Poker Road Warrior: Small Pot Poker, Shark Vet NRG Takes it Down!
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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Small Pot Poker, Shark Vet NRG Takes it Down!

Tourneys Shark will be reporting on this week;

Tulalip Casino, Thurs. $110 buyin (100-120 entries)

Tulalip Casino, Sat. $90 buyin (100 entries)

Sunday Affiliate Freeroll, noon EST Absolute Poker
First grabs a WSOP 12K Package. Screen name _SHARKEY_

Small Pot Poker Strategies, by Gavin Smith

You'll be seeing a lot of me on next year's World Poker Tour broadcasts. So far in the 2005-2006 schedule, I've made three final tables. I won the Mirage event, finished third at the Bellagio and fourth in Tunica. When you see a broadcast that features my play, you may be left scratching your head, asking, "Why the heck is that guy playing those cards?"

There's no question that I do play an unconventional game. But, there is a method to my madness.

I play a style that's usually referred to as "small-pot poker." Using this approach, I'm looking to pick up a lot of small pots by applying a constant level of pressure to my opponents. Pre-flop, I raise frequently, especially in position. My raises are small, usually around two-and-a-half times the big blind, as opposed to the customary three or four times the big blind. I'll raise with a huge variety of hands - everything from big pocket pairs to "junk" hands, like 6d-4d, or 5c-8c.

Usually, I'll miss the flop when I raise with junk. In fact, two-thirds of the time, I won't make as much as a pair. But here's the thing: If someone called my pre-flop raise, he's also going to miss the flop most of the time. When we both miss, I have a distinct advantage. As the pre-flop aggressor, I have control of the hand. Most of the time (as much as 90 percent of the time), I'll follow up my pre-flop aggression by betting roughly half to two-thirds of the pot on the flop. A good percentage of the time, this bet will be enough to take down the small pot.

Let me give you an example. Imagine that you're playing in the big blind and you hold Ks-Qs. I raise in late position to two-and-a-half. K-Q suited is a pretty decent hand against someone like me, who has been raising constantly. Still, it's not necessarily a hand you want to risk your whole tournament on. So you call.

When you opt to just call, I put you in a position where you really need to hit the flop. If the flop is all rags, you need to be worried that I made two-pair with 4-7. Or, if there's an Ace on the flop, you need to be concerned, since I could be holding a real hand. Most of the time, you'll end up surrendering the hand to my bet on the flop.

If you do hit a hand - say the flop comes K-Q-4 - that's fine. With my playing style, I'm accustomed to getting check-raised a lot. But that's okay, too. I didn't risk a whole lot with my bets, so I can just surrender the hand and look for better spots down the line.

There are a couple of other advantages that come with playing this style. One is that no one ever puts me on a big hand pre-flop. So, when I do pick up pocket Aces or Kings, my hand is well disguised. My opponents are willing to call with marginal hands (like the aforementioned K-Q) and maybe get themselves in a lot of trouble. If someone does flop top pair when I hold an overpair, it's likely I'm going to get a big portion of his stack.

The other great benefit comes when I hold junk and hit the flop hard. When I raise with 5-7 and flop a straight, an opponent holding pocket Jacks is going to be in a lot of trouble.

Some of the best tournament players around - Daniel Negreanu, Gus Hansen and Phil Hellmuth among them - employ some version of the small pot approach. Is it the right method for you? That's something you'll have to find out for yourself.

I do, however, caution beginners from trying this style as it requires a lot of difficult decisions (what do you do with top-pair bad-kicker on an 8-high flop, for example). These are answers that sometimes come easier to more experienced players who have developed a feel for the game.

Still, you can give small-pot poker a shot. Register for a low buy-in tournament online and mix up your game. If the tournament doesn't go so well, you'll only be out a small buy-in.


This Tourney Report is by one of my best Shark players. Andrew "NRG70" is a full time Poker pro and lives in Eastern Ontario, Canada. NRG also has 3 Shark Tour wins!

$25 NL Freezout Win (28 people)

Its Thursday the best night in Renfrew to play poker, Bennyz Bar and Grill has the most people playing and the least amount of donkeys. I do my usual routine of the evening to prepare for Thursday night, always wearing a red shirt and my obsidian (volcanic glass) arrowhead for a chip protector.... Who said superstitions were bad?

After a 20 min walk, I am 30 min early, and buy my dinner, eat and get relaxed; perfect, a full belly and mentally prepared to take this thing down! We get our 2500 stating chips and seating, perfect Table 1, Seat 1.blinds start at 25/50 and are 20 min long "shuffle up and deal," is called and we're ready to go.... I deal myself Qs10s 3 limpers to me, I raise to 200, both blinds fold and 2 callers; flop come 4c8d9h, they check to me I bet 500, they fold and I take it down. 6 hands later I’m UTG and I get AsQd; I raise to 200, 2 callers, flop comes Qs10s4d; I quickly bet $400, cut-off folds, button raises to 800; knowing he likes to semi-bluff flush draws alot I quickly push without hesitation and he folds, showing his 6s7s. So my stack is up to 4625 in the first blind period...well off already.

