• July 31, 2021

Poker strategy: Tips For Playing Out Of the Blinds

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A blind is considered a forced bet preflop (before you get your cards). It is called a “blind” because you don’t have a choice whether you want to put your money in before you see your cards. The reason holdem has this is so that there will be action, or game play. If there wasn’t a forced bet, most likely everyone would just wait for pocket Aces all day.
Originally the idea was the game would center around battling for the blind money. Now days, in low limit holdem especially, way more money is in the pot so that feature is kind of lost — the blinds still serve their original purpose as the limits get higher. Another form of forced betting to initiate action is the ante structure. Blinds are usually more popular in today’s structured limit holdem games (such as $2/4 or $3/6 holdem) played online or in casinos then antes though.
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In this structure there are usually two blinds: the big and the small blind. These are placed directly to the left of the dealer button. So it would go dealer button, small blind, then big blind. How much is in each blind depends on the limit. For example if you are playing a $2/4 game, the blinds would be $2 for the big blind and $1 for the small blind. The big blind is always the amount of the bet size as is on the flop bet. So in a $3/6 game the blinds would be $3 for the big and then either 1 or 2 bucks for the small. How much money is in the blinds is supposed to dictate how loose the game is but like I mentioned above that usually isn’t the case in low limit games because so many people are in anyway.
You really began to notice the change in games when you go from a $10/20 to a $15/30. In the $10/20 game the blinds are $10 big and $5 small. When you go to the $15/30 the blinds are $15 and $10. Notice that now you have two people almost or fully in the pot already with one bet. That definitely changes the dynamics and I’ll talk more about that below. The blinds in poker are also fixed throughout the hand. The blinds change after each hand as the dealer button does. So that means if you were small blind last hand you’ll be the dealer button this hand (best position). It goes clockwise, just as the betting order does.
I mentioned the most common blind structure above (two blinds), but there is one more that deserves attention. It is when you have one big blind and small blind plus another small blind on the dealer button. That definitely encourages loose games.
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What considerations need to be made when playing from the blinds?
It is very easy to lose money playing from the blinds in any limit of texas holdem (low limit or high limit). This is where the hardest decisions are made. Let’s say you are dealt a marginal hand in middle position that you would normally just call with. Someone raises in front of you. It is pretty easy to let that one go and stay out of trouble. It gets complicated though when you are in the big blind and there are already some people in and someone raises.
Now you are getting great odds to call and see if you can catch up but the problem is that you can often get sucked in and pay some guys good hand off. That’s how you lose in the long run in holdem, not by getting bad beated but by paying off better hands. So playing out of the blinds is a double edged sword.
Here are some things to keep in mind when making your decisions from the blinds about whether to call or not:
Low Price Means Great Odds – if a number of people have already called and it only costs you another small bet, then you are most likely getting great odds on your extra bet. Remember also that once money leaves your hand it is no longer yours. So if calling one bet was fine before then it would be almost always incorrect to muck your hand when there was a raise making it two bets preflop. Now there is even more money in the pot. Don’t take this rule too far though and start incorporating what many uneducated players refer to as the “half in rule”. You definitely wouldn’t use this strategy past preflop.
Bad Position – if you end up calling out of the big blind or small blind when someone has raised, remember that now you are in the worst position for the rest of the hand. Being in early position is a big disadvantage.
Getting Trapped – if you call with a marginal hand, especially a hand that will be in direct competition with a raisers hand, you can often get trapped unless you know what you are doing. For example if you call a preflop raiser out of the big blind with a hand like A8 and you catch and Ace on the flop and he is the one doing all the betting, you can’t feel very good about your hand. He loves you being in the pot with him since you have very little chance to win. And remember other people are in the hand too who can beat your A8.
This is a good time to introduce the principle of “the less discretion you have preflop the more you have to have postflop”. What that basically means is that if you decide to play some trouble hands, to not lose you’ll have to be equally willing to fold them after the flop even if you catch a little something. This isn’t easy for anyone since we don’t like to fold potential winners. There are limits to this too and it is very easy to move over from playing an expert’s situational game into just a plain loose losing game.
This is why no one is perfect and to play perfect poker sometimes you end up losing. After you win 10 sessions straight you begin to think you are wired into the game and can play more hands since you are so good…then you get slapped back to reality. Don’t worry about this now though if you are just starting out. Good cards win and you won’t have to worry about anything but that, until you move way up in limits.
