Does Small Ball Poker still Work?

Texas Holdem Poker Tips – Small ball

The “small ball” is an advanced style of play named by Daniel Negreanu.

This style of play cannot be attributed to Negreanu, as many professional poker players had already adopted this style of play before it was officially named, but it was just not named.

What is the small ball poker strategy?

Essentially, an underdog poker strategy means playing a wider range of starting hands more aggressively, but only making small bets or raises in case a play doesn’t work so you don’t lose too much money.

The small-ball poker strategy is mainly used in MTTs (multi-table tournaments), followed by SNGs (single-table tournaments) and cash games.

Why does the small ball strategy work?

  • Loose table image
  • Opponents will call with weaker hands
  • You can exploit this bust when you have a strong hand

This strategy works because you create a very loose table image for yourself. So when you do have a strong hand you can get more action from your opponents because they know you are a tight aggressive player and will probably think you are mostly bluffing them.

If you apply the small ball poker strategy correctly, in the long run, the profit you get from your opponents when they call you to the bottom with a below-par hand is higher than the loss you incur when you consistently raise and bet when you don’t have a strong hand. This is why it is so important to bet small and raise instead of betting big and strong.

The small-ball poker strategy allows you to profit from players who call to the end with medium hands because they don’t believe you have a strong hand.

The table image you create against other players is the key to the success of the small ball strategy. As already mentioned above, this play works because your opponents are more willing to call you to the end with marginal hands based on the way you played in your previous hand. So essentially, the small bets and raises you take when you gain or lose the pot in previous hands are simply setting the stage for bigger hands later in the session.

Your opponent must know how you play

It is important to remember that you are dependent on your opponent knowing that you are using the small ball poker strategy to be successful. If your opponents don’t think about your play at all, your success will be limited.

If the other players at the table are playing loose and they are going to call your bets regardless of your table image, then you are better off playing a tight aggressive style of play rather than an underdog poker strategy.

How to play small ball poker


  • Play as many hands as possible when you have position
  • Learn how to play well after the flop
  • Use good starting hand selection
  • When playing weaker starting hands, choose the ones with listening potential (those that can complete a flush or straight)

When using the small ball strategy, you must try to use positional advantage. This is not an effective play if you are constantly raising 2.5BB in gun position or in front position. Your chances lie in being called by an opponent who is out of position and probably holding a marginal hand.

The small ball poker strategy is only to be taken after you can play the flop well, because you are getting into too many pots at the same time and allowing other players to get into the pots cheaply. You can beat your opponents more easily if there are fewer players in the hand and you have position.

You must be an experienced player to profit from the small ball poker strategy.

Starting hand selection for the small ball poker strategy

Another key point for successful use of the small ball poker strategy is the choice of starting hand. If you are going to raise into the pot with a hand that is below the edge, it is important that the hand you are raising has some potential.

Just because you’re raising a hand below the edge doesn’t mean it will take the blinds on every hand. Because our raises are relatively small, there is a high probability of being called, so we need a hand that can play post-flop.

The type of hands we choose when playing small ball poker must be straights and flushes, which have some potential if we get to the flop.

Playing a hand with potential gives us more room to play and possibly hit a strong hand on the flop or after the flop. However, when you hit a middle or top pair, avoid getting too involved in the bottom pot. Because you may be holding a weak kicker, you can’t build the bottom pot too big if you’re going to win this kind of bottom pot.

When is the small ball poker strategy most effective

The small ball poker strategy works best when the blinds are small relative to the chip size. This is exactly what happens at the beginning of MTTs and SNGs, and in cash games.

The small ball poker strategy is best used in the early stages of Texas tournament play and in cash games.

The closer you get to the end of the tournament, the blinds levels are generally too large relative to the chip size for the small ball poker strategy to be used. This is because there is too little room to play post-flop. The last thing you want to do in a tournament is to take a marginal hand and put a quarter or more of your chips into the bottom pot right before the flop.

Thus, the small-ball poker strategy works best at the beginning of a tournament in a derby game. It can work well in the MTT, but there is a problem in the SNG because the structure of the SNG is generally very fast and therefore allows you very little time to apply the small ball poker strategy.

Also, the table image you create is of little value near the end of an SNG tournament. Because the blinds are so high, your opponents will be forced to fold or call regardless of your table image in the pre-tournament.

How do I feel about small ball poker?

The small ball poker strategy is primarily a loose aggressive type of play, but with much smaller bets.

In my opinion, trying to reach “small ball poker” by raising a small amount in any position with a marginal hand is not going to work. Nevertheless, there are a few factors that can influence the small ball poker strategy, such as:

  • Using position as an advantage. Basically, you’re not playing poker, you’re playing position.
  • Playing more aggressively can help you “buy position”.

I think amateur players who try to emulate the use of the small ball poker strategy are putting themselves in a tricky situation. You certainly need a good post-flop play to be able to use the small ball poker strategy well.

As your play progresses, you may develop more of a loose aggressive style, but not necessarily a “small ball poker” style.

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