At about mid-way through the 3rd blind period, our table is broke down so we move to table 3. The blinds are now up to 75/150 and I have cold cards for about 15 hands, practicing my folding method I call a 450 bet with Kh10h, everyone else folds; I love to see flops :). Flop comes 4c9c10d, She isn’t that great of a player so I know I cant outplay her if she has a higher PP. She bets 500.... I tentatively call turn comes 10s.... I’m thinking SWEET! She bets 500 again...only thing I can put her on, that can beat me is A10 or full house so I call; river Kc, BLAMO! She bets another 500 and I put on a little acting job, knowing the only hand that can beat me is KK; I raise 1000 and she calls, I turn over my K 10 and she shows me her JJ. So I’m up to about 7000 in chips at this point.

At the first break the blinds are up to 100/200, I pick up AA UTG+1 I bet it up to 600; I get re-raised as he goes all-in for 2400 more, everyone else folds and he turns over QQ; after neither of our hands get better, I knock another person out sending my stack up to 12,450; the clear chip leader with 18 people left. 40 min uneventful min pass till 2nd break and my stack is still about the 12,000 mark.

After the break the blinds go up to 200/400; the tournament director takes all the 25 and 50 chips off the table. There is 2 tables left I do a few loose calls to knock some people out Kc5d for 1600 chips, vs. 99.... I spike a K on the turn, and 7s9s vs. AdQd for 2100, I river a straight. With 10 people left and the blinds are 400/800 my stack is up to 16,500, a player from the other table gets eliminated and we move to the final table.

Taking care of some short stacks I get my first hard hit of the night, with the blinds still at 400/800 I have 8s4s in the BB, UTG goes all in for 1800, shortstack on the button calls, SB folds and I call as well. The flop comes 8d5s6s; I go to just check it down but he didn’t want to, he goes all in for 3000 more. I call with the top pair and str8 flush draw; he turns over Kd4c and the shortstack turns over Ad10h; so I was ahead and in good position to take out 2 people turn. Blank.... River K.! $! %! #! @ So it took me to 10800 and the big stack was to my left.

Blinding off to about 8400 chips and the blinds up to 600/1200 I get QQ UTG +1. I raise to 3000, bigstack just calls and everyone else folds. Flop comes 4d7sKc, I go all in for the 5400... he calls; I cringe for a bit till he turns over JJ and he doubles me up to 18600 when his hand doesn’t improve. The next hand I look down, I have QQ again, I bit shaking I just go all in cause I didn’t want anyone to see a flop, big mistake, it takes a guy, (we will call him suckout king) about 3 min to call with about 9300 chips, and he really didn’t want to; he turns over JJ; which is weird cause I just beat JJ with my QQ. Flop blank, turn blank, river...a fricken J!! (Boys and girls, this is why we don’t go all in with big PP when we don’t need to)

We get down to 4 people with the blinds at 800/1600. I get rockets twice in a row, but only get paid some blinds. Suckout king takes out the short stacks AK with AQ, after he spikes a Q on the river; now down to 3 I bully about 4 pots in a row to get to 20,000 then suckout king does it again, with 18,000 chips he goes all in with AT and gets called by AK...the Big stack flops his king but there is also a J in that flop. The turn is a Q and shortstack is drawing to an A which misses and the Blinds go up next hand to 1000/2000. After about 15 min later the Suckout king takes out the other guy with J8 vs. KJ after spiking his 8 on the flop. Heads up time Baybee!!!

As I often do, I always offer to split the top 2 places, which would of been $265/$260, but as he was chip leader at 55,000 to 15,000 chips he said "lets play it out", I reply "good". First hand I get caught making a play and he takes 5000 chips so I went down to 10,000 right away. The blinds go up to and are capped at 1500/3000 as I don’t stop making plays and I work my way back up to 16,500 when I flop 2 pair; I bet out just like when I got caught making the play earlier and he goes over the top and put me all in. he had K-high no draws and doubles me up to 33,000. Next hand, I flop top pair and he doubles me up again when he goes over the top with 2nd pair and doesn’t get better. He comes back a bit taking the blinds of the next 4 pots and then doubles up when he was severely dominated; my A9 putting him all in vs. his Q9. blamo Q on the river. He gets up to 25,000 to my 35,000 when I get AsKs... I bet out my usual position bet and he goes all in with Ad10s.... Flop 5 8 9 turn J... I cringe; feeling another bad beat coming... river 3! I win! $350 bucks for me and $175 for him.



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