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defending blinds

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  • defending blinds

    Full post can be found here


    Let’s face it. Playing in the blinds is a lousy proposition. Not only do you have the worst position on the flop, you have to actually pay money for the privilege. That money is like chum to the sharks circling the table, looking to feast on a nice snack. Even the biggest fish think they can take it.

    So what’s the biggest mistake one can make? It is to defend that money. Some of you are saying, “wait a minute venice, I thought the subject was defending your blinds.” Well, I’m not going to do that and neither should you. Why aren’t we defending our blinds? The reason is that our position is horrible. If you aren’t crushing a level of play, playing a lot of hands out of position (oop) is a good way to lose money. You don’t want to actually lose more money than if you had just folded in the first place.

    It isn't your Money

    The first thing to realize is that as soon as money goes into the pot, it isn’t your money anymore. It is in a communal pot. Lots of people have a chance to claim it. Your goal is to claim a share of it. Given the weakness of your position, you aren’t going to be able to take the lion’s share. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a share of it. Therefore, we’re going to look at getting your share of that money. I don’t claim to be an expert in the area. Over the last 6 months, I have clawed back about ½ the money I posted in the blinds. I’m sure others do better than I do in this area. Therefore, I hope this will be more of launching point to begin the discussion rather than the definitive guide.

    Love the Fold Button

    Your main weapon in this battle is the fold button. You want to fold a lot if someone shows interest. There’s one specific exception to this, but otherwise, the fold button is your friend. Remember, you aren’t defending anything. You are making a decision whether to contest this pot or not. Your situation is worse than even being the UTG because somebody has entered the pot saying they have an interest in it. Yet, there is good news. The good news is that somebody has sweetened the pot. You’re no longer playing for just 1.5BB. You are now playing for 4 or more BB if they raised pf. There can be more if play continues. You only have to contest a few of these to win back a fair amount of what you put in as the blinds. Therefore, you want to pick your spots to play. Because of the weakness of your position, you want to play when the players are weak and/or they have weak cards.

    Big blind and small blind play are somewhat different. Most of this will focus on the BB, with the last part just covering some of the differences in play between the two.


    No Limping Please, We're Poker Players

    One of the easiest and most profitable spots is this situation in the BB.

    Hero has XX.

    7 folds, SB calls, Hero raises.

    It doesn’t matter what cards you have, you should do this with ATC. I prefer raising to 4BB, but that is a personal preference. The reason is as follows.

    Quote:Originally Posted by KurtSF
    Limpers suck at poker and have a hand they are unsure about: NEVER LET 'EM LIMP!

    The thinking that goes behind someone in the SB limping in is, “I don’t have a great hand, but I’m getting 3:1 to call, so let’s see who hits the flop.” By raising ATC, you do a lot of good things for the hand, your own game and your image to the SB. For the really bad fish, they are in serious trouble because you hold position and have a skill advantage. They figure, “FML, he had a hand this time.” That’s enough for it to be +EV. The average fish has some understanding that they are in trouble. The result is they’ll fold most of the time. Even if they call, you have a lot of advantages, the most important of which is that there is literally no flop that couldn’t hit your hand hard because you are raising ATC, let alone the skill, position, and leverage advantage. Even if he calls with the middle 40% of the hands, he’s about even with your random hand. You know how much more you’ll spend on this hand, while he has no clue.

    It is also good for you. Many readers are playing some form of TAG poker. This is a safe, controlled environment to start letting out your inner LAG. Even if you don’t plan to become full blown LAG, you want to have some LAG moves in your game. This is good one to start practicing with.

    Finally, the metagame doesn’t come into much play at the micros. You don’t face people enough for them to notice how you play most of the time. However, this is one of the exceptions. People remember when you raise them. If you keep doing it, they will remember you well. Their reaction most of the time will be to tighten up. That becomes a winner for you, because now you get handed free money when it gets folded around to you. Even ignoring the money you win by raising, about 9% of hands in the BB get folded to me, allowing me to pick up the blinds. That alone is worth about 0.75ptBB/100 to my game for literally risking nothing. Allowing a SB to think he can see cheap flops gets rid of much of this money. Don’t let him do it.

