The small blind is arguably the most difficult position to master in No Limit Hold’em. You’re forced to pay half of a big blind without looking at your cards. Not to mention, you then play every single post-flop situation in a very weak position. These factors are impossible to completely overcome, which is why every player, no matter how polished, will lose money on the small blind in the long run. However, there are steps you can take to stop bleeding chips on the small blind. Here are some very useful ways to minimize your small blind losses and increase your overall wins.
Steal the Blinds as Often as Possible
When action folds around to you in the small blind, you’ll only have to beat one player to take the pot. This is an opportunity worth taking advantage of as often as you can. Many players, especially less experienced ones, fold from the big blind against steal attempts. Knowing that, open-raising from the small blind is an effective way to exploit that. In fact, open-raising a slightly wider range from the small blind than the button (anywhere between 40% and 50% of hands is a good starting point) is a good idea. This may seem high considering the drawbacks of playing the small blind. However, stealing the pot justifies a relatively wide opening range most of the time. Remember, a wide range is a solid strategy when open-raising, but it’s important to adjust it as you learn more about your opponent. For instance, if the big blind is an aggressive player with a tendency high bet, then you can tighten your range. Or, when a super-tight player is the big blind, go with an even wider range.
Always Keep an Eye on the Big Blind
Positioning is so important when playing poker; we all know this, and it’s crucial to blind play. If you’ve ever had an aggressive player sitting on your left, it’s a tough seat, especially for blind vs blind play. These types of players are constantly flatting, floating, and 3-betting which makes it impossible to play anything but the strongest of hands. On the other hand, when you play blind vs. blind vs. a nit, you know how much easier it is to steal their blind every time around. Learning your opponents is key. You need to know the tendencies for every player, particularly the one on your left, and adjust your strategy to counter them. For instance, if when you’ve got an aggressive player in the big blind who is 3-betting and 4-betting a lot, narrow all of your ranges to avoid bleeding chips in bad spots. When there’s an extremely tight player to your left, widen all of your ranges and win as many pots as possible.
Never Bet the Donkey
Never, ever, ever bet the donkey from the small bind. Ever. It simply does not make sense from a range perspective or from your position. When a player flats an open, their range will instantly be perceived as being weaker than the player who opened the pot. The caller would have 3-bet (or even raised) with a strong hand if they had one, meaning that these can be eliminated from their range when they elect to flat. Donk-bets are always done by weaker players. Due to their range and position disadvantage, they would be much better off checking in order to protect the rest of their plays. Checking your entire range from the small blind is the only way to effectively balance your checking range. This is very important. It prevents your opponents from profitably over-bluffing when you check to them.
Have a Blind vs. Blind Strategy
Blind vs. blind play is a very complex factor in poker. This is because of the dead money is already committed to the pot by both players and this only gives both more reason to play wider ranges. There are two approaches that can be taken from the small blind, both of which can be successful when executed properly. Decide which strategy you feel most confident using and go from there.
The first is a raise or fold strategy from the small blind. This strategy is not only simple, but it gives you a relatively high chance of winning the pot pre-flop. Also, since less experienced players have a tendency to over-fold their big blind to a raise, this raise/fold strategy can be an effective way at lower limits.
The second is a mixed small blind strategy and is much more complicated, with a range of limp/folds, limp/calls, limp/raises, raises and folds. Balancing this much is what makes it so difficult. With so many ranges to manage it can even become difficult to navigate certain post-flop spots. The mixed strategy is most effective against aggressive players that incorrectly respond to limps. The obvious downside is that by limping, you allow the player in the big blind to realize equity for free by checking.