Regular readers of this column know that I am a proponent of small ball poker which is characterized by low pre-flop raises and restrained betting on the flop.
In small ball poker, the investment before the flop is minimal compared to the size of the average chipstack.
Say, for example, that you have 10,000 in chips with the blinds at 100-200. A pre-flop raise to 500 is the right size for small ball poker, representing a mere five percent of your stack and 2 ½ times the big blind. Sure you could raise more but I generally prefer to risk fewer chips on speculative hands before the flop.
In a deep-stack cash game, however, that type of bet just wouldn’t be big enough to have any chance at stealing blinds and antes.
Let’s take a look at GSN’s High Stakes Poker where play starts with $300-$600 blinds plus a $100 ante. In this deep-stack cash game, where players routinely buy-in for at least $100,000 in real cash, no one would fold to a standard small ball $1,500 pre-flop bet (2 ½ times the big blind) when there’s already $1,800 in blinds and antes up for grabs.
Knowing that, you should make a few adjustments to your game when playing in deep-stack games like increasing both the size of pre-flop raises and the size of bets on the flop. Going back to the previous example, a raise to about $2,000 to $2,400 just might do the trick. You’ll have a better chance to pick up the blinds and antes and will also force loose opponents to pay extra when they decide to play trash hands hoping to catch a big flop.
Let’s go back to the standard small ball raise but this time in tournament play.
The standard 2 ½ times the big blind small ball raise — $1,500 when blinds are $300-$600 — is much more likely to be successful in tournaments because players are forced to play with caution. Also, players won’t typically have a robust stack of chips in front of them; to call a $1,500 bet would likely risk a significant percentage of a player’s chipstack.
You see, calling any raise in a tournament is an important decision that demands careful consideration. That’s not necessarily true in a deep-stack cash game where a typical small ball bet would probably account for an insignificant percentage of the average chipstack.
Playing deep-stack no limit hold’em is a very complex game where the most critical and difficult decisions come after the flop. That’s not the case in small buy-in games. In those games, players often have only one betting question to ponder: Do I shove all-in on the flop or do I wait until the turn?
You’ll rarely see players deliberating that question in a deep-stack cash game like High Stakes Poker. That decision is much more common in a World Poker Tour event where blinds and antes escalate rapidly.
I find that it’s in deep-stack games where the best players have the greatest playing advantage. Obviously, these experienced players are skilled in the fundamentals of pre-flop and flop play. But it’s in deep-stack games where they reveal their true expertise on the turn and the river. That’s when a whole other level of poker intelligence is required.
Deep-stack games like High Stakes Poker are the favorites among both poker pros and avid fans of televised poker. In these games, the most talented players shine and the most exciting action takes place.
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