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DanielNegreanu

Home Run Hitters Vs. Small Ball Players

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Anyone who knows anything about my approach to No Limit Hold'em understands that I'm a firm believer in the small ball theory rather than the riskier all-in approach to the game.Small ball, as it relates to poker, is a grind it out style of play that, while still aggressive, doesn't rely on big home run heroics. The small ball tournament approach looks to steadily increase your chip count, while trying to avoid big risks in marginal situations.Before continuing, I must add the following disclaimer: Small ball is an extremely advanced strategy and should only be used by players with a good amount of experience.The reason that's true is because small ball depends heavily on hand reading skills. On top of that, it entails playing a lot of hands, and being faced with decisions that are more difficult.Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, Erick Lindgren, Gus Hansen, myself, and a slew of other top No Limit Hold'em players, all use the small ball approach. It's hardly a coincidence.In my instructional DVD, "Learn How to Win at Texas Hold'em with Daniel Negreanu," there are three separate sections: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Strangely enough, the advice I give the novice with regard to small ball is precisely the opposite advice I give to the advanced player.Beginners should stick to the home run approach by playing big bet poker with all-in bets when necessary. While that's not the optimal long-term strategy, it will help neutralize a better player's advantage over them.Think about that for a minute. When a rookie keeps going all-in every hand, he takes all the play away from his more experienced competition. The small ball expert wants to see a lot of flops cheaply so he can outplay novices after the flop. The all-in strategy negates that advantage, and the pro is relegated to being just another player waiting for a good hand. Now, of course, I'm not suggesting that you go all-in crazy. Large raises can often accomplish the same objective.As a rule, a beginning player should instead look to make large raises before the flop. When the blinds are 400-800 with a 100 ante, the home run hitter should be raising to 4,000. There is really no good reason to change the raise amount based on your cards. In fact, by raising the same amount with pocket aces as you would with A-10, you give away less information to your opponents.Conversely, a small ball veteran would likely raise the pot to about three times the big blind. So, if there are nine people seated at the table, with 2,100 in blinds and antes, the expert would raise about 2,000 to 2,400. While the beginning player was risking 4,000 to win 2,100 (laying nearly 2:1 odds on the hand), the small ball player is getting much better value — about even money.Another thing to think about is that the home run hitter won't get as much action as will the small ball player. Against the slugger, the big blind would have to call an additional 3,200 to see the flop; against the small ball player, he might only have to call 1,200, getting almost 3:1 odds.This is the essential difference that makes the home run style much easier to play. Sluggers simply don't have to make as many decisions after the flop. Small ball players, however, desperately want to see a lot of flops so that they can force opponents into more difficult decisions.The very best small ball players make poker look like controlled chaos. They're seemingly involved in every hand and are always keeping opponents on their heels.Consider one more sports analogy — boxing. The small ball player continually throws jabs while always keeping his guard up. His goal is to wait for the opportunity when his opponent makes a big mistake and opens up his chin. That's when he socks it to him with the big uppercut!(If you liked this piece, send a letter or e-mail to your local newspaper and let them know that you want Daniel Negreanu's poker column in your local newspaper.)

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What if you don't really want action? For example, you have a hand like A8 at a sh table with blinds at 200-400. You have a smallish stack of 3600, so if you raise 3x the bb to 900 and someone reraises all-in you'll be getting almost two to one and will probably have to call. By going all-in, you may get hands like 55-77 and A9 to fold, whereas they may push over the top if you make a standard raise, especially if you've been doing it often as in the small ball approach. Would you recommend raising to 1k in this situation, giving you better odds to fold to an all-in bet?

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(If you liked this piece, send a letter or e-mail to your local newspaper and let them know that you want them to pay Daniel Negreanu lots of cash!)
FYP
What if you don't really want action? For example, you have a hand like A8 at a sh table with blinds at 200-400. You have a smallish stack of 3600, so if you raise 3x the bb to 900 and someone reraises all-in you'll be getting almost two to one and will probably have to call. By going all-in, you may get hands like 55-77 and A9 to fold, whereas they may push over the top if you make a standard raise, especially if you've been doing it often as in the small ball approach. Would you recommend raising to 1k in this situation, giving you better odds to fold to an all-in bet?
Small ball only works effectively in big stack situations.

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FYPSmall ball only works effectively in big stack situations.
yep.I like these articles because taken at face value, isolated from context , they will make players in the typcal online tournies worse. And worse with justification, which is a bonus!

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Even when I have a larger stack, I always play long ball.Put your opponent to the test when you can. Put your stack to use.Yeah, small ball play works over time. But when I get into the trenches, I want to apply maximum amount of pressure on my opponent.

