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DanielNegreanu

Home Run Hitters Vs. Small Ball Players

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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.
The strategy one should be using in a large, deep stack tournament should be exactly like that used in a cash game - deep stacks and lots of post flop play. The translation is nearly 1-to-1 if played correctly. As DN has said before, you should not start using the small ball style consistenly unless you have a lot of post flop experience. From what you described as your play style, it is very clear that you are very uncomfortable playing after the flop. If you wish to improve your post flop play, I would reccomend playing a lot of short handed to start out due to the frequency of post flop play with deep stacks.When playing small ball you have to have a lot more acceptance in draw outs. You cannot be constanly afraid that someone is going to draw out on you. It is often more profitable to slow play/weak play a hand, rather than over betting the pot to "protect" your top pair. For example, if you have AQd and the flop is As 8h 9s there are a lot of draws present, but if you check-call while letting someone semi-bluff, or flat call someone who's betting a flush draw you will often get more bets from somebody. BUT, in the event the Ts hits the turn and your opponent starts leading out strong you have to have the ability to drop the hand and wait for another spot. This is the number 1 reason why it should only be used in deep stack situations by good post flop players because you will often have to muck when beat and wait for a better spot. It is a lot of work to play correctly at first, but after a while it becomes habitual.

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If you want to improve post flop play I highly reccomend you start playing pot limit holdem. I firmly believe that pot limit requires more skill, and requires alot of good post flop play.I used to play NL exclusively, but after playing PL I found my post flop play improved dramatically.

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You have to mix your styles up based on a lot of factors in my opinion. When I am short stacked I play more of a long ball style trying to get my chips in with good hands or pick up the blinds. When I have a bigger stack I will tend to play more of a small ball style trying to pick up pots and bust people without having to risk a lot of chips without a hand.

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I asked earlier if small ball applied to cash games, or just tournaments. The part of small ball that values survival definitely doesn't apply to cash games. If a cash player places a value on not busting, he will be beaten by a player that is risk-neutral (just values EV) in the long run. The latter player would have an advantage. I wish Daniel would weigh in with an answer here though. I wonder how his cash game play differs from tournament play in this regard.

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I asked earlier if small ball applied to cash games, or just tournaments. The part of small ball that values survival definitely doesn't apply to cash games. If a cash player places a value on not busting, he will be beaten by a player that is risk-neutral (just values EV) in the long run. The latter player would have an advantage. I wish Daniel would weigh in with an answer here though. I wonder how his cash game play differs from tournament play in this regard.
small ball can value survival, but in cash games it can also make you seem like a maniac. So when you flop huge, you'll get paid off in a major way.

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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?
If you only have 9BB you should be in the all in or fold mode. You might be able to limp and fold to a raise, but usually its just all in with that type of hand.

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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.
Thanks for the post son. I was considering playing small ball at the cash tables and now I will.

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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.
Enjoyed the info tyvm...

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I recently made the transition from Home run to small ball, and I did notice a huge difference in my ability to go deep in tournaments. Where before I was relying on hitting big cards and winning all in confrontations, now I'll get involved in a lot of smaller pots and look to out play opponents after the flop. While playing Hit to win either works really well, you get lucky and can sometimes just steamroll to a high finish or win, it's unlikely that you're going to get lucky more often then your opponents. Not to mention there's a lot more satisfaction in outplaying hundreds of people, as opposed to just catching good cards.

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I recently made the transition from Home run to small ball, and I did notice a huge difference in my ability to go deep in tournaments. Where before I was relying on hitting big cards and winning all in confrontations, now I'll get involved in a lot of smaller pots and look to out play opponents after the flop. While playing Hit to win either works really well, you get lucky and can sometimes just steamroll to a high finish or win, it's unlikely that you're going to get lucky more often then your opponents. Not to mention there's a lot more satisfaction in outplaying hundreds of people, as opposed to just catching good cards.
The reason I like this style is because when opponents finally get fed up of you playing so aggressively, they'll play back at the wrong time. The other thing is that you don't lose much when you lose a hand. People are going to chase their draws quite often, when they hit, you lose such a small pot. I don't believe in pushing when I know my opponent is, say on a flush draw, because if he hits it, I'm out of the tournament or severly crippled. Tournaments are not cash games where you can take those chances.

