Blinds are what drives the action in poker games. If nobody had to pay these forced bets, the best strategy would be to simply sit and wait to be dealt Aces – which of course nobody would give any action to. Since we pay blinds once per circuit, there is some money in the pot to steal – and if someone tries to steal it the pot starts getting bigger.
The problem with blinds is that there are always players trying to steal them. They know you will be out of position after the flop, and so need a strong hand to justify defending that blind money. So they raise from the button or the cut-off and take that money away.
This article looks at the circumstances in which you should defend your blinds and when not to bother. You will find information on how best to defend them when you have decided that this is the best course of action. You will also see why calling is usually a bad idea when defending your blinds. Finally, there is a separate section for tournament play – where blind defense becomes more important as the stakes get raised.
Let’s face it, your blinds are a very small percentage of your stack in most real money poker games. Since you will be out of position for the entire hand, it is often easier just to fold and move on. You can make up for this small loss by stealing someone else’s blinds when you are on the button or maybe in the cut-off position.
I have a lot of sympathy for this logic, however you are giving up a small but cumulatively significant edge by thinking like this. You do not actually have to defend your blind very often to put enough doubt into your opponent’s mind as to whether stealing from you would be a good idea. The occasional ‘walk’ that this results in will increase your hourly rate nicely.
Many times you will find that you are faced with an ‘auto-stealer’. This is someone who always raises their button when folded to, feeling that they have a right to take a shot at the blinds from this position. They are usually right, this is a profitable play – only the auto-raisers do set themselves up for some creative defense strategies, especially the ones who keep on firing on the flop, turn and river.
There are two main ways to defend, you can 3 bet (re-raise) your opponent or you can call.
3-Betting: Since you are out of position for the remainder of the hand, your 3-bet should be large enough to end the hand immediately a good proportion of the time. The problem with this is that buttons will flat-call this bet a lot, and you will often end up in an uncomfortable position when the flop does not suit your hand. Moreover, this is not a great strategy with either strong or weak hands. With strong hands you lose some value, and with weaker hands (though ones with some showdown value) you often only partially hit the flop and struggle to see where you are relative to the button’s range.
Calling: This inflates the pot while you are out of position, though not as much as having your 3-bet called does. The problem here is that most buttons will fire again after you check to them, knowing that you are more likely to have a weaker hand than a monster. Of course, this makes calling with a real monster an attractive proposition, you can expect a bet on the flop and many players will fire again on the turn if you continue to show weakness – allowing you to build a pot.
Both methods have pros and cons, the important thing is not to do the same thing each time with the same types of hands. Once your blind defense becomes predictable, observant opponents will find it easy to exploit.
Set mining with small pairs is a bad idea when in one of the blinds. The main reason is that you will rarely have the implied odds needed to make up for those times you miss. The button is more likely to be stealing with not much in the way of hand strength, and will not put enough chips in the pot to justify your initial speculative call. Compare this with set mining against an early position raiser – this player is far more likely to have a strong hand that can pay you off those times you hit.
In poker tournaments the blinds go up quickly, and antes soon come into play to make stealing even more attractive. If you do not establish a pattern of defending your blinds in tournaments, you will soon find yourself a target for early position steals as well as those playing from the traditional stealing positions. Fortunately, the shallow stacks mean you can put a lot of pressure back onto the stealers with a timely re-raise. With fewer chips behind for post-flop play many players will realize that calling this raise potentially commits them to calling off their stack and will fold their hand.