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Small ball poker won't work in say an online turbo tourney or even most of the cheap casino tourneys because of the terrible structures, but in a deep-stack tourney it works beautifully. Deep-stack tourney being one that you start off with somewhere between maybe 100-200 big blinds. The less experienced players start to over-protect their hands and get frustrated that you're in every pot. They start making ridiculous pre-flop raises and eventually lose all their chips when they run into another big hand (hopefully a big hand of yours of course).Also, it's annoying how you don't get to see how well players like DN implement small ball poker in the televised tourneys. All you see is them lose a big pot and then miraculously they've gained all their chips back and then some by the next shot. They edit out sooo many hands.

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I've got a pretty stupid question that i'm not sure on but is prolly really easy. With small ball it says to raise 3x the blind, so if the blinds are 200-400 i would raise to 1,200 correct? 400x3I'm asking this because i saw other people saying you should make it 900 which doesn't make sense.

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I've got a pretty stupid question that i'm not sure on but is prolly really easy. With small ball it says to raise 3x the blind, so if the blinds are 200-400 i would raise to 1,200 correct? 400x3I'm asking this because i saw other people saying you should make it 900 which doesn't make sense.
You are correct...

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Would you say John Juanda's game has more of a Home-Run hitters influence? I have more questions on small ball, which I have been using for quite a time. Since my hand reading is not nearly impeccable as yours I tend to sway sometimes and incorporate the Home Run Hitting style to compensate.-Giving this information away are you purposely promoting your style of play? -I'm just curious to know what compells you to share these valuable strategies.*I'll just wait for the book and see if my unasked questions on small ball are answered there.

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I think small ball is a great base strategy. Of course the best strategy, is to play the opposite of the tables style. But most of the time you will be playing small ball if yo are capable. There are a few times were have to go away from small ball. IE if you get short stacked or start to get close to it, your going to have to stop jabbing, and start trying to throw hay makers while your stack is still meaning full enough to scare off bad and mediocore hands to steal. And that if you manage to get a hand and a call when all in your double up will actually mean some thing. Or if your not a large stack and your at a table with more than one maniac. Then, you don't as much try to move all in imop, but play big pots allowing your hyper agressive opponents to bet your pots for you. And save your re raise or even all in for when they are pot jammed, or on the hook enough to call.I think small ball is a great base strategy. Of course the best strategy, is to play the opposite of the tables style. But most of the time you will be playing small ball if yo are capable. There are a few times were have to go away from small ball. IE if you get short stacked or start to get close to it, your going to have to stop jabbing, and start trying to throw hay makers while your stack is still meaning full enough to scare off bad and mediocore hands to steal. And that if you manage to get a hand and a call when all in your double up will actually mean some thing. Or if your not a large stack and your at a table with more than one maniac. Then, you don't as much try to move all in imop, but play big pots allowing your hyper agressive opponents to bet your pots for you. And save your re raise or even all in for when they are pot jammed, or on the hook enough to call.I think small ball is a great base strategy. Of course the best strategy, is to play the opposite of the tables style. But most of the time you will be playing small ball if yo are capable. There are a few times were have to go away from small ball. IE if you get short stacked or start to get close to it, your going to have to stop jabbing, and start trying to throw hay makers while your stack is still meaning full enough to scare off bad and mediocore hands to steal. And that if you manage to get a hand and a call when all in your double up will actually mean some thing. Or if your not a large stack and your at a table with more than one maniac. Then, you don't as much try to move all in imop, but play big pots allowing your hyper agressive opponents to bet your pots for you. And save your re raise or even all in for when they are pot jammed, or on the hook enough to call.

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i think its very hard to play small ball well online. the blinds raise so fast, the only reads you have are betting patterns from players you most likely have never seen before and so many players are playing long ball that its very hard to play this way unless you happen to get a perfect table. if you watch daniel play he is always talking getting a feel for the strength of his opponents hand which is something that is IMO impossible online. I'd love to play more small ball. I love flops but i feel lucky as hell if im allowed to see a cheapish flop in the average online tourney i enter. Juanda IMO does play small ball but likes to use the power all-in to resteal a lot around the button. Since those are the hands the tv shows like to show it appears like he moves in a lot.

