Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review of Daniel Negreanu's Small Ball Strategy: Starting Hands

Small Ball: For Deep Stack Events

A few poker players on Twitter asked me to help them better understand Small Ball Strategy for no limit tournaments. I've decided to summarize the key points based on Daniel's chapter in his book Power Hold'em Strategy. It's important to realize that this approach is for deep stack events.

Increase your stack size in no-limit tournaments without taking significant risks.
Battle for the blinds and antes
Play your oppponent's hand rather than focusing on the strength of your own hand.
Manage pot size--small hands, small pots. Big hands, win big pots.
Want to hit straights and flushes against top pair hands.

Starting Hands
Small ball=focus more on what your opponent doesn't have than the strength of the cards you do have.

Big pairs:
AA, KK-it's ok to go broke with these hands
QQ, JJ-you don't want to play many big pots because you are either way behind or slightly ahead. No need to re-raise, especially against an early position raiser.

Middle pairs:
77 to 1010-they are good hand for their implied value pre-flop rather than their pre-flop strength. Your goal-flop a set to win a big pot. Doesn't mean you fold, if you miss--depends on the action.

Small pairs:
22-66-play like middle pairs. Don't re-raise with these hands pre-flop.

A-K, A-Q:
Big trouble in deep stack events. You don't want to get all in pre-flop.
A-K-raise pre-flop, but doesn't play well after the flop.
A-K unsuited will win small pots, but usually a dog if lots of action.

Aces and Paints: A-J, A-10, K-Q, K-J, Q-J, J-10
These hands are much better when suited in deep stack events.
Unsuited one pair hands win you small pots usually, and can cost you big pots.
Also, these hands are second best to premium hands.
If someone raises in front of you, fold K-Q and A-J--unless they are suited.

K and Q rag suited:
Don't raise with them and only limp in multiway pots.
Will mostly make second best hands--and small ball approach avoids these kind of hands.

Suited connectors:
Ideal for small ball as the goal is to hit flush and straights against premium pairs.
Opponent won't be able to put you on a hand, and overplay their pair or overpair.
These hands are easy to get away from on flop.
And your reputation for playing small ball allows you to steal pots, example:

You Js-10s:
Flop: 5h-6s-7h
Can win if:
Opponent has A-K and checks flop.
Opponent bets, you call, and a 4 hits the turn.

And--best of all, when you do hit your straight, you can win a big pot.

Trash Hands:
Q-3, J-2, 9-4, 8-2
No value except when you are playing the situation where you are trying to win the pot with a re-raise before the flop. Just don't get careless after the flop. If you hit your hand, play a small pot.
Or raise when opponents in blinds are very tight and fold pre-flop or fold to a small flop bet when they miss.

Next: Betting

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