The best players in the world rely on small ball poker when playing in No Limit Hold’em tournaments.
And though it is the optimal strategy, it’s not meant for players of all skill levels. You must have superior hand-reading and people-reading skills for it to be effective.
You’ll play a lot of hands in small ball poker which means you’ll often face difficult situations with marginal cards. That’s why this approach is simply too advanced for beginning players.
In my book, “Power Hold’em Strategy,” I teach two distinctly different strategies. One is targeted at the experienced player who is looking to get to the next skill level. The other is an entry level approach that seemingly contradicts some of the basic tenets of small ball poker.
Here’s the first tip for beginners: Avoid playing small pots against experienced players because you’ll almost certainly be outplayed after the flop. Instead, make much larger bets before and after the flop. Also, play fewer hands, especially when out of position.
On the other hand, experienced small ball players should come in for a slightly smaller raise when they are first to enter the pot. A raise of 2 ½ times the big blind is about right.
Say you’re dealt 7c-8c with the blinds at 50-100. A skilled small-baller would raise the bet to 250. Not so for a novice player; he should avoid playing the hand altogether.
You see, experienced players can get away with playing more hands pre-flop because they are less likely to make mistakes after the flop.
A novice, though, needs to play much tighter before the flop. And when they do get a playable hand, they need to make larger raises — as much as five times the big blind.
Large raises serve multiple purposes for the beginning player. They apply pressure on skilled opponents who like to play a wide range of funky hands. They also improve the beginner’s chances of taking down the blinds and antes without a fight. Finally, they can help novices avoid difficult decisions after the flop by inducing skilled opponents to lay down their hands.
Remember, this isn’t the optimal tournament strategy for skilled players; it risks too many chips in relation to the expected small payoff. It works for novice players, however, because their primary goal should simply be to stay out of trouble and survive.
Here’s the second tip for beginners: Use the same big betting approach through to the flop as well. For example, with 1,200 in the pot, make a large bet to apply maximum pressure on your opponents. A pot-size bet ought to do the trick.
A bet of that size, though, is clearly too steep for an accomplished small ball player. It’s too exploitable and forces skilled players to assume much more risk than is necessary. Instead, small-ballers should bet around 700 chips for which they would gain virtually the same information as the beginner’s 1,200 bet – but at much lower cost.
Big raises by inexperienced players cause advanced players to operate outside of their comfort zones. That’s because skilled pros hate playing big pots unless they have the nuts, or something close to it.
Big bet poker is effective against small ball players because it forces the skilled player to wait patiently for trapping situations. Yes, this approach does make the beginner more susceptible to a trap. But the pro must still catch strong cards in order to even consider calling a big raise, and that’s not easy to do.
Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/books.htm for information about Daniel Negreanu’s popular book, Power Hold’em Strategy.
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