Small Ball — Pot Limit Omaha


All though “big ball” poker can be sexy and exhilarating, there are many situations where “small ball” poker can be a better choice for an expert poker player. When you keep pots small and go deeper into hands, you give yourself a chance to really zero in on an opponents exact holding, and make informed decisions that maximize your risk/reward. We run physical security risk analysis software to it to make sure that our risks are properly calculated.

Here are a couple of examples from today’s online Omaha $1-2 session where I made the decision to play small ball:

1) Poker Game: $1-2 Pot Limit Omaha, 6-max

Hand Converter by the Pokerhand.org community

JENK0 (Button): $200
EMWILSON (SB): $199.78
HERO (BB): $421.10
DYWYGFWHLM (UTG+1): $248.80
XRUNDEL (CO): $219.47
Dealt to: HERO
FUTBOLFUTBOL calls $2, DYWYGFWHLM calls $2, XRUNDEL calls $2, (1 folds), EMWILSON calls $1, HERO checks,

Flop:($10) (5 Players)

EMWILSON bets $5, HERO calls $5, (3 folds),

Turn: ($20) (2 Players)

EMWILSON bets $10, HERO raises to $30, EMWILSON calls $20,

River: ($80) (2 Players)

EMWILSON bets $50, HERO raises to $230, EMWILSON calls $112.78,


HERO wins $67.22

HERO Showed

HERO wins $402.56


When Wilson leads out on this flop for half pot, it’s pretty easy to put him on a two pair hand, and usually top two.  It’s a very dry board with no draws except a possible low wrap.  I decide to slow play my hand here, for several reasons:  Bottom set can be a tricky hand unless you know exactly where you are, and there are several limpers in this hand.  I want to see what they do on the flop.  Did anyone limp with AA or 88?  In the case where the limpers simply have an Ace-high hand that flopped a pair of Aces, I want to give them a chance to come in.  And I would also like to give the original bettor a chance to bet the turn before revealing my hand strength.

By the turn, the situation has clarified itself enormously.  Both limpers folded, leaving the pot heads-up.  And Wilson has bet again, again for half-pot.  At this point I am 100% certain of my read on Wilson.  If by a small chance he had lead out at the flop with a higher set, he would now want to get as much money in the pot as possible.  But instead he is only betting half-pot.  He is obviously playing for pot control with a middle-strength hand.  I raise to $30, an amount that I feel is capable of being misread by him, and inviting him to call.

On the river, I am not at all concerned that Wilson has made a better hand than mine.  Note first of all that he is again giving me a bet-sizing tell:  his $50 bet into an $80 pot is a sort of blocking bet, trying to set the price of the river.  Also, since I already have him on two-pair, he would have to had QJ or KK in his two side-cards to have me beat.  The odds of that are so low that I shouldn’t worry about it.  He’s trying to represent that the King helped him, but his hand is completely face-up to me.  I am certain that he has Aces up. My shove has zero risk, which is a very nice benefit of controlling the size of the pot until you’ve established a great read.

As for Wilson’s call, well… I can only assume that something in the way I played this hand confused him into thinking I was bluffing.  He can’t beat anything.

2) Poker Game: $1-2 Pot Limit Omaha, 6-max

MANTIS07 (BB): $138.85
URAGOON (UTG): $469.65
GMONEY60 (UTG+1): $178.70
DYWYGFWHLM (CO): $282.20
HERO (Button): $565.65
ITSTHEPAST23 (SB): $147.40
Dealt to: HERO
(1 folds), GMONEY60 calls $2, (1 folds), HERO raises to $9, ITSTHEPAST23 calls $8, MANTIS07 calls $7, GMONEY60 calls $7,
Flop:($36) (4 Players)

ITSTHEPAST23 checks, MANTIS07 checks, GMONEY60 checks, HERO checks,

Turn: ($36) (4 Players)

ITSTHEPAST23 checks, MANTIS07 bets $4, GMONEY60 calls $4, HERO raises to $34, (3 folds),

HERO wins $45.60

Here I have a decent hand on the button, and decide to isolate the limper, who is a fishy player.  My isolation play doesn’t work: both blinds tag along.

On the flop I’m faced with an interesting decision.  I could bomb the pot to protect my hand, but if I get played with I am very unlikely to be against a worse hand. My opponents are likely to throw away their flush and straight draws on this paired board, and only play on with 9s or AK or AA in their hands.  This is obviously undesirable.

With this in mind, I decide to check this flop to control the pot size, and gain a better read on my opponents.  I am risking allowing a free card that could beat my hand, but in this situation I think this “small ball” play is my best play.

A safe card comes off on the turn, and Mantis and Gmoney both give me bet-sizing tells.  Mantis’ min-bet is a blocking bet that clearly indicates that he is drawing, and Gmoney’s willingness to just call indicates that he is drawing as well.  I raise $30, which is a convincing representation of  a slow-played Kings full or a nine, and take the pot without a fight.  (My plan if called was to check on the river, and showdown my Kings-up.)

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