draws or even put their whole stack at risk.  Take advantage of your situations and player styles when deciding when and when not to play small ball.  On the opposite side of the coin you look down at a great “small ball” hand and the players whom are the tightest (nits) at the table are in the hand with you.  They are your ideal target when playing small ball because you will likely get paid off when you smash the flop.  Normally you will get paid in full due to them not getting involved without a monster hand.  It is important to Determine a Poker Players Style and put them on a range of hands they could likely have.  Don’t always play small ball, against a soft field it’s better to stay aggressive because those players are likely to pay off when chasing a hand.

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How do I benefit from playing “Small Ball“?

Small ball is good for those times when you have a hand that you want to see a flop or turn with.  The key is to play them in a way that allows you to see the next card and avoid being raised off your hand.  Play them with the mindset of controlling the pot size and getting what you want by taking what your villain gives you.  For instance, when your looking down at a small pocket pair, suited connectors, or other marginal hands, think about what your goals are for that type of hand when your villain puts the action on you.  (flush, straight, two pair)  Use your goals, and add it to your situation.  Situations can be different depending on (stack sizes, players in the hand, blind levels, hand histories/reads).  Figure out how you can maximize profit when you complete your hand.

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