If you play live poker, you’ll notice that most winning players play similarly. They reside in a safe cocoon and avoid other regulars while feeding off the weak. Three-bet ranges are nearly always strong-side weighted towards QQ+/AK. These players execute a strategy that involves playing controlled, heads up pots, in position, against weaker opponents. One street of value with a medium strength hand is enough, and two streets are a bonus. Therefore, pots only grow when the “Reg” has a huge hand, which is likely to be up against a strong but yet second best hand. Overall, they employ this strategy day in and day out; plucking away slowly and taking advantage of loose action. In other words, small ball poker.

A small ball player’s win rate comes from correctly taking advantage of their opponent’s common mistakes while simultaneously making fewer mistakes than his or her opponent — nit picking on where they could have saved a bet or where they could have correctly folded Queens preflop versus another small ball player’s Three-Bet.

To be frank, this strategy is slightly profitable. Also, if the games are shallow it is not only profitable but optimal. For the record, I dislike shallow games, and you should too. However, if you and the regulars are employing the same strategy, how are you supposed win? Let us ignore the weaker players because they will beat themselves.

Employing a strategy that takes advantage of small mistakes for marginal gain is what your opponents execute. I want to put forth a strategy that forces opponents into uncomfortable situations that they are not accustomed to, leading to big mistakes, and therefore gaining me a significantly larger edge. Long Ball Poker.

Long Ball Poker

At its essence long ball poker is big pot, maximum pressure poker. The focus shifts from showdown poker to avoiding showdown all together. Playing every hand as if it were a bluff simply because it is easier to shift from bluff to value versus value to bluff.

If you are not confused yet, you should be. However, I will try and give a hand example to better illustrate the concept.

Stakes 2-5 ($1,500 effective)

MP Raises to $25

MP1 Calls $25

BU Hero holds J♠ 9♠ and calls $25

* Three-betting here is fine but we’ll want to keep our three bets and calling frequencies balanced.

Blinds Fold

Flop ($82): J♦ 8♥ 6♠

MP Bets $55

MP1 Folds

Hero ???

Let us talk briefly about what the standard play is and where it goes awry. The standard play is to call and reevaluate on the Turn. This allows your opponent’s bluff range to remain intact. In other words, we are bluff-catching. Therefore, if our opponent places any subsequent pressure on the Turn we are likely to have to fold our top pair. This is the strategy your opponents employ. Bluff-Catching Strategy.

With Long Ball, we’ll want to play top pairs for value. As a result, we’ll raise the flop in this situation.

Flop ($82): J♦ 8♥ 6♠

MP Bets $55

MP1 Folds

Hero Raises to $175

It is now on our opponent to figure out what it is we are doing. If our opponent folds out here, that is fine. We shut out our opponent’s equity share of the pot, and we did not want to bluff catch on future streets with our hand.

If our opponent calls our raise, we have significantly narrowed down his range. Our opponent no longer has the same range he chose to continuation bet with. However, now our opponent is the one bluff-catching for two future streets, out of position, in an inflated pot.

The correct adjustment for our opponent would be to Bet/3-Bet/Fold hands such as QQ and shut out our equity share of the pot. However, your opponents do not do this at this stack depth and resort back to their bluff-catching strategy.

Now our job is to assess the range our opponent continued with and play accordingly. This means we will apply pressure on all cards that help our perceived range and give us range advantage, therefore, hurt our opponent’s range.

The majority of the time when he calls our raise on the flop, we can assume that he has KJ/AJ or overpairs to the board (QQ-AA). On a board of J 8 6r, any 5, 7, 9, 10, or J will improve our perceived range and hurt a large portion of their range. Therefore, we will apply pressure on these cards. Also, notice that since we have J♠ 9♠ we will pick up a backdoor flush draw some percentage of the time. However, we will only bet the spades that improve our perceived range. As a result, the 2♠ will not be a card we will bet on but rather check back and try to actualize our equity in the pot. For the record, I would be more inclined to bet the A♣ than the 2♠; even though the 2♠ increases our equity share since the A♣ places more pressure on our opponent’s range.

OutOfPark

If our opponent calls our Turn bet on one of the cards that hurt their range, it will then become a “rinse and repeat” process. We further narrow down their range and continue to place pressure on cards that hurt their range on the River.

