How well you play from the blinds at the lower stakes will go a long way towards determining your overall success. But many people struggle from these positions. The biggest problem is that they lack an effective game plan for playing from these two seats.
In this article I am going to provide you with several strategy tips on how to achieve better results from the blinds in small stakes cash games.
Understanding the Blinds
The key to developing an effective strategy from the blinds is understanding the real nature of these two positions. Though many beginner and even novice level players understand the idea of position in poker, they understand it only on a surface level.
Advanced players know that position is one of the most important keys to their success. The problem with the small blind and the big blind is that you are going to have to act first every single time you see a flop — that is, you’ll always be out of position (aside from the occasional blind-vs.-blind battle in which you are the BB).
The other huge problem with these two positions is that you pay every single time even though you are dealt a completely random hand. This means that more often than not you simply have to fold preflop and take a loss.
For these two reasons it is important to understand this cardinal rule:
You will lose from the blinds.
It doesn’t matter if your name is Phil Ivey, you will lose from these two positions. Therefore, my approach to blind play has always been about how to lose the least. And yours should be, too.
How to Lose the Least From the Blinds
So how do you lose the least from the blinds? Well, you could just fold every hand. But this is obviously not going to be a very optimal strategy because people will notice this and take advantage by stealing your blinds even more. Also, there are many premium, and just below premium hands, that can be turned into winners from these two seats even though you lack position.
This is why I suggest a relatively tight approach from the blinds. What do I mean by tight? Here is the exact range of hands that in Crushing the Microstakes I suggest you can consider playing from these two seats:
- All pairs
- A9s, ATo, ATs, AJo, AJs, AQo, AQs, AKo, and AKs
- KJo, KJs, KQo, and KQs
- 87s, 98s, T9s, JTs, QJo, and QJs
If you are scoring at home, this is just 15.8% of all starting hands.
Of course, every decision that you make at the table should be based on the type of opponent you are up against. Against a really loose player, I will add a few more hands to this range. Against a really tight player, I might remove a few hands from this range.
But overall I hope the point is clear. At the lower stakes, you are best served simply to keep your range fairly tight. Being selective ensures that despite your positional disadvantage, you are generally entering the pot with a reasonably strong hand. It also has the added benefit of keeping you out of difficult situations after the flop, something that can be hugely important especially for those with less experience.
Aggression From the Blinds Pays
The other key to effective blind play at the micros is aggression. What do I mean by aggression? I mean three-betting in particular. In many cases (especially versus a late position steal attempt), it is a better idea to try and take back control of the pot by making a reraise than just to call.
The reason why aggression is so effective is that the other major key to success in poker (besides position) is having the initiative in the hand. If we can’t have position, then we can at least level the playing field a little bit by having the betting lead going to the flop.
It is important, though, to make sure you are giving your opponents a reason to fold. Many newer players will make the mistake of under-sizing their three-bets in a spot like this. The goal here often will be give our opponent a clear reason to fold, not to inflate the pot when we are out of position.
Therefore, I typically suggest making your three-bet at least 3x the initial raise, with 4x often better in many loose low stakes cash games, live or online.
What Do You Do Postflop?
A problem that many people face after three-betting from the blinds is getting called, missing the flop, and then not knowing what to do. This is especially the case with a strong hand like .
Again, the best approach here is to keep things simple. You should go ahead and make your continuation bet most of the time. Such a bet — which could be for as little as half the pot — does not need to get a fold all that often in order to turn a profit.
You will, of course, get called sometimes, whiff the turn as well, and once again be forced to act first in a slightly bloated pot. It is really important at this point to slow down more often than not.
Many players in small stakes cash games do not like to fold if they have a piece in a spot like this, but blindly barreling away is a good way to burn through money. Sometimes you will simply have to cut your losses at this point and check/fold to any aggression on their part.
Playing from the blinds stinks. Everybody loses money from these two positions, because you are forced to pay every single time no matter what hand you are dealt and you will generally always be out of position after the flop.
This is why I employ a tight and aggressive strategy from the small and big blinds at the lower stakes. This way I ensure that I am always entering the pot with a fairly strong hand. And also, I am fighting for control where I can as well.
It is important to note that in this article I am talking about the lowest stakes online or live. In many higher-stakes games a strategy as simplistic as this would be exploitable. There you will need a larger calling range preflop and a more multi-faceted approach postflop in order to be more balanced.
But at the lowest stakes my advice is always to keep things as simple as possible against what are often fairly simple-minded opponents. By employing the age-old tight and aggressive approach from the small blind and the big blind, you will avoid putting yourself in too many difficult spots and keep your losses to a minimum.
Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams is the author of the popular micro stakes strategy books, Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes. He also blogs regularly about all things related to the micros over at www.blackrain79.com.