    Pretend Thieves

    The other people who are potentially weak are stealers. Those are the ones who open raise in the CO, on the BTN or in the SB. Based on my DB, people “steal” about 21% of the time at 10nl, 23% at 25nl and 26% at 50nl. That isn’t too surprising. Better players know stealing is profitable and you’ll find more of them at the higher levels of the micros than the lower ones. What is interesting is that the average VPIP 23% for 10nl, 21% for 25nl and 19% at 50nl. That means that all stealing is for many unknowns (especially at 25nl or below) is raising hands they are comfortable with playing anyway. It really isn’t stealing at all. The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that calling with the hope of stealing back the hand later is going to be difficult at best. They are in their happy place and you are stuck oop. The solution is to look at your cards and decide whether this is a hand you want to play oop against this villain and play it accordingly with knowledge of the villain and your style of play. For most hands, that means folding.

    Raising has issues as well. If it is being done for re-stealing purposes, it needs to succeed a good portion of the time. Doing the math with X being the % a villain folds, EV = 0 = 4.5BB * X – 9 * (1 – X) or X = 61% of the time. At least for me at 50nl, villains only fold 50% of the time and I 3bet less than the average 50nl player. Making this play on the basis of winning it pre-flop is – EV against an unknown.

    Real Thieves

    The other group is those that are playing a lot more hands than they normally play. They are the true stealers. To understand them, there is no better place to start than in one of Pokey’s pooh-bah posts.

    The following is the key.
    Quote:Originally Posted by Pokey

    1. Know yourself and know your target. Blind steals rely heavily on folding equity. The more frequently you try to steal the blinds, the weaker the average hand you’ll have when you attempt a steal. That means that for the frequent blind thief, you’re hoping NOT to get to a showdown.

    To counteract this, you need to know your target, too. An important thing to remember is that in the micros, someone truly stealing is not a complete donk or a fish. They have some level of skill and aren’t playing zero level poker. They are more likely to have a HUD running themselves than the unknown, so most likely they have an idea of what your play is like based on your average stats.

    Therefore, the question comes up again. “I know they’re raising with junk, can I 3bet them now? This is dependent on the villain. How often will he call a 3bet from the blinds (remember, the average villain does this 50% of the time at 50nl)? What is his fold to cbet on the flop? (The average at 50nl FCbet is 52%, 55% at 25nl and 56% at 10nl) Once you know that, it really just becomes a math problem to solve knowing the equity against his range.

    I am aware that there are some excellent, successful players in the micros that routinely 3bet in this situation. From what I’ve observed, it is their aggressive play on the flop and turn that make it work for them. They are relying on the fact that a stealer doesn’t want to go to showdown. They are going to fire at least one and often two barrels in a 3bet pot to win what was originally a 3.5-5.5BB pot, risking between 20BB and 40BB so they can win a nice sized the pot. I think this is not necessary for the average micro player to be successful. It is a high risk, high reward approach for players comfortable playing post flop oop.

    The other thing is that there is no real deterrent value to raising frequently. A good stealer knows that he only has to succeed between 60-75 % of the time for it to be +EV. To raise that frequently is going to require the BB to have an extremely exploitable range which can be picked off with this type of strategy,

    Quote:Originally Posted by mpethybridge

    Obviously being in position is a good reason to call a 3 bet, but you have to be careful with this. . . .

    When I play on the button, or any time I am going to be in position relative to the 3 bettor, I am willing to call with a very wide range, but not all of my stealing range, obviously. I'll call with all pocket pairs that have a decent chance of flopping as an overpair, and semi-set mine, or I will call a very tight 3 bet range with any pocket pair and set mine, and, of course, I will call with suited connectors some of the time, intending to shove most of my good to very good draws . . .

