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What is the best way to successfully defend the blinds?
Defending the blinds is a complex topic. When you choose to defend the blinds, you have to weigh whether the discounted call is worth dealing with the lack of information with no position behind you. The more pain the lack of information causes you, the less you should defend the blinds. So I would advise most students to play tighter when they are in blind position. When I first started playing limitless games, I played very tight in the blinds as well.
Over the years, I have played looser in the blinds because I have found many ways to mitigate and even reverse the lack of information. Here are a few texas holdem poker tips that I would take to continue to stay on the attack when defending the blinds in the blind position.
Tip 1: When drying the deck, FLOAT when out of position and be prepared to bluff the river
Let’s say I open the pot with Q-J in back position to raise and the big blind calls. The community card is A-8-2 rainbow. My opponent checks, I bet, and he calls. The turn was the 9 and he checked, and I thought he probably had the A because he called the flopped round. There wasn’t much left to play for, so I gave up and subsequently checked. The river card was a 4, he bet half the bottom pot, and I folded.
Cards like this come up thousands of times a day in all poker rooms around the world. I think calling on a flop circle like A-8-2 means that my opponent has aces, and if my assumptions are correct, then my play is fine. There may be times when I should fire a third time and try to get my opponent to give up a weak ace, but my “standard” play is working just fine.
But what if I’m wrong in my assumptions? What if my opponent calls a hand other than an ace? What if he calls with a hand like K-J, 5-5, 10-9 flush, etc.? So by playing this way (betting the flop and giving up if called), I actually give my out-of-position opponents more than half the chance of winning these pots.
When I defend the blinds, most opponents don’t think that far ahead. They’ll dutifully check the turn after I check-call the flopped turn and then fold on the river. So I do call the flop with a very wide range on a flop circle like the A-8-2 rainbow, hoping to win the bottom pot most of the time when my opponent doesn’t hit the aces.
Tip 2: Overcall-raise a small number, then bomb on the turn
Once again, let’s look at a hand from the perspective of an open pot raiser. I opened the pot with a J-9 flush raise to $20 two spots in front of the button and the big blind called. The flop was Q-9-6 rainbow. The blinds check, I bet 25 dice, and the blinds reraise to $60.
This doesn’t bode well, but with $127 in the pot already, all I have to do is call another $35. My hand has a little something to do with the flop, and I have position. So I call and see how things play out behind me. The flop ends with the bottom of the pot at $162. The turn is the 4.
The turn is the 4. The big blind bets $125 and I fold. A public board like Q-9-6 is easy to hit, but it’s hard to hit very big hands. Assuming a K-10 hand when defending the big blind, I would play it this way, check-raise a small number on the flop and then bomb a big bet on the turn. Unless I’m unlucky and my opponent happens to have something like Q-J or better, I can usually get my opponent to fold.
Tip 3: Make a small counter-initiative bet, then raise or pass-raise the first time you have a chance
Let’s say I raise to $20 preflop with a J-10 flush in button position and the big blind calls. The flop is J-5-4. The big blind surprisingly bets, but only $10. I was confused and raised to $45 with top pair.
The big blind reraised to $135. I had $800 left and felt my opponent was playing just to provoke action, so I folded. Or, let’s say I didn’t raise on the flop, and I just called a $10 bet. The turn is the 8. The big blind checks, I bet $35 to a $60 ante, and then the blinds raise to $115.
This time, the play from the blinds again showed a plea for me to act. If I call, I’ve already made plans to fold to any bets. So if I call, I’m just hoping that the big blind will check, and then I’ll subsequently check as well. Even if that’s the case, I’m still likely to lose to a hand like KJ or QJ. So I folded anyway.
Now let’s look at the hand from the perspective of the big blind. a flop like J-5-4 is a very difficult hand to hit. The pre-flop raiser understands this as well as the player in the blinds. So the pre-flop raiser may be suspicious of a normal-sized ante bet from the bottom of the pot or an over-raise on the flop circle.
But if a small ante active bet is followed by a big action, it looks like there is a big hand. With the money left over, many players will buy into this play and even fold a hand like J-10. If the preflop raiser can fold a hand that includes J-10, then he will fold most of the time on a flop like J-5-4.
I might also take such a play with something like A-3, K-Q or even K-10 or 8-7. What happens if the pre-flop raiser doesn’t cooperate? I bet $10 in the blinds and the pre-flop raiser just calls. The turn is the 8, and both players check. If the river is an ace or king, I’ll check-raise again (assuming I don’t have a strong top pair or better).
If it was any other hand, I would have bet a little bigger than the pot. In this example, with $62 in the bottom pool to the river, I might bet $90 or $100. After flatting a small bet on the flop and then subsequently checking on the turn, it’s unlikely that the flop ring raiser will have a hand. He would almost certainly fold to a $100 bet.
These plays are simple premier strategies against the blind stealer. Once your opponent becomes familiar with your play, he may not have as much respect for your play. But it doesn’t matter much, because once the situation changes you can start doing the above play with valuable cards, such as top pair, in the hope of getting paid by worse hands.
No-limit derby circles are very aggressive games when played well. In the battle of the blinds and anti-stealing blinds, there are actually many situations where both players are out of cards. These undercards are worth fighting for.