Notice that throughout this process we can also run into a big made hand ourselves. We can backdoor into flushes, straights, two pairs, etc. In situations where we make a big hand, our bet sizing will have to be such that it will allow us to actualize value from our opponent.

It goes without saying that employing this strategy will uncap our range. At first, your opponents will believe you have a “nuts or air” hand in certain situations and will therefore make mistakes against an uncapped range. However, as a result, with time they will begin to adjust by widening their bluff-catching range and fighting back with hands they previously would not have done so with. This is exactly our goal. We have now placed our opponent in an uncomfortable situation. Therefore, their mistake propensity has now increased. The game is wide open.

Not 100% sure what this is? Read this article from SplitSuit about capped ranges.

This article covers the beginning stages of Long Ball. However, it is important to note that the rabbit hole extends deeply. I will close out by saying that in Long Ball your focus is on maximizing value and not on losing the minimum. For years bets or raises were taught to be either classified as a bluff or for value; however, in actuality, not every bet or raise is black and white. However, in such a complex game like ours there is a lot more grey than people care to acknowledge.

Finally, and as a disclaimer, if you choose to go down this road get ready to embrace some variance since you will be in the trenches fighting more often.

Good Luck and hit it out the park!

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Showing 19 comments
  • bocky7
    Reply

    another great article SOTO….i have played against a lot of really loose tricky players in 2/5 nl tables and found that this is the best way to “take them off their game”…but i use it less frequently to still look tight enough to confuse them about how i really play…i do see your point though (about “widening their bluff-catching range and fighting back with hands they previously would not have done so with”).

  • Christian Soto
    Reply

    Thank You Bocky!

    As long as we can force our opponents to make more mistakes than we do than it’s perfect. I find that when they are put in uncomfortable spots and are bluff-catching more than we are, we succeed.
    Truth is no hand has value until showdown so we just gotta play the game according to that mantra.

  • Ryan
    Reply

    Wow. Great article. Thought-provoking. I like how you encourage embracing the grey area, for there is where me will find extra value!

    • Christian Soto
      Reply

      Thank you Ryan!

      The value is made in the grey area trenches! Glad I could inspire a little!

  • Bruno
    Reply

    Hi,Chris
    How can I learn more about longball style(books,articles,videos and coaches)?
    Thank you!

    • Christian Soto
      Reply

      Hey Bruno, so I should be 100% honest with you; you won’t find any books or videos on this. I watch countless hours of videos, and I’ve never seen it discussed. Partially, I believe it is because the complexity of the strategy. It has a lot of moving parts. On average, it takes my best students a couple months to begin to put the strategy pieces together. But once that occurs, they become a huge problem for their opponents.

  • Eileen Sutton
    Reply

    Home run, CS. Thanks trillions.

    Question 1: Is this pre-flop?

    The correct adjustment for our opponent would be to Bet/3-Bet/Fold hands such as QQ and shut out our equity share of the pot.

    Question 2: If we’re drawing why aren’t we happy about the 2s (below)?
    Question 3: If we put O on A/J, why does an A put pressure on their range? Doesn’t it help them a lot?

    As a result, the 2♠ will not be a card we will bet on but rather check back and try to actualize our equity in the pot. For the record, I would be more inclined to bet the A♣ than the 2♠; even though the 2♠ increases our equity share since the A♣ places more pressure on our opponent’s range.

  • Eileen Sutton
    Reply

    Hi, I reposted this with better punctuation: Home run, CS. Thanks trillions.

    Question 1: Is this pre-flop? “The correct adjustment for our opponent would be to Bet/3-Bet/Fold hands such as QQ and shut out our equity share of the pot.”
    Question 2: If we’re drawing why aren’t we happy about the 2s (below)?
    Question 3: If we put O on A/J, why does an A put pressure on their range? Doesn’t it help them a lot? (below)
    “As a result, the 2♠ will not be a card we will bet on but rather check back and try to actualize our equity in the pot. For the record, I would be more inclined to bet the A♣ than the 2♠; even though the 2♠ increases our equity share since the A♣ places more pressure on our opponent’s range.”

