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Blind vs Blind in Deep Stack Tournaments

by Doug Polk |  Published: Mar 29, 2017

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Small blind vs big blind battles are very unique situations in poker. In most pots, the small blind is forced into an awkward position between the preflop raiser and the big blind, and both blinds will be out of position post-flop if they choose to defend. But when the action folds to the small blind, the game drastically changes. The small blind now dictates the game’s pace, and the big blind is forced into a reactionary, albeit advantageous, position. In this article, I’ll break down some strategic tips for these blind vs blind confrontations in deep stack tournament play.

Small Blind Play

As the small blind, the first thing to do when the action folds to you is take stock of the scenario. Take a close look at the player in the big blind. If they are tight, look to raise more often to steal the pot pre-flop. If they are loose, playing tight and somewhat defensively will usually be most effective. Try to gather all the information you can, as even the most minor insight into your opponent’s game can help you craft a winning counter strategy.

The most important thing to take into consideration is the small blind is the antes. If there are antes, it is advisable to play more aggressively, even with some weaker hands. Strong arming the big blind allows you to scoop not only his and your own blind, but the antes from every person at the table. This gives you a much better price on your raise, which in turn allows you to profitably play more hands. Conversely, if there are no antes, look to play more conservatively. After all, if you overdo it and consistently raise your opponent on all fronts, they will likely notice and adjust their strategy to counter yours.

Limping from the small blind is an often overlooked and underutilized strategy, especially when you consider the fantastic pot odds. When taking into consideration antes, your own small blind and the opponent’s big blind, you’re getting a very good price to put in that extra 0.5 big blinds. Sometimes the big blind will raise and force you out of the pot with your marginal hands, but many times this limping strategy is worth the risk. Most of the time, the big blind will just check and let you see a flop.

That said, if you’re implementing a limping tactic, remember to mix in a variety of hands. If you limp with your average hands and only raise with your powerful hands, it makes it very easy for your opponent to exploit you by raising versus your limps and folding versus your raises. The theoretically optimal approach to poker would entail having properly balanced ranges for limp/calling and limp/raising, but such a complex strategy can be difficult to learn, not to mention unnecessary unless the big blind is a very strong player.

If you choose to employ a limping strategy from the small blind, remember to limp/reraise both for value and as a bluff. If you only reraise for value, your opponents will avoid paying you off, so mix in some limp/reraises with hands like 8-6 suited, as well as aces.

Big Blind Play

As the big blind, it cannot be overstated how crucial it is to defend properly. Facing a raise, your pot odds will be very enticing, especially in position, so you can continue with a very wide range of hands. Against a limp, the big blind is in the unique position to raise with both strong hands to extract value and extremely weak hands as a bluff.

Say the small blind limps and you look down at K-K. You would, of course, raise to extract value and build a pot. You can balance this play by raising your weakest hands as well, such as 3-2 offsuit, in an attempt to take down the pot. Balancing your raising range like this makes you very unpredictable preflop, and gives you better board coverage post-flop.

Blind vs blind play can be tricky for the newcomer, as most hands feature a raise, three-bet or other shenanigans before it gets to the small blind. When this situation does arise, however, having a solid plan can be the difference between folding a mediocre hand and managing to eke out a win. Generally, in both positions, it is best to play loose and aggressive to try and snag all of that dead money in the pot. ♠

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