Battle of the Blinds

One of the most difficult parts of poker is the play that happens around the small and big blind. Since most people are aware of the fact that the value of their hand diminishes the earlier position they’ve got, they tend to fold around and often this means that the player on the button or the one before him will actually be the first one to put money in the pot. This leads to a dilemma for the player: he can choose to limp in, but regularly you will see players who instead raise almost any hand in order to pick up the blinds.

Never feel forced to play

If you are in the small blind you should never care about the money you have put in. If you have a hand to play or raise, feel free to do so, but never allow yourself to feel as if you are forced to defend your small blind. You will still have to pay 3 x the amount you have put up for small blind to see a flop and you will have a terrible position in all future betting rounds. As a matter of fact you will need to have at least 10-10 or AQ to pick a fight with a late raiser from small blind position

The difficult part is when you are the big blind and need to pay 1 x bb to see a flop, which at this point will have 3.5 x big blinds in it. You will often hear people say that you can call this bet with a wide range of hands because you are getting fair odds to do so, and that is a valid point. However, there are a couple of major drawbacks to this you will have to keep in mind especially when you are playing poker online.

First of all: It is hard to hit a flop and when you do not, and the original raiser makes a bet you will likely have to fold. You will on average get a fair flop one quarter of the times, this means a flop where you will be able to either bet out, call a bet or check-raise your opponent. It does not necessarily mean that you have hit top pair though, and often you will be down to guessing what your opponent has if you decide to call him down.

Secondly: If you do manage to hit top pair one of two things will usually happen. You will win the hand fairly easy and cannot be sure that the other player will pay you off. If he was just trying to steal the blinds, he will back down if he misses the flop and you show strength. If he is a very aggressive player you will often have to call him blind the whole way if you hit the flop but still not sure if you are actually ahead or not.

Thirdly: When you flop some kind of draw you will not have pot odds to stay in the hand. What most players do in that situation is check-raise the flop, then bet out again on turn. That way you can either win the pot if your opponent folds or if you hit your draw. What you actually should do is fold when you are on a draw head to head, but it is something very few players practice in reality.

Danger on the flop

You appear to have odds to defend your big blind with a call, but as I just lined up, the hazards are tumbling over you when the flop has come. An alternative to just calling is to re-raise preflop. This has the added benefit of making potential blind stealers think twice next time they are considering a steal. This approach is a tough solution nevertheless, and you will usually need to have some kind of hand that can be the outright winner.

Furthermore you will have to lead out of the flop and 4 of 5 times also on turn if you do get called the first time. You are not guaranteed a win by doing this, and probably around 50 percent of the time you will have to deliver the best hand at showdown so it is not something you should try on any two bus tickets.

By making the re-raise preflop, the bet on flop and turn you will be in for 5 x the size of the big blind instead of just folding and give up your big blind. So is it worth it? It is up to you, you will win a fair share of those hands, but you will also be risking a lot of chips by doing so.

The alternative to defending your blind is of course folding, and I would recommend you do this on every hand below 88 for pairs or below A10s for un-paired hands. Treat your big blind as a necessary expense. If you get the chance to see a flop, great, and if you got odds to call against a raise (with a drawing hand and several opponents) by all means do so, but do not consider pride or anything like that important in the equation when you are in the big blind.

Choose your battles carefully, fold when you got rags or a drawing hand head to head in a blind-defend situation, and seriously consider re-raising every time you are going to call anyway. Make sure that any potential thief are aware that you are not going to give up on the blind every time and when you are ready for a fight he will have to pay a lot to stay in.

One final thought on defence. If you are just calling from big blind and flop a pair of aces or kings: Why not consider a slowplay? If this guy hasn’t got A or K he is unlikely to call if you raise him on flop, but if you just call, he will often take another stab at the pot on the turn, and then you can raise him. Remember that defending your blind can win you a small pot but loose you a big one.

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