Because getting trapped is one of the first things I think of when I play out of the blinds to a raiser, I prefer certain hands over others. I like hands that if I hit I’ll be a big favorite or hands that are easy to get away from after the flop. A huge trouble hand would be something like KJoff or an Ace with a weak kicker. If you don’t hit the flop really hard then you won’t have much certainty about where you stand.
Remember that in holdem you use as much information as possible to come up with the best decision. There are no absolute rules that can promise you a win. Instead you have to use a combination of skills and measurements to play the right hands at the right time and let them go when need be. Just like that song says, “no when to holdem, no when to foldem”. If only it was that easy!
You are in the big or small blind with a lot of people with no raise: This is the most typical situation. If you are playing from the small blind and only have to put in another dollar to see the flop, then I would do so with all but the worst hands. Be cautious about playing after the flop though. Let’s say you call with a hand like J8s, K5s, or A8. You did this because it only cost you one more dollar and there was so much money already in the pot. This is called pot odds and you can read more about it here.
You really have to hit something big to win or else you’ll be giving your money away. In these situations I really prefer suited connectors or any suited cards so I have a chance at either hitting two pair or the straight or flush draw. If I only catch top pair then even if my kicker is good it is hard to win since so many other people are in. Playing a few wacky cards out of the small blind when the price is cheap and there are lots of people in is a great way to set yourself up for a big pot. You basically are just fishing knowing that most likely these hands won’t catch anything on the flop but when they do they will be so disguised you can slow play the competition and make them pay like crazy.
I love having small pairs with lots of people in before the flop. When you hit a little set like 333 it is almost impossible for your opponents to know what you have. If you want to really get them, throw in a raise every now and then from your big blind with a small pair when lots of people are in. If you happen to hit your 1:8 there is no way they will see it coming. Let’s say you catch a flop like T83. So many people will try to catch their over cards on you but you already have them crushed.
You are in the big or small blind with few people with no raise: In this case in low limit holdem, I would most likely just play some decent cards. The reason goes back to the point above in that I’m not getting good pot odds on my hand. Remember the more people in on the hand the weaker your hand has to be to play profitably since you are getting so much return on your investment.
You are in the big or small blind with tons of people in and a raise: In the big blind if I have any kind of reasonable hand and it only costs me one more to call then I will. This is only true if many people are in with me though. If there is a chance it will get reraised and capped (four bets), then I’ll get out. Let’s say you are in the big blind and everyone is in so far and the button raises. You have J7 clubs.
I would definitely call the big blind in hopes of catching some weird two pair or the flush draw. Now keep in mind though that you will fold on the flop unless you get hit really hard by the cards (which doesn’t happen often with this hand but it doesn’t have to when you get such a good return on the money). In the small blind I would tighten up slightly. The same principles apply but you won’t be just calling one more bet, you’ll be calling closer to 2 bets. Because of that you don’t get such a good return on your wager so you need some better cards. The kinds of hands I like playing in these situations are like the ones I mentioned above.
I would much prefer seeing a hand like A5s or 89s versus something like KJ or KQ. The reason is that I am not going to be getting trapped in the pot against a better hand with 89s. I’ll either hit my cards and have a strong hand or I’ll fold. It makes my decisions later easier. If you call with A5s you really aren’t in there for the Ace as top pair. Instead you are in there for the straight, flush or two pair possibilities. These are the kind of hands that play well in mutiway pots. You want a hand that when it hits you’ll have a monster (pairs are also great).
You are in the big or small blind with few people in and a raise: This is an easy decision since there isn’t much money in the pot already. If I am playing low limit holdem and I’m in the big or small blind with a marginal hand and someone has raised with few people in (just me and them or maybe just another person and the raiser), I just fold. Like every other rule in holdem there are exceptions and you definitely wouldn’t apply this to middle limit or high limit games but for low limit, usually when someone raises they have a decent hand.
You’ll pick up fairly easily when someone raises more often then their cards suggest. My philosophy in this area is that I can beat them so easily with confidence in other situations, that are very frequent, that there is no reason to give back any money to them when they have a good hand and I don’t get great odds to call.
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Steve Carr

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