Texas Hold'em No Limit Intermediate

Playing from the Blinds

9,677 Views 1 Comment on 14/8/12

Beginner's guide on how to play from the blinds

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Is it profitable to play from the blinds?

By running various filters in poker-tracking software it is possible to calculate our winrate from the blinds. If you use HEM2, go to the reports tab, select "more reports" and choose "position". Likely you will find that you are making a large loss from the blinds.pokerimage Does this mean you are playing badly? Not necessarily...

  •  Every time you play a hand in the big-blind you start off automatically down 1bb. In the small-blind you are down 0.5bb. If you were to fold every hand you would lose at a rate of 100bb/100 in the BB and 50bb/100 in the SB. It's going to be more or less impossible to turn this into a win.
  • Everyone has to pay the blinds though. If you are losing at less than 100bb/100 in the big-blind you are effectively winning. This is not strictly true since we have to factor in the occasions where it gets folded round to us, or we see a free flop and win at showdown. As a very rough guide, our loss-rate from BB should be below 40bb/100 (ideally 30bb/100) while our loss-rate from the SB should be below 25bb/100 (ideally 15bb/100). Another good rule if you are using tracking software – your winrate from the button should roughly equal your loss rate from the SB/BB.
  • The important thing to understand is that we will likely still make a loss from the blinds however well we play. There are certain things we can do to maximise our winrate however...

    Play Tight

    The single best piece of advice for playing from the blinds is – play tight. Many players make the mistake of trying to play too many hands out of the blinds. If you are in the SB you are always going to be out-of-position postflop. In the BB you will be out-of-position most of the time unless you are facing the SB. Position is crucial in NLHE. You will find it harder to get value for your strong hands, harder to bluff your opponents, and harder to get away from your second-best hands.

    Let's look at some examples:

    MP ($25) 

    CO ($25)

    UTG ($25)

    BB ($25)

    SB ($25) 

    BU ($25)

     Pre-flop: Hero is BB with kj

    UTG raises to $1.00, 4 folds, Hero?

    Hopefully you recognised this is an easy fold. The open-raiser is under-the-gun and likely to have a strong range. KJo is behind that range. On top of this, is the fact that you will be out-of-position postflop.

    Even if you felt you had a skill-edge over the player UTG, it will be much harder to make use of this out-of-position!

    Being in the SB here would be even worse. This is because you still have the BB behind you to act. He could wake up with a monster and re-raise, or he could decide to overcall putting you out-of-position against 2 players. You get a slightly better price to play from the BB since you've already invested 1bb, whereas you invest 0.5bb from the SB.

    Look at the Open-Raiser

    MP ($25) 

    CO ($25)

    UTG ($25)

    BB ($25)

    SB ($25) 

    BU ($25)

    Pre-flop: Hero is BB with kj

    3 folds, BU raises to $0.75, Hero?

    There is a crucial difference between this hand and the last one. The open-raiser is now on the BU. He could potentially have a very wide range. KJ might be ahead of that range. You could think about making the call here. It's still pretty borderline – in general hands weaker than this will often be a fold. It's useful if you can estimate exactly how wide the Button is opening. The following HUD stats will be useful for this :

  • PFR – Preflop Raise, % of the time an opponent takes an aggressive action preflop.
  • ATS – Attempt to steal. % of the time an opponent open-raises from CO, BU, SB.

    ATS is a little more relevant because it doesn't involve situations where our opponent 3bets. Specifically we want to know our opponent's ATS from the Button, which can often be found through a pop-up box on our HUD when we place our cursor over the general ATS stat.

    If our opponent had a PFR of 10 and an ATS of 10 in this situation we could fold our KJo here. If our opponent had a PFR of 20 and a Button ATS of 50 this might be an easy call.

    Suited Connectors

    MP ($25) 

    CO ($25)

    UTG ($25)

    BB ($25)

    SB ($25) 

    BU ($25)

    Pre-flop: Hero is SB with 78

    3 folds BU raises to $0.75, Hero?

    This is a situation that pops up many times in a session, and frankly, most players are snap-calling. 78s, pretty nice hand right? Not so much in this hand.

    We should be very careful about playing suited connectors out-of-position against one opponent. There is a good chance it is not going to be profitable; our default play should really be to fold in this spot. (We can also consider 3betting which we will discuss).

    There are two main exceptions where we can flat-call with suited connectors here:

  • If our opponent is loose, we are not going to get paid often enough when we flop big. The majority of the time when we miss our opponent is going to take the pot down with his positional advantage. In some instances it may be ok to flat suited connectors pre-flop if we felt we could steal the pot very often with a flop check-raise (or some other bluff).
  • Suited Aces are in a similar category to suited connectors. They usually have better equity against your opponent's range however (because of the Ace), and so are not as bad to call with. You should still be very cautious about doing so. Against a lot of players it won't be possible. This is precisely how players end up getting slaughtered in the blinds. They call far too much with marginal hands and then get run-over postflop.

    3bet Bluffing

    MP ($25) 

    CO ($25)

    UTG ($25)

    BB ($25)

    SB ($25) 

    BU ($25)

    Pre-flop: Hero is SB with a5

    4 folds BU raises to $0.75, Hero raises to $2.25

    BU Folds

    HERO WINS!

    So how exactly are we going to defend our blinds if we are only calling with strong hands? We can 3bet bluff with the weaker ones. If we were going to fold A5s anyway, we might as well use it as a bluff; it was one of the strongest hands we were going to fold!
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w34z3l

I am of British nationality and go by the online alias w34z3l. I am considered one of the top consultants in the field for technical analysis (i.e. database work) and application of game theory concepts to various card games. I make a range of educational content ( ... Read More

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Jon-PokerVIP

Jon-PokerVIPon 2/12/13

I think this is one of the toughest part of poker. I play zoom games currently and have recently doubled my sb open %. Its working insanely well. How do you guys adjust to different games you play?

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