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Big Blind vs. Small Blind

Big Blind vs. Small Blind 0001

Playing from the Big Blind (BB) is the least profitable Position in Cashgames in the long run. Although you have the advantage preflop of being the last player to act, you are still forced to post a Big Blind and you are out of position for the rest of the hand after the flop. As many of you know, position is one of the most important factors in poker. Without understanding the importance of position and how to use it to your advantage, you are not a complete poker player.

There is only one situation where you are in position on the Big Blind, and that is if the rest of the table folds and you only play against the Small Blind. This is actually a situation that only few poker players know how to take advantage off, which motivated me to write this article.

It is a so called niche of poker, a very small and specific part of the game, but this article will hopefully show you exactly how to deal with this situation in the future.

When discussing playing against the SB, we can differentiate between two distinct situations. The first situation we will discuss is playing against a limping SB, and after that we will discuss how to react against a raising SB.

A Limping SB

Limping into a pot is always seen as a sign of weakness, unless we have a good read on the player. So, until we see our opponent limp with a monster in this situation, we will assume he has a weak hand. Therefore we can say that there's a player on the SB, on whom we have position, who is playing a marginal hand like for example {k-Diamonds}{7-Diamonds} or {8-Clubs}{9-Hearts}. In situations like these it really doesn't matter what kind of hand we are holding, as we are solely basing our strength on the weakness of our opponent. Therefore it is also unnecessary to give a range of hands with which we will raise in this situation, as we will raise with any hand.

In general a raise to 5BB is the best option here, with a bigger stack you might consider 6-8BB. There are a couple of reasons to make this relatively big raise. Since we are putting our opponent on a weak hand, we want to put pressure on him. If he folds preflop that's perfect, as we are raising with just about any hand here, and most of the time we will be holding complete rags. If he does decide to call, however, we have already created quite a big pot as a result of our big preflop raise. This reduces the chance of him trying to bluff us out of the pot or chasing his draws, which works to our advantage.

Postflop the strategy is pretty simple. Whenever he checks the flop we fire out a continuation bet. If he decides to bet out first, then we'll have to take a look at our hand and the texture of the board. But we'll talk about that later.

So, we raise every hand preflop and fire out a continuation bet on every flop. If, after this, you are still in the hand and your opponent has not folded, we will have to consider a few other things, which we will discuss in the following section.

A Raising SB

Whenever a SB decides to raise instead of limp in, other factors come into play. These factors will now be discussed in detail.

• Stats of the SB. If we know that the player on the SB rarely raises before the flop and is generally a tight player, there is little point in trying to get something out of this. The only thing you can do here is look at your hand and decide if its worth playing, maybe for set value or, if your stack is a little bigger, maybe with suited connectors. However, if we know that the player has regularly been raising preflop, we can look into it. We know that a lot of the time he must be raising with marginal hands that will miss the flop most of the time, which will force him to fold to our continuation bet. Therefore we don't have to be afraid to call his raise, but we should make sure that the hands we call with have at least some potential to hit, so that we don't have to rely solely on the (possible) weakness of our opponent. To give an exact range of hands for these situations is a little tricky, but hands like 9h-10s or {q-Clubs}{7-Clubs} are definitely playable. We call preflop, at which point we have reached the next stage.

• Board Texture. Obviously we can't just fire out a continuation bet on every flop. We will have to look at the cards that come out. The best board texture a flop can have in these situations is a so called dry flop with very few potential draws, for example {k-Clubs}{7-Spades}{2-Hearts}. The reason for this is that we want our opponent to often fold when we try to pick up the pot. If he not only calls our bets with his made hands, but also with his draws, we will win less money as we will get called more often.

If we ever get into a situation where we hold a hand like {7-Clubs}{8-Spades} and our opponent bets out on a flop of {a-Spades}{k-Spades}{j-Hearts}, there is nothing wrong with just mucking your hand. Read the board and think about the consequences of making a move with your hand. If you want to bluff on a board with many draws, you will most likely have to continue bluffing on the turn and river to make your opponent fold his draws. This will end up costing you a lot more money than if you just bet on a dry flop and have your opponent fold his hand most of the time.

• Variance. Getting involved in blind battles in this manner will most likely result in a greater variance, not only in these situations, but in your overall game. We have to bear in mind the effects these moves will have on our image at the table. We'll talk more about image later on. Every now and then you will get yourself into situations where your opponent tries to trick you into believing he is weak and that you can bluff him out of the pot, when actually he is holding the stone cold nuts. These types of hands will obviously affect your image at the table and cause other players to respect your raises less and call you more often, which will finally result in a higher variance.

However, these situations should not affect your play. In the long run this type of play will be a lot more profitable than if you only play your premium hands. And although a bad table image might have disadvantages like a greater variance, it definitely also has its advantages. For example, your value bets will be called far more often because no one at the table believes you.

• Reading Skills. One factor that might not be as important, but definitely worth mentioning, is your reading skills. Opponents have so called line, and especially on the lower stakes these lines will tell you a lot about the strength of the player. There are almost no micro- or low-limit players out there who use the same line when bluffing as they do when they have a strong hand. The bet sizes will also tell you a lot about the strength of their hand. A pot sized check/raise on the flop can either be a sign of a really strong hand or the last attempt to pick up a pot with air, but hardly any player on those levels will pot bet their bluffs as well as their monsters, although the differences may be minimal.

So if you manage to get a read on a player and know which lines and which bet sizes are a sign of a strong hand/weak hand, these blind battles will become a lot easier to play. So pay close attention to this. Especially the bet sizing is often ignored, although it is one of the easiest ways to gather information about your opponent.

• Image. Always be aware of your image at the table. If you've just been caught bluffing at a pot, the other players at the table will register this and call your bets more often, so minimize the bluffing until your image at the table is restored. On the other hand, a tight image will enable you to take more chances at stealing pots, which is why you should always know what the other players at the table are thinking of you, and adjust your game accordingly.

In conclusion, we can say that, although these situations are often avoided by players, they are quite a good spot to pick up some chips. As with everything else in poker, practicing is the key to improving in these situations, and as long as you can deal with the higher variance, this is definitely part of the game that is worth improving at. And due to the fact that so many players try to avoid confrontation in these situations, you might even get more respect than you deserve for your aggressive play.

Good luck at the tables!

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