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When people analyze their game or try to explain why they have been losing, they will very likely come up with some kind of bad beat stories. There are only a few players who try to discover what the leaks in their game really are. It’s a fact that every player loses money in the blinds, which is logical since you’re forced to put money into the pot without looking at your cards. However, most people lose too much money when playing the blinds, some even lose more than the sum of the blinds they have already put in.

Several poker books have been written about hand selection as compared to position relative to the button and I don’t have much to add to what Sklansky, Malmuth and all those others have already written. However, whether or not to defend your blind is often less automatic than whether or not to play a hand out of free will, since in limit hold’em, if you’re the kind of player I hope you are (tight/aggressive), your tightness will invite people to take a shot at trying to steal your blind. Obviously, you can’t let these people succeed in running over you. If you send the message that your blind is up for grabs every time, everyone except for maybe the most timid or frightened players will do exactly that: take it. Since at the limits I play ($10-20 and up) hardly anyone figures to make more than one big bet per hour, it should be obvious playing the blinds correctly can have a huge impact on your hourly rate.

When I started playing poker for a living, I played very aggressive but also extremely tight, which induced some players to take a shot at my blind practically every time. Since it is clear that a free ride in the blind can be very profitable in the long run, you don’t want your blind to be raised on every occasion.

In deciding whether or not to defend, it is important who you are up against. Is your opponent a habitual stealer or a very tight player? Is the raiser in early position or near the button? And how does this specific player view you? That is, does he think he’s able to outplay after the flop or to run over you and get away with it? If the raise comes from a solid player from early position and everybody else has folded, my blind is his nine times out of ten. The only hands I would defend with are wired pairs since they play very easily after the flop -no set, no bet- and if I hit, the raiser won’t figure me for such a powerful hand and AK. That’s right, I’ll fold hands like JTs, QJs and even AQ, suited or not.

My reasoning: the raiser figures to have a big (QQ, KK, AA) pair or AK, so I’m not going to chase him out of position for a nothing pot to begin with. On the other hand, if there are also two or three additional callers, I will call with a wide range of hands. I’ll call with K6s, T7s and sometimes even hands like 76 or 98. However, I’ll still fold hand which figure to be dominated by the raiser’s hand, that is hands like AT, KJ and even KQ or AJ still go into the muck, unless they’re suited. Some well-known author has claimed that if hands aren’t worth playing offsuit you shouldn’t play them suited, however when in the big blind with trouble hands like this I think being suited might be just enough to turn a fold into a call. When in the blind, it’s important to figure out what the other guys might be playing, so you try to play hands that are opposed to theirs. Therefore I sometimes defend with small cards, especially when the raiser has a tendency to raise with big cards rather than big pairs. So you might not have to hit twice to win. More money is lost in limit hold’em by hands being dominated, that is hands like AJ vs. AK or KT vs. KQ, than in any other situation. When you flop top pair your kicker might not be good and when you don’t flop a pair you’ll have to fold since hitting one of your overcards on the turn may once again be more beneficial to the raiser than to you. Therefore avoid playing offsuit big cards in raised pots!

When your big blind is being attacked by a late position, highly aggressive raiser a totally different Sbobet88 strategy is called for. Since the raiser figures to have something but the odds are against him having a powerhouse (raises with hands like K9, QT or A8 are common), folding the trouble hands I just mentioned may be a costly mistake. In fact, hands like AT or AJ may become reraising hands in situations like this. Beware of reraising with KJ or KQ; a lot of aggressive players have a tendency to raise with a “bad ace” which will of course be good in a showdown. On the other hand, the small connecting cards or suited cards I would defend with in a multiway pot will still have to be folded in situations like this, even if you suspect the raiser to be stealing. Make sure you’re well armed before going to war!

After the flop, don’t automatically fold hands like AT or AJ when the board comes with rags. The raiser figures to have two (semi-) big cards also, so your ace might still be good; in fact, checkraising the preflop raiser on the flop in situations like this is often correct. Also betting out on the flop, whether or not you’ve hit, might be a good thing once in a while. By doing this, you send the message that your blind isn’t his all of the time, that you’re willing to defend and even go to war once in a while, in short that you won’t let him push you around. Still, you’ll have to fold your big blind at least six or seven times out of ten, or you’ll be giving too much action.

Folding your small blind should become as second nature to you. I believe most people lose even more money in the small blind than they do in the big blind. There are some otherwise good players who might complete the small blind without looking “since it’s only half a bet anyway”. You’ll hear people talk about “discount” but just like in real life things aren’t always what they seem. You’ll be in the worst position throughout the deal. You don’t have a lot of information about the other people’s hands since there was no preflop raise, and (especially in raked pots) being involved in pots with hands that don’t really warrant it can become a costly habit.

In the small blind I fold more than 70% of the time. If there are only one or two not-too-dangerous limpers, I would rather raise than call to get the big blind out and to get control over the hand. Hands like ATs or AJ would be perfect candidates for making this play. Trash hands like K9, A9, suited hands like K7s or Q8s and the small connecting cards like 87 or 98 should still be mucked without a shred of doubt. There are no hands I would call an early-position raise with in the small blind. I might call with a wired pair if it seems like the pot is going to be six- or sevenhanded, but hands like AJs, AQs and maybe even AK have nowhere to go except for the muck if there are no other players in the pot except for the raiser. Don’t give in to the temptation of playing too many hands in the blinds since you’ve already invested 25 or 50 percent. You’ll be surprised how much good playing like this will do to your bankroll.