    • Christian Soto
      Reply

      Answer 1: This was concerning postflop play. So for example, QQ bets flop get raised… almost entirely QQ is choosing to just call down and go into bluff catch mode. The correct adjustment against someone like me is to 3bet Flop.

      Answer 2: We like the 2s. But it doesn’t help us win the pot in anyway except for giving us more equity to get there. The board didn’t change in anyway to help us in terms of range advantage.

      Answer 3: The Ace is kind of a magic card. It places pressure on his KJ/QQ/KK range in such a way where we could still have AJ, Axs, etc. He could have these hands as well, but we may choose to bet this card because it places pressure on some portions of his range, where as the 2s places no pressure on anything.

  • Bill Conklin
    Reply

    How about a video or power point in the monthly RCP collection? Enough to help us move into this a bit deeper. I found it fascinating and would like to include it in my game. I gather this works best when IN position.
    BC

    • Christian Soto
      Reply

      I’m creating something expanding on this as we speak. It won’t be in the monthly membership, it’ll likely be a premium product but I’m sure it’ll be worth it.

  • Jack King
    Reply

    I was gonna make some snide, asinine, joking remark, but then I saw that you replied to damn near every comment, and you won me over! Great article, excellent read, and good advice. I am hesitant to try this play style because I am not a huge fan of variance and avoid it as best I can. Still, I will likely give it shot at one of the frequent free roll events I play weekly.

    • Christian Soto
      Reply

      Haha! Jokes are always welcome. But I’m glad you got soemthing out of the article. And it’s a slow progression into the style so take your time.

  • SmoothCallEMT
    Reply

    Which type of players you prefer this strategy with? LAGs? TAGs? Nits? Does position factor into your decisions? Stack sizes?
    Thanks

  • Mike Boatright
    Reply

    hmmm raising with only top pair is bad on the math side of the game.. What if you opponent has kj crushing you and simply calls.. You don’t know where you stand you’ve wasted money on top pair weak kick and if the turn comes a blank say 2 then your bet into your forced to fold and wasted unnecessary chips. This makes sense if you know your opponent bets out often with draws,or air often making you think your top pair against his perceived range is good so re-raising to 175 is a good thing.

  • Mike Boatright
    Reply

    I would like to agree in the idea of using this strategy against similar players to you if everyone is a grinder playing correct then being a maniac might simply be the best strategy based on their range and play types,but often enough they will catch on and trap you by flat calling with aces or huge draws with huge bluff value and good odds to catch.

  • None of your business
    Reply

    I can’t understand the detail of this article, it uses too much metaphor and slang. The author should have spelled out exactly what he means by “For the record, I would be more inclined to bet the A♣ than the 2♠; even though the 2♠ increases our equity share since the A♣ places more pressure on our opponent’s range.”

    What does “putting pressure on our opponent’s range” *mean*? In exactly what way is betting A♣ putting pressure on the opponent’s range?

  • Mike Boatright
    Reply

    Another reason this is a bad strategy is when your opponent raises to say 400 after you raised it to 150 from 55 or whatever. Your stuck you have trash your possibly out of position. What do you do shove it with a good read,no your dead meat and wasted money bad play. You have no idea what your opponent has he could haves aces,ak or air and is just firing back at you. This play can work,or it cant it’s best to stick to small ball which if timed right pays real big when your opponent shoves in 3 way pots with you as the hunter in the middle with top set playing it coy. 50% of the time your opponent will call your raise the other half he will reraise you making you fold doesn’t seem profitable long term. In poker you don’t want to go gung ho with one pair it’s that simple

  • Nonton Bokep
    Reply

    The majority of the time when he calls our raise on the flop, we can assume that he has KJ/AJ or overpairs to the board (QQ-AA). On a board of J 8 6r, any 5, 7, 9, 10, or J will improve our perceived range and hurt a large portion of their range. Therefore, we will apply pressure on these cards. Also, notice that since we have J♠ 9♠ we will pick up a backdoor flush draw some percentage of the time. However, we will only bet the spades that improve our perceived range. As a result, the 2♠ will not be a card we will bet on but rather check back and try to actualize our equity in the pot. For the record, I would be more inclined to bet the A♣ than the 2♠; even though the 2♠ increases our equity share since the A♣ places more pressure on our opponent’s range.

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