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QUOTE(DanielNegreanu @ Sunday, August 27th, 2006, 9:15 AM) (If you liked this piece, send a letter or e-mail to your local newspaper and let them know that you want them to pay Daniel Negreanu lots of cash!)The guy's giving you a free education here; you begrudge him making a buck?Also in his video blog or what ever it's called,he was right on about the lawsuit against the WPT!Daniel if you read this all I can say is bravo,and thanks for the free education!Tony

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What if you don't really want action? For example, you have a hand like A8 at a sh table with blinds at 200-400. You have a smallish stack of 3600, so if you raise 3x the bb to 900 and someone reraises all-in you'll be getting almost two to one and will probably have to call. By going all-in, you may get hands like 55-77 and A9 to fold, whereas they may push over the top if you make a standard raise, especially if you've been doing it often as in the small ball approach. Would you recommend raising to 1k in this situation, giving you better odds to fold to an all-in bet?
A bigger stack will call you with those hands

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if the majority of your reads are correct small ball gives you a better chance at winning. you arent looking to get lucky so much as you are just hoping the odds ring true. the easiest way i can explain the theory is this. if you have a coin and even though the odds are 50% for heads or tails, it can pretty easily be flipped twice and hit heads twice(home run getting lucky and a lot of chips not to mention folds) but if you are confident enough in the odds of the flip(we are sure of them in this istance unlike poker) you would rather flip the coin 100 times and watch the 50% odds play out. if you are confident in your poker skills giving you good reads and good odds when you play you want as many hands as possible to let the probability flesh out.

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I had always been one of those hugely aggressive players who threw away lots of chips by trying to force the pot and getting re-raised a lot just because people knew I was bluffing. I was getting sick of it, so I'm glad that I read this topic. I knew that something was missing from my game, had seen DN check & call a lot before, but never why he did it. Simply by reading the basis behind the strategy, it finally all came together and I had seen a better way to do things. I had to try out the small-ball strategy for myself, and so I did at the .25/.50 tables on PokerStars last night.Well, this is definitely a great strategy. I would have won almost $200 off of my $25 buy-in if I hadn't have made 3 stupid donk bluffs which cost me about half of it, and one or two mis-reads. But the winnings just kept coming... none of the others were good enough to figure out how to beat the strategy, and I finished up $75 after the 2-hour session ended.By the end, the table was eating out of the palm of my hands. They were sick of seeing me in pots, making vast overplays whenever I started betting at them, and I won huge pots all six times that I had monsters by mixing up the slow-roll and fake bluffs and forcing them to overplay.Great stuff you've got here, DN. I'm definitely going to keep trying this out, and see if I can keep the success coming with the small-balling.

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Wait, how does small ball not work in short stack spots??? it seems to me like every time i get late in a tournament this works great, when you get to the 200-400 level or sometimes even 100-200 it seems like a 2.5x raise works great. Honestly in tournaments online you are never that deep so, i will do this with almost any kind of stack late in a tournament unless its desperatly low. A friend that has won multiple sunday tournaments suggested this to me for a way to help close out a win late in tournaments and it has helped my results greatly. I do find however that early in tournaments raising larger works far better for me becuase small raises at this point really dont give you any sort of hand range.

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In the long run small ball will work out better then home run hitters, if as said you have good reading skills. With Small ball you can have a complety cold deck but, still go deep in a tourny while with home run hitters if you hit a cold deck you can say good night

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In the long run small ball will work out better then home run hitters, if as said you have good reading skills. With Small ball you can have a complety cold deck but, still go deep in a tourny while with home run hitters if you hit a cold deck you can say good night
I tend to agree. FWIW, I never liked the "home run" style and never played it much. For a couple of weeks I forced myself to play it just to get the feel of it and stop being intimidated by the all-in, but it's not a style I'm comfortable with.It's one of many reasons I love to watch Dan play. Given that most of the hands you get in hold-em are crap, what Daniel does has shown me a path to getting the most out of the crap. I prefer his play to that of someone like Hansen, because I think Dan is more calculated in what he does. Last night at Doyle's Room I was in a tourney with 288 entered, and made it to 55th (not in the money) while never getting a hand higher than 44 (got it twice). It's kind of tiring having to work that hard, but I survived a lot longer than I would have had I been just waiting for an opportunity for the home-run. You get the edge when you show a winning hand (set of 4s, wrapped a straight) because people see you are playing and winning with less than optimal cards. Occasionally I'll use the "show hand" option if I win a stone bluff just to let folks know I'm capable of that, too.The other thing I've learned to be watchful for is that you can blind yourself down as the blinds go higher going in to see flops that don't hit, or where someone reraises and you don't really feel you can meet the bet. At that point I have to be more conscious of position and limit the range of hands that I'll play (e.g., early on I may play suited gappers, but later on I may look for middle suited connectors only). Of course, all that can change if I have hit some pots and am playing with a meaningful stack.One problem I run into is that after some time thinking "small ball" it's hard to shift gears on a single hand, while I still have a reasonable stack, and say "time to go all-in". So I've gotten into trouble by not going all-in but continuing to play small ball post-flop. Example: last night I limped with A 10 and flopped an A 10 with 2 to a flush. I bet the hand as I would (1/2 the pot) and the flush draw stayed in, hitting on the river. Not a real smart call since his flush was only 10-high, but you get that online. In retrospect that's one I should have gone all-in on at the flop, playing the possibility that the other would fold the draw. At least it's forcing me to learn to think more situationally about the big play.I'm more than happy with the "small ball" style, but understand that at this point in my evolution I need to get a better feel as to when to get aggressive and swing for the fences other than when my back is against the wall. The "small ball" mentality has you thinking about gradual accumulation and conservation (maximize gain, minimize loss), so that situational switch to the home run is (for me at least) easy to miss. The other advantage to having this table image (I play 2- and 4-table tourneys against a lot of the same people regularly) is that when I do go to the home run pre-flop it gets respect because folks know that I only do it with a power hand. This lets me run bluffs, though I can't take advantage of that all too often.On the raising, early I tend to go with 4x BB (blinds 20/40, raise to 200) because it will force out the marginal calling hands and let me isolate. Later I'll drop to 3 and then 2xBB, but I almost always raise if I'm opening the pot unless the blinds are so high as to make that prohibitive or I am coming in after others have limped though there I take the risk that someone is going to bump the pot behind me, so at the higher blinds I always have to ask if I'm able to stand the heat of a pre-flop raise. If so, I'll either limp or make the raise myself. If not, better to sit it out.BTW, none of this will help you if you look for me at Doyle's to use it against me because I don't play there under this name.

