Small Ball strategy

Small Ball strategy, developed by Doyle Brunson, is excellent for deep stack No Limit Holdem tournaments where blinds structures are slow. It can also be used for deep stack cash games. Deep stack is important, small ball requires playing a relatively wider range of playing hands and to be active, competing for pots.

Simply playing a wide range of hands can't be justified from the mathematical point of view on bluffing and stealing much. This might be effective on a very weak table but this won’t give you a reliable tournament winning strategy. The small ball strategy is sensible since deep stacks offer the right implied pot odds to play a wider range of hole cards.

The major aim of small ball strategy is to steal numerous pots and make hands like straights, flushes, trips and two pairs. This strategy differs from the tactics of tight aggressive players who prefer waiting for premium hands like AA or KK. The player who uses small ball strategy waits for very strong hands beyond a pair before putting big percentages of the stack at risk.

This is why you are unlikely to see a professional player leaving a tournament in the early blind stages, with a pocket or top pair. Only inexperienced players seriously believe a big pair has more value than their entire stack. It takes a great deal of luck to make hands like straights or flushes, therefore you must be in a deep stack situation to get the correct implied odds.

Although small ball strategy is about raising and betting a lot, it's quite a protective way of playing since by only stacking with very strong hands your stack remains protected. You should put many chips on the line only if you have an obvious edge over your opponents.

Who doesn’t want to make flushes or straights? Players who follow a small ball strategy are more likely to get these hands. Don’t think that they are playing randomly, if they were, they would get a negative EV. According to this strategy, suited connectors and small pairs matter much, as they help achieve the aim of making big draws or trips on the flop.

Suited connectors and medium small pairs are not valued by tight aggressive players and they never raise or bluff with them. However, such cards are ideal from the small ball strategy viewpoint. For all their trickiness, these hands hold great potential and can be used for making big hands that beat big pairs.

Let's suppose a very tight player raises in front of you and you suspect that his extremely large raise can only mean that he holds AA. Would you rather hold KK or 67 hearts? If you have KK, your chances of winning the pot make up about 17%. If you have 67 hearts, your chances of winning are 23%. The upside is that you will only put a relatively small amount of chips on the line pre-flop and even if you miss it, you will easily fold. If you don’t miss the flop, when a lot of chips go in on the turn and river, the aces or kings are not advantageous since the suited connectors break them.

Still, it is highly unlikely that your opponents will often hold AA or KK. And you won’t hold flushes or straights all the time. The thing you should keep in mind is that most of the time other players will be weak and miss the flop to the order of 2:1. If you adhere to the small ball strategy, you will be able to win the pots when other players don’t hold strong hands.

Make a great deal of small bets and re-raises, calculate the bet/raise size taking into account the player tendencies. You need to get used to the game and play around before you manage to work out the right bet size that gets your opponents to fold when they have weak hands. Even a green player will probably call with a re-raise with a poor hand if the bet is insignificant. The best recommendation would be to push around 50-70 per cent of the pot, but it’s not the rule of thumb as the final decision should be made based on the table and the players.

One more upside of the small ball strategy is that it is less depended upon poker psychology and relies mostly on using as much information about betting models of other players as possible. By raising pre-flop and betting on the flop, you learn what range of hands other players will play. By making a lot of small raises pre-flop and on the flop, you get a clear view of the situation at the table. Your playing decisions will be made based on betting details, and thus you will make fewer mistakes. You will bluff when it’s the right time for this, you will reveal bluffing attempts of other players more often, and raise only when you are 100% sure you have the other player beat.

Due to the small ball approach, it will be a hard task for other players to narrow your range of hands. Thus, it is essential to keep your bets to a similar size regardless of your hand strength.

Stop and Go Technique
Until recent years, the first player to act (usually called Early Position) was perceived as the worst position. You need to make the first move having not the slightest idea about other players and what is more, you will be early on each betting round after the first. Poker players were convinced it was a great downside until Irish poker masters realized that showing a very aggressive play in the first position can help you steal a lot of pots.

You probably wonder why it is so. Well, if you had enough poker experience under your belt, you would notice that there are situations where the first player to bet it, wins it. These are hands where the flop hasn't brought any good cards to anyone and everyone lacks confidence in their hand. As a result, no one calls and the first player to act is likely to win the pot!

But what about Stop and Go technique? This is a continuation of the idea realized by Irish players about the player under the gun. By using this technique, you can defeat a stronger hand from the blinds. Let’s assume you have TT in the big blind and someone else at the table holds AK. If you re-raise them, they will either call you or re-re-raise you. As a result, you will end up in the classic coin tossing. How can you improve your odds in this situation? Here's one more strategy...

As AK is a strong hand pre-flop (it can be defeated only by KK or AA), if you re-raise pre-flop, they will certainly call. Actually, it is very difficult psychologically to take a player off a hand if they have raised it pre-flop with a re-raise except on the condition that the re-raise is a huge all-in. Not something you would agree to do with TT, as in the case we are considering. This is where the basic rules of Hold'em should be used to gain an edge. Stop and Go approach can be used only if you are the first to act.

In the example under consideration, you need to flat call the AK's raise. The flop will probably arrive without a card over T, then it is to have an over card. When the flop arrives, you are the first to act and you safely bet your over pair and win the pot. The player with AK will find it too difficult to call your bet with only two cards to come. So, instead of re-raising your opponent and ending up in a coin flip situation, you swimmingly win a pot.

But what would you do if the board comes AKQ? In this case you can bet to show a solid hit of two pair hoping your opponent wasn’t holding a strong hand. Or you check/fold and feel relieved that you didn't get into a race!

Still, you should be aware of the risk. If your opponent holds Aces, you cannot expect them to be afraid of your bet. They might suppose that you hold trips at worst, but no one will fold Aces for that reason. Besides, your opponent might hold trips. However, initially you were going to reraise all in. You were prepared to put all your chips on the line all the same. You've just used one more chance to bet and win by making your opponent lay down their cards. So try this approach next time instead of re-re-raising!