Friday, June 20, 2008

My New NLHE Strategy: Small Ball

Yeah, I know, I know. I know I said I wouldn't play NLHE before I leave for my trip. But I've changed my mind, because I think I finally figured out what I was doing wrong in the $1/2 NLHE game.

I wasn't playing small ball any more.

I was playing some sort of medium or big ball (large ball? excessively sized ball?) where I was raising out of position and committing myself to the pot with a continuation bet on the flop. With medium capped hold'em games (~50 BB stacks) that is a no-no, since you run out of stack on the flop or early on the turn, and it robs you of opportunities to read the other players. For example, every pot-sized bet pretty much triples the pot. If the pot starts out (assuming you play) as 2.5 BB, it takes three raises/bets to get committed (2.5, 7.5, ~20, ~60 BB). Betting half the pot will double the pot each time giving you one extra decision (2.5, 5, 10, 20, 40). But even four bets/raises doesn't leave a lot of room to work and read the players.

By betting relatively large pre-flop, then making a near-pot bet on the flop, I kept running out of stack, and had a lot of nasty decisions with top pair facing an all-in bet.

So, tonight I play small ball, try to keep the pot small with hands that aren't monsters, and work on reading players and taking pots with opportune bluffs and reads.

In line with this (or just in time) I got an e-mail about Negreanu's PokerVT. His sample videos cover two parts of small ball (bluff outs and defensive river bets) which should come in handy tonight if the right situation comes up. If you want to see, check out the links on the main page under Featured Training.

My goals for tonight:

  • Play more hands but raise less. This includes not raising big hands (AA, KK, QQ, AK) from early position.
  • Play small ball. Make smaller bets unless my read calls for it (don't make a small bet on the turn when I think my opponent has a draw, for example). Defensive river bets, probe bets, bluffing outs, etc.
  • Depend on my reads. I've lost touch with my reads, but if I play more hands with a small ball attitude, folding based on reads will be a lot easier.
  • Don't overvalue top pair!
  • Limit myself to two buy-ins. The only exception is if I feel that I am playing well but I lose my first two before 9:30 pm. If so, take a walk, THINK IT OVER, and rebuy if I feel it is appropriate.
Hopefully it will work out!

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