Most people who play poker stick to rigid starting hand requirements where they make raises and reraises with certain hands pre-flop, make calls with others, and fold everything else. And this is certainly a good way to condition yourself to avoid playing too many hands, but it’s a poor strategy to carry into every tournament and cash game situation.
Daniel Negreanu is one person who agrees with this and thinks that a poker style called small ball is the way to go when it comes to starting hand requirements. Negreanu says that small ball poker is a great tournament strategy since it allows a person to stay in control of the table while, at the same time, giving them a steady increase in their stack over the course of the tourney.
Negreanu says anyone who uses small ball poker strategy should certainly play A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J just as any advice would suggest. However, he also says that these hands don’t require automatic raises and reraises – especially if someone in early position has already raised. With middle pairs like 10-10, 9-9, 8-8, 7-7 a person should make a small (ball) bet in hopes that they will win more money. The point of playing these hands is to eventually hit a set; once you’ve hit this set then it’s time to bet more money.
Now Negreanu’s strategy for these hands is no shocking revelation, but what really surprised me is that he advises using the small ball strategy for A-K too. Negreanu says you want to make small ball raises with this hand because putting in a lot of money pre-flop is a sure way to lose the majority of the time since A-K is susceptible to being beaten by hands like A-6 or A-8 when they turn into two pairs.
In short, the whole idea of small ball is to make smaller bets with hands that need something else from the board in hopes of winning big money later on.