    For most players, I think it comes back to deciding against their range what you want to play oop and how.

    Position is a Player's Best Friend

    Finally for the BB, there is the SB steal. It gets folded around and since you’ve taught the SB that he needs to raise to have any chance at the pot, he does so. IMO, people fold way much in this situation. Unlike other stealing situations, you’ll have position. If someone is raising 40% of the time, even with ATC you are only a 40/60 underdog. Play the top 35% of the hands and you are a favorite and you have position as well. By doing this, you are now taking away the stealer’s FE needed to make it profitable for them. He’s forced to tighten his range and you pick up free money when he folds more.


    Now we look at the situation from the SB perspective. It is worse than for the BB. There is no free lunch. If the SB doesn’t put money in the pot, their ½ BB disappears. The SB has the worst position pf and still has to act before seeing what the BB will do.

    Stealing from Those Who Didn't Read the Above Section

    The only “easy” money is going to be from the BB. I don’t have enough data a 10nl, but at 25nl I found the BB will fold to a raise 77% of the time and 73% of the time at 50nl. Since you need between 60-72%, this is profitable. I have a personal bias against calling in the SB if nobody else entered the hand. If someone feels doing this works for them, they can post how they do it and why it is working for them.

    When in a Hole, Don't Dig Deeper

    In the SB, one wants to be worried about leaks. One big leak is calling after a bunch of limpers using the excuse, “But I’m getting (some number greater than 5):1 odds,” with some junk hand like K4o. For those that have played Omaha, they know that the more potential hands playing post flop, the better the hand has to be to win. That means for good hands you want follow Kurt’s advice and punish the limpers. My belief is that you don’t want to call if nobody raised the pot with hands like small pairs and SCs if you are going to play fit or fold poker. The problem is that you can’t get paid off easily because nobody has much themselves or they would have raised. If a flop comes 985r and you have 76, you have the nuts. But unless somebody has some 9x hand, they’re going to fold as soon as you show aggression and won’t pay you for all the times the flop has an ace or king and you have to muck your 3rd pair because there was a bet and call. For all they know, you have A9o and have top pair.

    As for the true junk like K4o, you’ll either win a small pot or lose a much bigger one. You are effectively playing with one card and letting everyone else use two. If the flop comes K high without an obvious draw, how happy can you be if the pot gets big?

    If there is a raise, it comes back to, “do I want to play this hand oop against his range?” You’ll be following the same guidelines as the BB with one difference. There is a small, but not insignificant chance the BB will get involved in the hand, too. That means I’d be more inclined remove some hands that I would have called with when the BB.


    For the tl;dr crowd, here’s the Cliff notes.

    1. Don’t defend your blinds, work on attacking a pot oop.
    2. The fold button is your friend.
    3. Know your villains.
    4. Don’t let the SB open call pf.

    Let the discussion begin.

  • #2


    • #3
      Great information Roomik. Well worth posting. Panicky started a thread on this topic earlier today as well. This article is a great help.

      Can you clarify what 10,20 and 50NL stands for?

      Could you also explain what this means: 0.75ptBB/100?



      • #4
        Originally posted by topthecat View Post
        Great information Roomik. Well worth posting. Panicky started a thread on this topic earlier today as well. This article is a great help. Can you clarify what 10,20 and 50NL stands for? Could you also explain what this means: 0.75ptBB/100? TC
        "Xnl" refers to the value of 100 big blinds, which is a standard buy in for no limit holdem. So, 10nl means $10 which is $0.05/$0.10 no limit holdem, 100nl is $0.50/$1 no limit holdem.umbup:


        • #5
          the -75bb/100 simply means he feels that raising gives him that much of an edge for free from the other players


          • #6
            I wonder how many PSO members are also members of TwoPlusTwo forums?


            • #7
              Originally posted by DLeviathan View Post
              I wonder how many PSO members are also members of TwoPlusTwo forums?
              I have only found a few.... it would be nice if poker wise we could try to emulate them a little more umbup:



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