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I usually know it's time to go for broke when I get a good hand and I'm at 10X the BB or lower. That's just me though knowing that I'm only going to be able to stay floating a little longer something needs to be done.

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Is small ball primarily (or entirely) a tournament strategy? It seems to stress survival, which is irrelevant in cash games.
No. It can be used and is more useful in cash games than most tournaments because of the deeper stacks. It's not a survival tactic, it's a way to minimize the varience (luck if you will) of poker, which at some points will bite you. By seeing flops and playing poker (putting some one on a hand, representing a hand, etc.) you increase the skill aspect of poker to a high level and make it almost like a game of chess instead of bingo, where one would shove in and wait to see if the 5 cards (the board) help/hurt you, which is gambling and will lead a lot of unnecessary risks that will obviously result negatively a certain percentage of the time. Small ball is not easy to play if you, for lack of a better word, "suck" post flop. If you have a lot of post flop experience then small ball is the perfect way for you to play poker.

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No. It can be used and is more useful in cash games than most tournaments because of the deeper stacks. It's not a survival tactic, it's a way to minimize the varience (luck if you will) of poker, which at some points will bite you. By seeing flops and playing poker (putting some one on a hand, representing a hand, etc.) you increase the skill aspect of poker to a high level and make it almost like a game of chess instead of bingo, where one would shove in and wait to see if the 5 cards (the board) help/hurt you, which is gambling and will lead a lot of unnecessary risks that will obviously result negatively a certain percentage of the time. Small ball is not easy to play if you, for lack of a better word, "suck" post flop. If you have a lot of post flop experience then small ball is the perfect way for you to play poker.
The best characteristic of small ball imho is you give your opponents informatino on what hands you will raise/play with so you automatically cull the players in the pot that don't have strong hands. It keeps people honest and generally makes it a 2 way fight for the pot, given the different levels of understanding what that person might have the flop is a great indicator and it's a perfect strat for slowplay 'n check/raise b/c it's a 2 way pot.

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Small ball, as it relates to poker, is a grind it out style of play that, while still aggressive, doesn't rely on big home run heroics. The small ball tournament approach looks to steadily increase your chip count, while trying to avoid big risks in marginal situations.
How does Small ball play in cash games? I generally prefer regular ring games over tournaments - especially in our small stakes home games. I'm trying to evolve my game from a style that contains more tight/pre-flop big bets to thin the field and big continuation bets on the flop. I had a pretty good run with this style until a couple of the better players at the table started picking me off on a regular basis. Suddenly, I was winning small pots and loosing big pots because I either got out played (pushed off the hand when the big turn & river bets came) or was giving my opponents great implied odds to call pot-sized bets on the flop (pay off wizard to sneaky straights). I'm still up over time (yes, I keep track of all my results) but am making adjustments and trying to mix up my play a bit and I'm forcing myself to play after the flop much more often (thats the only way I'll get better right?). I'm really curious about Small Ball strategy, but nearly every reference to it is in the context of large, deep stack, tournament play. I'm just wondering about the translation to regular ring games. I can't imagine that it's a 1-to-1, but I really don't know. Any comments are really appreciated.Just another student of the game. - dubiousdrift

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