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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?
Daniel's strategy can only be applied to deepstack tournys. If you have no chips, then you can't play small ball obv.

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Daniel's strategy can only be applied to deepstack tournys. If you have no chips, then you can't play small ball obv.
This strategy really only works in big buy-in events with slow structures that allow you to play a lot of hands. WPT and WSOPME if those pros played in some smaller tourneys like my local casino, that style is to be thrown into the trash. Blinds go up too quickly to play that style plus you don't start off with a lot of chips. In a beginner's tourney, simply use the beginner's style, long ball poker and play fewer hands simply because the implied odds aren't that great.

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This may appear stupid but small ball cannot be applied in cash games right ?

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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?
if you make a raise to 1k with 3600 chips at 200/400 i believe that is an absolute attrocious play. Especially, if you intend on folding in any situation.. You have less than 10 BBs i believe there is no raise for you to make besides all in. Less than 10bbs i am in all in or fold situation..a8 can be shoved in an unopened pot in late position, but i personally would never make it 1k.

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It's hard to use the small ball strategy at a live 1-2NL or 2-5NL cash games just because theres a standard raise preflop to 5x - 7x the blind. If you go in there tryin to raise 2x -4x the blind like smallball says, then you are goin to get called by at least 3-5 people every time. What do you do then?

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Sorry for the question but.....does it means that when you use the "small ball" theory you have to play more hands, which means playing loose ?I play at very low stake actually $0.02 on PS and at those blind pople will call you with anything os i'll rather wait for monster hands, or playable hands in late position.Or maybe i'm missing something..

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Sorry for the question but.....does it means that when you use the "small ball" theory you have to play more hands, which means playing loose ?I play at very low stake actually $0.02 on PS and at those blind pople will call you with anything os i'll rather wait for monster hands, or playable hands in late position.Or maybe i'm missing something..
No, it is much less effective in micro-NL. Small-ball is better suited for games where everyone is playing tight/aggressive at least to some degree, because those players are easier to put on hands, and more likely to be paying attention to the hands you play, which is what makes small-ball effective. From personal experience, basic tight/aggressive is best for when a table is really loose, and then switching to small-ball is the way to go once the table tightens up and you've had time to study everyone's play.

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Is small ball primarily (or entirely) a tournament strategy? It seems to stress survival, which is irrelevant in cash games.
I have found from time to time, that I can incorporate some of the small ball philosphies into the mixed limit cash games I play. When I realize I am at table where very few players are folding preflop or even after the flop, I tend to call more liberally and raise less often. After the flop I feel very comfortable outplaying my opponents and sometimes feel I can get more value out of the volume of opponents, so when the only players who would fold are the ones I have drawing dead, I will many times call in spots I would almost always re-raise with otherwise. The other spot I have found this useful in is when I am consistently heads up with a maniac - to quote Layne Flack, "Why do the pulling when the donkey is doing the pushing?" I was also wondering if Daniel could comment on whether he is tweaking his own "small ball" tournament strategy. It seems to work well for getting him deep in any major deep stacked event, but to some degree he seems to be missing opportunities to accumulate a huge chip stack early on and then be able to steal pot after pot in the later stages. Also, I am a huge fan of mixed games and was wondering if Daniel thought there would ever be a Poker after Dark or High Stakes Poker type show where they played 6 or 8 different games?

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Early on I make it 3xs the BB. When the ante's kick in I move to 2.5-2.7x the BB. Yeah it gives good odds for the BB to come along, but with position in my advantage I'm fine with that. Only time I make it 3 times the BB is in a blind vs blind battle. I wanna try and make the stacks even more shallow to some what negate his positional advantage he'll have in the BB. Obviously you will have to have confidence in your own game to do that because playing out of position can be tough, and often times is a negative EV play.I think small ball is a great way to approach the game. You have to first understand that when you first try a new approach espically small ball odds are you will not succeed small ball is something that requires a lot of practice and effort of handling the failure you will first experience. If you play any amount of torunaments you should know this because the biggest thing about being a trny player is being able to handle the constant failure because its like 80 percent of the time failure maybe 20 percent of time ITM then 5 percent of the 20 percent maybe deep run.

