Playing Small

I used a small ball strategy at the recent tournament and many of the players and a few of my friends had questions about the strategy. I will take a few paragraphs and explain what I was doing and the logic behind the strategy. I certainly did not invent the small ball strategy and took it from players like Daniel and Phil.

I went to the finals of the tournament with $12,000 in chips with the blinds $300-$500 and sitting in 31st place in a field of 33 players. My stack was not a threat to many of the players at my table and I would not be able to make a player lay a hand down with the few chips I had left. I knew there was a strong possibility I would get caught in a coin flip for all my chips pre-flop. I felt that I was good enough to play poker and not have to resort to winning a series of coin flips. I felt that at least three consecutive coin flips would be for my tournament life giving me only a one in eight chance of surviving.

The strategy was going to involve pot control and making timely bets when I felt the opponents were weak. I was going to raise pre-flop with my premium hands but only about three times the blind. I did not want to put it all-in with jacks against AK. Rather than re-raise and create a showdown with jacks I would call along and play a small pot and try to pick it up if no over cards came. I played the strategy and picked up the blinds many times and took down about twenty pots with out a showdown.

My play post flop was to bet about a third to half the pot allowing my opponent to fold without risking any unnecessary chips. As the tournament progressed I ended up short stacked when I could not find a hand to get involved with. Rather than plunge for all my chips pre-flop, I chose to use a stop and go move where I put in about three times the blind pre-flop and sent the rest of my chips post flop hoping my opponent missed the flop.

I took this strategy to be superior to plunge it all-in and try to get lucky and double through a couple times. I felt that my skill level was high enough that I could pick and choose my spots and play my way to the end. From the very beginning I was aware that my stack size was critical and any mistake would cost me the tournament. I played as long as I could and when it was time to get lucky I did not have any luck.

The strategy is based upon being the superior poker player and you want to make your opponent to have to make as many decisions as possible. Anyone can win a coin flip. To let an entire tournament come down to a race is to say skill has no place for you. Avoid the races and pick your spots. When you find yourself overmatched and you are not sure how to beat Phil Ivey, just remember that I told you to reduce it down to the fewest hands possible and play every hand for as much as you possibly can. You may just get lucky.

If you showed me your AK pre-flop I would fold my JJ just avoid the race if it were for my tournament life. For all my engineer friends, mathematicians and statisticians I am reducing my variance.

There is a million dollars worth of advice in this little short posting now go out there and use it.


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