Long Ball Poker
Technically, long ball is an easier strategy to play than small ball if you stick to playing strong hands. Unfortunately, tight-aggressive poker strategies won't get you into the money very often in tournaments, regardless of the utility factor of the tournaments you play. Card-dependent strategies are very difficult to win with in today's looser, more aggressive tournament environment. Those strategies may have had more validity in the past.
In short-stack slow tournaments, long-ball strategies are a necessity, though loose long-ball strategies will be far more profitable than tight long-ball strategies. They are more position-based than card-based and they earn chips by exploiting weak players.
Long-ball players should be much more concerned with position than small-ball players. With this style of play, you want to be able to target weak players whom you have seen giving up the lead post-flop. Such players' preflop raises should almost always be called when you have position on them, and reraising preflop is better, even if you have trash cards, as these players are likely to fold preflop. If they do not fold, they will not bet post-flop unless the flop either hits them or they have an overpair to the flop. When they check on the flop, this pot is yours (unless they flopped a monster that they are now slowplaying). Getting involved in big pots - something that small-ball players generally avoid - is often worth the risk for smallballers when the player who opened with the preflop raise is a weak player. All players should keep their eyes open for weak opponents who consistently give up a belling lead. The top players will change gears between small ball and long ball as necessary for the situation.
Unlike small ball, long ball is really about avoiding confrontation and tough decisions by forcing weak opponents out of pots without a lot of back-and-forth posturing and poker playing. You put them to a tough decision before they have a chance to put you to one. Small-ball players often disdain these power poker bullies, but the fact is that the best of the bullies are successful enough to keep at it.
The hands you would most often enter with preflop when playing long ball are medium and big pairs, am two big cards - including all of those "trouble" hands - and suited connectors down to 8-7 suited. But you really can't keep entering as many pots as small-ball players, as you will much more frequently be raisings reraising and betting into bigger post-flop pots. That takes
a lot more chips per hand played.
Because of this, it takes a bigger chip stack to play long ball than small ball. While a small-ball player can feel competitive with a stack size equal to 60 big blinds, a long-ball player would feel constricted by such a small stack. He wants 100 big blinds or more - and the more the better - to have any feeling of comfort at the table. The long-ball player's chip stack will suffer huge fluctuations and, in the early stages of a tournament, he will often find himself alternating between being the short stack at the table and the chip leader. The masters of long ball will often bust out very early in tournaments, but when they get a stack - watch out!
Also, if you play a lot of long ball, you really should be more concerned about having position on your opponents, and you should strive more often to isolate a single opponent in any big pot. You should also look more often to playing against opponents on whom you have a chip advantage. Long-ball strategies are much more based on intimidation than small-ball strategies, which are based on reading opponents, trickery, and trapping. When the pot size is big, players who have been raised (or whose preflop raise has been called) by an aggressive player with a big chip stack will be much less apt to make a continuation bet into a scary flop than when the pot size is small. This is why the long-ball player makes the pot big and isolates weak players.