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Thank's Dan.In my view small ball hands are great if you know when to play them, even in tournaments, and could give you opportunities to win big pots.I don't mean to play them all the time. But you can bet an un-open pot in middle position from time to time, or call a raise in late ones, IMO.My own small ball hand is 64. I made great play with them even when you hit a str8 or a full, nobody will place you there.

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Thank's Dan.In my view small ball hands are great if you know when to play them, even in tournaments, and could give you opportunities to win big pots.I don't mean to play them all the time. But you can bet an un-open pot in middle position from time to time, or call a raise in late ones, IMO.My own small ball hand is 64. I made great play with them when you hit a str8 or a full, nobody will place you there.

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Does small ball work in online tournaments? I've heard a few of the sharks here laugh about using it.

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I'm glad I read this post because when you are starting out you feel more comfortable playing "small ball." I didn't think about being able to take the advantage away from the more experienced players in this way. Hopefully, my game will improve now while I'm still learning! Thanks!

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If you have been playing poker 4 awhile and are not using small ball you are just missing out, plain and simple. Online, I actually love to use it in non-rebuy PLO tourneys due to the fact antes are never introduced and you can get down to 18 or 20 times the big blind and still be ok. Structure does play an important role but even in the local charity poker rooms I sometimes play when in michigan (where the structure is atrocious) if you remain patient, small ball will allow you an extra opportunity to double your chips when your opponents are drawing dead. One of the most important aspects is to not call off significant portions of your stack early on. For some reason, even though I remain observant if I am not in the hand, the more pots I play with a particular player the more dead on my reads become later on when the pots are much larger. Ideally if you make some hands early on and grow your chips into a big stack small ball is even more effective as you can grow your stack almost risk free. I have even adapted a small ball strategy when playing blackjack, avoiding splitting 2s,3s,4,6s,7s and doubling on 9 - laugh if you want but in my last 20 sessions I have booked 15 wins and a 1400 profit having never bet more than 15 dollars a hand and quitting anytime I make 150 dollar profit. It isn't life changng money but I enjoy spending it!!! (Being able to quit with a profit is important as well) I still play an advanced basic strategy but avoid putting alot more money out there in marginal spots - i.e. splitting 2's against dealer's 3 - "the book" says to do it but it is a very marginal advantage based on thousands of hands - now of course I am doubling 11 against everything but a 10 or an Ace and doubling all my soft aces vs 4 5 or 6 but in trying to limit the swings I honestly feel like I have negated the house's 2nd biggest advantage (the 1st being that I can never break the house) but I would love to try my strategy out with PHil Ivey or Daniel's bankroll...............I think I could break a small casino inside a month.

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If you have been playing poker 4 awhile and are not using small ball you are just missing out, plain and simple. Online, I actually love to use it in non-rebuy PLO tourneys due to the fact antes are never introduced and you can get down to 18 or 20 times the big blind and still be ok. Structure does play an important role but even in the local charity poker rooms I sometimes play when in michigan (where the structure is atrocious) if you remain patient, small ball will allow you an extra opportunity to double your chips when your opponents are drawing dead. One of the most important aspects is to not call off significant portions of your stack early on. For some reason, even though I remain observant if I am not in the hand, the more pots I play with a particular player the more dead on my reads become later on when the pots are much larger. Ideally if you make some hands early on and grow your chips into a big stack small ball is even more effective as you can grow your stack almost risk free. I have even adapted a small ball strategy when playing blackjack, avoiding splitting 2s,3s,4,6s,7s and doubling on 9 - laugh if you want but in my last 20 sessions I have booked 15 wins and a 1400 profit having never bet more than 15 dollars a hand and quitting anytime I make 150 dollar profit. It isn't life changng money but I enjoy spending it!!! (Being able to quit with a profit is important as well) I still play an advanced basic strategy but avoid putting alot more money out there in marginal spots - i.e. splitting 2's against dealer's 3 - "the book" says to do it but it is a very marginal advantage based on thousands of hands - now of course I am doubling 11 against everything but a 10 or an Ace and doubling all my soft aces vs 4 5 or 6 but in trying to limit the swings I honestly feel like I have negated the house's 2nd biggest advantage (the 1st being that I can never break the house) but I would love to try my strategy out with PHil Ivey or Daniel's bankroll...............I think I could break a small casino inside a month.
Right.................................................................... The Casino's will never see you coming...... lol.

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