Poker Blinds Strategy - How to Play from the Blinds in Texas Holdem

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Play from the Blinds in Texas Holdem

What Are Blinds?

In Texas hold'em, there is no ante, but the blinds serve the same purpose. They're forced bets that rotate around the table and get the action started. Without the blinds, everyone would just wait until they had a perfect hand to play, and there would be no action at all.

There are two blinds: a small (little) blind and a big blind.

The big blind is typically set as the amount of the preflop bet and the small blind is usually half of the big blind.

For example, in a $10-20 limit poker game, the big blind is $10 and the small blind is $5.

If half of the big blind would require change, like a $15/$30 game, the small blind is usually set at 2/3 of the big blind instead of 1/2. So in a $15/$30 game, the blinds are normally $10 and $15.

The Importance of Blinds

If you want to win at poker, you need to take the topic of blind strategy seriously.

Every round you're forced to play both a big blind and a small blind. In online poker, you'll receive between 60 and 70 hands per hour. (More if you're multi-tabling.) At a full table, this means you'll be posting blinds 6 or 7 times per hour. In a $10/$20 game, that's between $90 and $105 each hour.

To figure out how much money you put in the pot for blinds each hour in your particular game, use this simple poker blind formula:

(Rounds per hour x big blind post amount) + (Rounds per hour x small blind post amount) = Total dollars put in the pot from blinds.

Strategy for How to Play in the Blinds

There are two perspectives to consider when thinking about the blinds:

  • Defensive - You want to protect your blinds when you're in the blinds.
  • Offensive - You want to steal the other players' blinds when you can.

If you can control the blind situation so that you lose $24 dollars but steal $28, then you're either playing strong offense or defense or hopefully both.

Being able to steal blinds is necessary to be a winning player in a tough game. Tough games are usually tighter, so stealing blinds becomes more important. But stealing blinds isn't that hard in such a situation; you just need to play aggressively, raising preflop. If you succeed, and the blinds fold, you've won a free round of poker.

Position is important when deciding when to steal blinds. If you're in late position and no one else has come in, you can steal the blinds with small pairs and ace rag. And of course you can steal blinds from any position if you have a premium starting hand.

You'll need to defend your blinds from this behavior from other players too. Good poker players are selective about which hands they play. But if you let your blinds get stolen every round by raise, you're losing a significant amount of money. The bottom line is that dealing with the blinds is something you'll have to learn how to do to be a successful player.

On the Flop

Generally when playing out of the blind I try and play back at the original raiser preflop in order to take control of the pot. Quite often in a short handed contested pot nobody hits a flop and the pot goes to the original aggressor. Thus if I decide to play a hand such as ace rag, king/queen, queen/jack or some other raggedy hand I'm probably going to 3 bet believing that my opponent also has a poor raising hand.

I would then follow up on this strategy by betting any flop believing that my opponent will give it up and fold. A notable weakness in this strategy is that this means you're committing 2 extra preflop bets and 1 flop bet when you could've given up your blind in the first place. Thus, if you are wrong and your opponent really does have a hand you're losing a total of 4 small bets instead of just 1. That's why the read is so important as you need to pick and choose your spots for this strategy.

One exception to this strategy is if you happen to have a high pocket pair (Queens and up sometimes Jacks). Aggressive opponents if they raise preflop will often bet the flop no matter what comes. Additionally, some really aggressive opponents will just keep on betting all the way until the river. Against these opponents I've found that I can win extra bets from them by simply check/calling them all the way with a monster hand such as pocket aces.

Sometimes they'll be betting with absolutely nothing and wouldn't be able to call if I were to check raise at any point in the hand. By playing my hand passively I may be able to get him to bet my hand for me.

This also has the advantage of being able to keep my opponents scared of me when I do check in future hands. Note that this strategy also has a weakness. You really have no clue as to where you're at if you check/call with queens and an overcard falls (such as an ace). Additionally, if your opponent checks the flop or turn you're giving them valuable free cards. The final weakness of this strategy is that it is passive and in poker you need to be aggressive to win.

Heads up in the blind

In the small blind I almost always raise to try to steal from the big blind. Heads up usually nobody has a hand. In fact, king high is often the biggest hand out heads up.

However if I employ this strategy and get reraised I usually give the pot up if I don't hit the flop. If the big blind just calls my raise, I'm quite likely to bet any flop to try and steal it one more time. However the turn is when the big bets start so I usually slow down there.

In the big blind I'm a little more likely to check heads up if my opponent limps in unless I have a decent hand. When I say decent poker hand I don't mean anything premium; I mean ace anything or 2 suited connectors queen/jack or better. If the small blind came in with a raise I'm usually going to fold weak hands and reraise anything I want to play.

Again going with my "preflop aggressor often wins the pot´┐Ż theory. If I feel the small blind is always trying to run me over I might repop him with absolutely nothing on occasion in order to show him he can't just push me around.

A final word of caution on the blinds in poker

All of these strategies I employ here are extremely advanced and really only apply to tougher games. In lower limit games where there is multi-way action there's really no need to defend your blinds or steal them. You're better off in loose games just waiting for a strong hand.

Additionally, the big bet on the turn is really when most of these strategies end. I don't like to make the turn bet unless I've really got a hand (because it's 2x as big as the other bets). Going too far in these steal strategies is often dumping good money after bad.

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