People often say that the pre-flop is the most critical phase of poker. This is often true, at least for Texas Holdem. The pre-flop lays the foundation for all other rounds, so having a solid pre-flop strategy is an absolute must.
Playing from the blinds is one of the essential components of pre-flop poker strategy. Many poker players either dread playing from the blinds since they don’t know what to do or are unaware of the disadvantages of being a blind and losing a lot of money trying to play as one.
This poker guide will cover essential things you need to know when playing from the blinds and when trying to steal them.
Prerequisites: Why the blinds are the worst positions in poker
If you’re wondering why pre-flop strategy revolves around the blinds so much, you must understand that the blinds are by far the worst positions in poker for two significant reasons.
The first is their informational disadvantage. The later you act in poker, the better. That’s because you get more information about the other players’ actions since they act before you. For example, if you notice that all players try limping into the pot pre-flop when you’re acting last, you can make a big raise to potentially win it on the spot. The blinds get the short end of the informational advantage stick, acting the last pre-flop but acting first on flop, turn, and river.
The second reason is the blind bets they must make. They are always a downside since you’re forced to put money in the pot without seeing your cards. If you get a terrible hand and have to fold, the blinds will have essentially become a tax. This is the primary source of frustration for newer players, as it’s hard to decide whether you should commit to try and salvage the blind bet or just give up and cut your losses.
Stealing the blinds, explained
So, knowing that the blinds are the worst positions in poker, players have developed a strategy known as “blind stealing.” It takes advantage of people’s reluctance to play from the blinds with a raise from late position pre-flop.
When done correctly, you’ll often get the blinds to fold with little resistance, allowing you to quickly pick up the pot. While the pot won’t be that big, frequent blind stealing is an easy way to build up your stack, especially in the late stages of tournaments where the blinds are larger.
Tips for stealing the blinds: Steal from tight players
Stealing the blinds requires your opponent to fold to your pre-flop bet, so you need to be careful about who you target. Tight players are the best players to steal from since there’s a high chance they’ll fold pre-flop, especially when out of position.
Your opponents’ aggression is also a factor affecting how they might respond to a steal attempt. Passive players will often just call, while aggressive players might try to punish you with a 3-bet,
You also need to consider how experienced your opponents are. Skilled players will understand the importance of defending their blinds and will know how to defend them properly. Blind stealing might not work well against better opponents unless you have a read on them.
Blind defense, explained
Defending your blinds is simply calling a raise you think your opponent is trying to steal your blinds with. Since stealing the blinds is a prevalent technique, you must learn how to defend and play from the blinds properly.
While we did talk about how the blinds are hard to play from, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, the forced bet in the pot often gives you better odds to call, meaning that as long as your hand has some potential, you should try defending your blinds more often.
Tips for defending your blinds: Defend more often in tournaments
The value of stealing and defending your blinds increases significantly in tournaments and 6-max cash games. Tournaments have steadily increased over time, so while it may be fine to give up your blinds early on, you need to start fighting for them a lot more in the later stages.
6-max cash games mean the blinds rotate around the hand a lot faster, meaning they’re a lot more important. Being unable to play from the blinds means you’ll be bleeding money quickly.
Know when to give your blinds away
Finally, as much as it hurts to do so, sometimes you just have to let the blinds go. Think about it this way, what’s worse to lose: Your blinds or a pot you’ve invested money into on many different rounds? Don’t over call because the blinds are still the worst positions in poker; you don’t want to get into a terrible spot pre-flop because you felt an irrational need to defend your blinds.
Master pre-flop play online!
Even with the techniques discussed in this article, there’s no way to master pre-flop strategy without practice. We recommend online poker if you’re trying to learn the game for a few reasons.
It has a wide variety of game types, from the classic Texas Holdem to formats like Omaha, where pre-flop play is less important than having a good post-flop strategy with draws. Online also has a faster pace, allowing you to get more games in and learn the game quicker.