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Playing the big and small blind positions - what to do?

Much more to this than I realised when it comes to live blinds play.  Yesterday I encountered a problem where I overplayed a medium strength hand from the small blind to run in to aces in the big blind.

I hit top pair on a flop of K ♠️ 2 💎  9 ♠️  and as it was heads up I felt my opponent might have been semi-bluffing.  I held K ♥️ 8 ♥️ 

After some betting, the turn came a 10 ♠️  and when he bet here again, after I checked I made a bad decision by going all in. He instantly called and showed the AA!  I actually 'felt' he was strong on the turn, but for some reason I went all in.  It made me realise that I still have some way to go with learning how to play from the blinds effectively.

A second problem that could arise is when you get a good hand in the big blind and get raised in to by the small blind (reversing the situation). Say you now have 10-10 or 9-9. What do you do?  I will cover this briefly in this post.


According to my now favourite poker writer, Sklansky (& Malmuth) 'Playing your first two cards out of the blinds is very different from the other positions because you will have terrible position for the next three rounds. But this is somewhat compensated for by the fact you only have to call a partial bet. The net result is that you play rather tight in some situations, but loose in others.' (Hold'em for Advanced players - Sklansky and Helmuth page 40).  I am currently now reading this book and the style of writing has me gripped!  I really can recommend for any aspiring poker player to read this.

On reading the 'playing from the blinds' chapter, the two writers also say: 'Over their careers many players lose quite a bit of money from the blind positions, This is because they frequently over estimate the value of their hand in comparison to the partial bet that they are required to make to continue playing. Even though you can play looser in some situations, you must play fairly tight if the pot has been raised and the raiser is not in a steal position.' (Page 40)

Pokervip.com suggests that 'the name of the game in the BB is hence not to make money, but to lose the least amount possible.' Why? Because (they say) 'being forced to invest 1 BB before even seeing our hole cards is a huge disadvantage, especially when you consider that we will spend much of our BB time playing out of position.' 'If we can make our overall BB win rate around 30 bb/100 hands, then we are essentially doing a very good job of offsetting our losses!'

LOOSEN UP from the big blind

However, the general advice is to loosen up, as money has already been invested in to the pot, players should do their best to defend this money. I would agree with this especially in a heads up scenario versus the small blind or the button when you suspect a steal, even if you are out of position.  With hands like 10-10 or 9-9 hands from the big blind. Generally, if there is a big raise before you should just cold call with these hands like 10-10, whereas with hands like AA, KK, AKsuited, AKoffsuit, AQs, AQo, AJs, QQ and JJ you should of course re-raise.  However, as Sklansky stresses in the text below, you must also have a good read on your opponents!

According to pokervip.com it is important to remember that the size that the Open raisers use will change our defending frequency quite considerably. So, if someone opens for a min raise we should defend many more hands, while if someone opens for a 3BB we should defend considerably less hands.' We can cold call with hands ranging from KQs - J7s (including suited connectors) and pocket pairs from 1010 - 22 so as the article suggests the range is quite broad!

Big blind v small blind pokervip.com tips

This is a very important situation in BB defence. Why? Because there is profit to be made from this situation as the small blind raising range will be quite wide on the whole and we are playing in position (a key factor in NL Limit Hold'em).

Against a 2.5x raise we should be defending 50% of the time. 15% of the time by 3 betting and 35% by cold calling.

So AA-10/10 re raise,

KJs - 22 cold calling.

A min raise should be defended 70% of the time.

For more information on playing the big blind in different scenarios, check out the pokervip.com article (playing the big and small blinds)

Sklansky suggests that you must know your enemy

- knowing the difference between tight and loose games. You must know the playing tendencies of your opponents. Particularly important in tight ring games and particularly short handed games. 

Playing the big blind

'Does this player only raise with the usual raising hands even in late position? If so, you should only be calling with decent hands that are justified by the pot odds you are being offered. Similarly you play on the flop your usual hand because he is likely to be playing a quality hand. But the situation is very different if you're opponent is a tricky player who is more likely to be raising with trash than a quality hand. He just can't resist stealing the blinds at every opportunity, and he's tried to steal yours whenever he can. Here you have to meet fire with fire, and defend your blind from him making an automatic profit off you. You also have to play more loosely after the flop, since you know he's going to bet it every time. We like to dissuade our plucky opponent from stealing us from the future by re raising more frequently than we would against a player who we know raises with genuinely strong hands.'  (Page 40 Hold'em for Advanced players)


- You hold AKo or QQ - one or two aggressive players have called - if a player on your right has raised, if you raise that could leave you open to being raised by a player on your left. Better to call and go for a check raise on a flop of 7 ♣️ 4 ♥️ 3 💎 (rainbow) when it is likely your opponents have missed.  However if you hold AK and get called by players from late position (when in big blind) you should usually re raise due to their implied weakness. You can play with suited connectors and 89offsuit if many players are in due to the implied odds (refer to my previous post).

YOU CAN CALL WITH A SMALL PAIR LIKE 33...(from big blind)

if there are two other players in, even with an initial raise, in case you flop a set.

Small blind play according to Sklansky & Malmuth


Generally it is ok to call with almost all hands from the small blind as it is so cheap to play, so you can play all Ax hands, with the exception that the big blind is a frequent raiser, then you shouldn't waste your money! Sklansky.


Trouble is positional disadvantage so think twice about raising the better players! But the opposite is true if the big blind folds a lot. 

My immediate success on the micro stakes $5 buy in

I called a raise with 7 ♣️ 8 ♣️  from small blind after a 3x (15c) raise and flopped the absolute nuts! -

the 5 ♥️  4 ♥️  6 ♠️ .  Always nice :)  I checked, reraised a pot bet, and called the all in of course - the loose agressive bad player showed 10/10.

What were my odds of winning on the flop? 96.26% not bad when someone has just gone all in!!

5 ♣️  at 90% on the turn, as he had a full house possibility, yikes! But the 7 ♥️  came down - two scare cards if the hand had played out slightly less loosely!!

Hope you enjoyed reading - knowledge is power ✌️

Extra note: a lot of today's material has been recited from Hold'em for Advanced players and from an article by pokervip.com 'blinds play' so I don't mind being scored down for this - but I've made sure I've referenced the material and felt it was useful to put it all together.

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I have been playing poker for about 15 years. I play online currently and I've played poker in casinos, card rooms, local games and with friends. I play NL hold'em tournaments and cash games and can also play Pot Limit Omaha, a game I also love.
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