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The Blinds: Advantages and Disadvantages

For Hold'em players the blinds are as unavoidable as death, taxes, and bad beats - just a consequence of life at the poker table. How you play the blinds, however, will have a large bearing on your success at the game.

 

Small blind:

In Hold'em and Omaha, this is the mandatory bet required of the player to the left of the dealer.

 

Big blind (limit poker):

In games using a blind to put money in play, the big blind is generally equal to the lower amount of the stakes for that game. In a $5/$10 game, the big blind is $5. The big blind follows the small blind, which is put up by the first player to the left of the dealer.

 

When the pot has not been raised:

One of the advantages to being the big blind is in a situation when the pot remains unraised. You've gotten to see the flop for free, and might just flop a huge hand with two cards you otherwise might never have played. When you're in the small blind, you can get to see the flop for half a bet, or one-third of the bet, depending on the game structure.

 

Holding a big hand in the blind:

Every so often you'll be dealt a pair of aces, kings or queens, or A-K in the blind. There are some players who automatically raise with these hands, regardless of any previous action. Players who routinely do this give their opponents too much information. By raising from the blind, you are announcing to the table that you have an exceptional hand. Not just a good hand, a great one. Most players in low- to mid-limit games are not going to release a big pair unless the board overtly threatens a straight or flush, and there is a bet and a raise in front of them. Take advantage of this tendency by checkraising your opponent from the blind when you know he plans to bet a hand you can beat.

 

Marginal hands in the blind:

Most of the time you'll be dealt marginal hands in the blind. If you're in the big blind, and there is no raise in front of you, simply check when it's your turn to act and hope the flop is favorable. If there is a raise, you'll have to carefully consider whether to call or toss your hand away. When you're in the small blind, you need an even stronger hand to call a raise, since it will cost you more than half a bet. In most games it will cost you a bet and a half to call a raise from the small blind.

 

Considerations in the small blind:

Even though it costs only a half bet to call from the small blind when the pot hasn't been raised, you still shouldn't call with just any hand. Unless you have a really good hand - the kind which plays well from early position - you need to limit your calls to those hands which offer real potential for improvement. If you're playing in a game where the small blind is two-thirds of the big blind, you can play just about any hand from the small blind in an unraised pot. Just be prepared to throw most of your hands away on the flop, it's one of the disadvantages of this position that you have to accept as part of the game.

 

Raising in the small blind:

If you're dealt a big pair, or A-K in the small blind, and there aren't many callers, a raise might prevent the big blind from playing, unless he also has a very good hand. Any rational player respects a raise from the small blind. If you're in the small blind and only one opponent called from late position, you can occasionally raise regardless of what you're holding. If any big cards flop, your bet stands a good chance of eliminating your opponent. Since your opponent only called from late position, it's difficult to credit him with big cards and he's likely to fold in the face of a bet. This is not a tactic you can use routinely, however, since anyone who is observant will simply take note of your behavior and soon begin reraising you.

 

Summary:

Most of the time you're in the blind and encounter a raise you're going to throw your hand away. Only play your better hands for half a bet, but play most of your hands when the cost is only one-third of a bet. Most of the time the flop will be unfavorable and you'll wind up tossing your hand away, once someone bets. If the flop is favorable, you still have the disadvantage of acting first on each succeeding round of betting. The best and most succinct advice anyone can offer about playing in the blind is to play very few hands - and play those cautiously.

 

  • Most of the time you're in the blind and encounter a raise you're going to throw your hand away.
  • Only play your better hands for half a bet, but play most of your hands when the cost is only one-third of a bet.
  • Most of the time the flop will be unfavorable and you'll wind up tossing your hand away, once someone bets.
  • If the flop is favorable, you still have the disadvantage of acting first on each succeeding round of betting.
  • The best and most succinct advice anyone can offer about playing in the blind is to play very few hands - and play those cautiously.
 
Further reading:
 

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