Small ball poker

How to play small ball poker – strategy from Daniel Negreanu

small ball poker with daniel negreanu

Small ball poker strategy became very famous when professional player Daniel Negreanu introduced this term in the game.

He used this approach with a lot of success, and this is why it grew in popularity over the years. While it is not the most effective way to play poker, it surely has some advantages that give you a lot of benefits in specific situations.

What is small ball poker strategy

To put it in short, a small ball poker strategy refers to play where you avoid taking unnecessary risks and choose to play your hand slowly most of the time.

The most apparent use of it is to see many cheap flops with all kind of different hands hoping to hit big, and only then put all of your money in the middle.

Of course, it does not mean that you should avoid putting all of your money in the middle when you actually have a premium hand, but you should play your medium hands slowly if you want to adopt a small ball poker strategy that Daniel Negreanu often advocates.

While it can be used in cash games as well, small ball strategy mostly applies to tournaments where losing all your stack means you are out of the game, thus taking it slowly has a lot of advantages and protects your stack.

It is also worth mentioning that this approach is more beneficial to experienced poker players who have a significant edge over their opponents because they do not need to gamble it all and can rely on other players making significant mistakes and donating their chips.

So small ball poker strategy helps you avoid questionable situations and lets you beat poker games that you play, but the question is how to apply it in the best possible way?

How to play small ball poker

Poker small ball play can be used both preflop and postflop since there are many areas where avoiding losing all of your stack even in a slightly profitable situation can be the best play.

Let us take a couple of examples to illustrate this principle. Let’s say you have AK and face a big 3bet from a tight player, so instead of moving all-in, you decide to call and see the flop. This way, you leave yourself room to fold after the flop if you miss it and protect your stack so that you could continue playing the tournament.

The same small ball poker strategy could be used when you already see the flop. If you have a top pair, instead of trying to raise your opponent, you simply call and let him continue betting with his entire range.

Also, when you hit a straight or a flush draw yourself, you can take it slowly and only start building the pot when you hit it, which prevents from losing money when you will not get your cards, and that is going to happen more often than we would like to believe.

While many players are used to playing aggressively in these situations, the small-ball approach advocates taking a safer line with much less variance involved.

Advantages of small-ball poker strategy

As you already read, small ball play offers a way only to start betting when you hit your hands, which sounds like a great deal to take. On top of that, their other PROS which makes small ball so popular among recreational players.

  • You reduce your variance – you will not lose a lot of money even if you are running bad.
  • You preserve chips in tournaments – even if you happen to face a monster from your opponent, you do not give all your stack away.
  • You can put pressure on your opponents – they will see you as playing every hand, so will way you off when you hit it.
  • More interesting – you get to pay more hands and try to hit something, so it is a lot of fun
  • It is much easier to learn – even if you are just starting, you can learn to play small ball poker much faster than other advanced Texas Holdem strategies.

Just like with every strategy in poker, it is not just beneficial things all over the place. If you use a small ball poker strategy too often or misuse it in the first place, it can actually cost you money and reduce your expected value, mostly in regards to the profits you did not have.

Disadvantages of playing small ball poker

  • You will not win preflop – with a small ball approach, you will not be raising a lot, so you will not have a chance to force other players to fold and pick up many small pots.
  • You will play against more players – playing random hands trying to enter cheap pots will invite other players, and a lot of the time, you will have to play multiway pots, which are much harder to navigate.
  • You will not hit monsters that often – a lot of the time, you will be forced to fold if you keep seeing flops with weak hands since you miss it most of the time.
  • You will leave some value – if you also play your premium hands using a small ball strategy, you will leave some money at the table.
  • You let others outdraw you – if you not raise much and keep calling, you will let your opponents cheaply hit their draws, and it can cost you a lot of money in the long run.

Should you be using the small ball poker strategy in your games?

While there is no definite answer to this question since against some players, the small ball approach could be very profitable, and others can easily counter it with some advanced play.

I do believe that you can use this style against weaker players who will not be able to fold when you hit your hand and will let you continue with your draws cheaply. This is why Daniel Negreanu used this strategy so successfully for many years.

However, if you are against tough players, do not use a small ball poker approach since they will make your life even harder. Instead, concentrate on learning advanced stuff, and you can start by reading the essential Texas Holdem poker strategy tips!


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