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Poker Strategy: Playing the Small Blind

August 22, 2019 89 0
Poker Strategy: Playing the Small Blind

Those who want to make a career playing poker in Cambodia must learn a few tips including playing the small blind. The small blind is a challenging position to master when playing No-Limit Hold’em. When you are playing small blind, you are required to pay half of the big blind without having a look-see of your cards plus you have to play every single post-flop with a positional disadvantage. 

Since these factors are often unavoidable, most players, no matter how skilled they may be, often lose money through the small blind. This makes this poker strategy useful for players in the long run. Playing the small blind could potentially save you from losing more buck. 

Tips for Playing the Small Blind

Open-Raise to Steal the Pot Whenever Possible

When playing the small blind position, notice when the action folds around you. This means you only have to beat a single player to win the pot. Take this opportunity as much as possible. Newbie poker players often commit the mistake of over folding from the big blind. One way of exploiting that is by open-raising using a relatively wide range from the small blind. Anywhere between 40% to 50% of the hands is an ideal starting point. Whilst this may appear too much for a small blind play, the incentive is far more outweighs the wide opening range. This range is acceptable for most poker strategies but it can be adjusted as you get to know more about your opponent’s playing style. 

If playing against aggressive opponents with a high 3-bet frequency, consider tightening your range. If the big blind player is a super-tight player, widen your range when you open-raise. 

Don’t Treat Small Blind as  Big Blind

Never forget that a small blind is different from the big blind. It does not mean that just because you added money to the pot, you should always honor that commitment. It is a big mistake to play the small blind to see the flop by paying a little extra. Whilst having half the blind improves pot odds, there is still a high possibility that you will have bigger losses. Always remember that it will not make a good profit if you try to protect the money you initially put in the blinds. 

Maximise the 3-Bet

Since the small blind gives the player a positional disadvantage for post-flop, many beginner players commit the mistake of folding immediately. This positional disadvantage can be reduced by applying the 3-bet or fold strategy when faced with a raise. 

The 3-bet will give the player playing the small blind a higher chance of winning the pot without first seeing the flop, as this lessens the number of players willing to play the hand. For this 3-bet to be successful, the range must be tight since continuing with only strong hands lessens the difficulty of playing out of position. When you play with a wide range of hands in a positional disadvantage will only cause you to lose. 

Remember, it is important to balance your small blind 3-bet range with strong bluffs. Your 3-bet must have a high value or else your opponent can exploit you by over-folding against your 3-bet. The betting range you must place depends on the position of the original raiser. 

Keep in mind the following pointers:

Choose a 3-bet bluff that will improve board coverage. Keep an eye on the hands that make your 3-bet bluffing range such as suited connectors, suited Aces, suited gappers, and pocket pairs. Making a 3-bet with a wide range of hands will improve board coverage. If not, the opponents will become aggressive on boards that will not connect with your range. 

Mix up strategy with some hands. When you keep applying the same strategy all throughout the game, it will no longer become effective as your opponent can already read you and predict your next move. 

Take the position of the open-raiser in high consideration. It matters a lot. If the position of the original raiser is earlier, your 3-bettting range must be tighter. It is recommended to 3-bet in 2.56% of all hands, about 5x fewer hands than the cutoff range.

Use a Flat Call

Using a flat call ranges from the small blind can be applicable and beneficial in some tournaments because of the antes and small standard open-raises. When you face a standard raise in tournaments and cash games, check the difference in pot odds. 

  • In a cash game with nine hands, the standard open-raise size is commonly around 3x the big blind. When the opponents make a 3x raise, the player in the small blind needs ~36% equity to call to profit from it.
  • In tournaments, the standard open-raise size is smaller at around 2.5x of the big blinds or less. When the opponent makes a 2.5x raise with antes in the pot, the player in the small blind needs just 28.5% equity to call to profit from it.

Making flat calls in tournaments can be successfully achieved since they offer great pot odds, particularly when the big bling is an inexperienced player who will not make a 3-bet. Small blind flat calls are most profitable with deeper stacks as the implied odds are better realised. Remember that when your stack approaches 20 big blind, the best strategy could be a 3-bet or just fold. 

Watch the Big Blind Player

Notice if your big blind player is aggressive and uses effective strategy because you might always end up making blind vs blind play. They would constantly flat, float, or make a 3-bet so the only way to beat them is to have strong hands. Just imagine, playing against the big blind and getting the satisfaction of stealing the odds from them. 

To counter them, you just have to be aware that they are there and adjust your strategy accordingly. If the big blind player is aggressive who will always defend by 3-betting and 4-betting, it is best to narrow your range to keep away from shelling out more chips. However, if the big blind player is a tight player, widen your ranges to win as many pots as you can. 

Never Make a Donk Bet

Never ever commit the mistake of leading out a bet or making a donk bet when playing the small blind as from any range perspective it does not make sense. If a player over limps or flats an open, that player’s range will automatically appear weaker than the one who opened the pot. The player who would call would have a 3-bet or raise whilst having a strong hand.

Donk bets are often done by weaker players as protection when they make a connection with the board. They would check to protect the rest of their hands due to their range disadvantage. To balance it out, if you can check the entire range of the small blind. This is important as it lessens your opponent’s profitability when they are over-bluffing. 

Always have a Blind vs Blind Strategy

When you are playing small blind, it is not uncommon to go head to head with the big blind as they would also play to protect their blinds. 

From the small blind, a player has two options, which can be successful when properly executed. 

Raise or Fold

The strategy of raising or folding from the small blind can benefit you in two ways: giving you a higher chance of winning the pre-flop and simplicity. Remember, newbie poker players always have the tendency of over-folding their big blind when a player raises so it would be an ideal strategy to lower the limits. 

Mixed Strategy

Whilst it is more complicated to apply, using a mixed strategy is more rewarding. You must, however, learn how to balance the range of limp/folds, limp/raises, limp/calls, raises, and folds. This strategy is best to use against players who cannot respond to limps in different ways. The downside of limping is allowing the big blind player to achieve equity by checking. 

Adjust your Strategy for Tournament Play

Being ready with useful strategies during tournaments is necessary as the presence of antes can make limping more successful because of the excellent pot one can get when calling. (Note: a small blind’s equity to limp during tournaments is 20%. It becomes 33% in ante-less cash games). 

In a deep stack and balanced limping range, you can defend your limps at better frequency whilst still having options during post-flop. When limping in short stack, it is best to maximise the fold equity. 

Playing the small blind is complex and challenging since there are lots of factors to take into consideration. Whilst it is impossible to win from the small blind in the long run, having a well-played strategy will somehow lessen the losses. 

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