2019 World Series of Poker

The Problem With Flat-Calling Raises from the Small Blind

The Problem With Flat-Calling Raises from the Small Blind
  • Habitually flat-calling raises from the small blind is a sure way to lessen your poker profits.

  • Learn why folding or three-betting is almost always a better option than calling raises from the SB.

If you play online poker and have ever used any of the available tracking programs that can help you study a wide variety of statistics about your own and your opponents' play, you know that in no-limit hold'em the small blind and big blind are almost always going to be least profitable positions from which to play.

The blinds are of course required bets that require you to commit chips even before getting to see your cards. Thus does it happen that you're often forced to spend at least the blinds on weak starting hands you wouldn't normally spend anything on otherwise. So when you're dealt {8-Clubs}{3-Hearts} in the small or big blind and there's a raise and reraise in front of you, you're ditching those cards and adding another negative result to your SB or BB column.

Furthermore, if you do choose to remain in the hand long enough to see a flop from the blinds, you typically find yourself playing postflop from out of position, which for a variety of reasons also often makes you less profitable. See "10 Hold'em Tips: The Importance of Position" for further discussion of why it is preferable to play the majority of your hands in position.

Defending your big blind against steal attempts by calling or reraising is one way of combating your disadvantage when playing from the big blind.

Meanwhile in certain situations it might seem enticing to call raises from the small blind as well — say, when you have a speculative hand with which you'd like to see a flop. The fact that you've already put in the small blind could also make it seem like you have a "discount" to make such a call, too.

But habitually flat-calling raises from the small blind can be a major leak in your game, causing you to lose even more from the SB than you would otherwise. Such is the topic addressed by poker pro and coach Pete "Carroters" Clarke in his latest "Poker Pitfalls" video for PokerStars School, "Flatting in the Small Blind."

"It's actually very rarely correct to flat-call an open out of the small blind," explains Clarke. That is to say, simply calling a preflop raise (or reraise) from the SB is almost always not recommended.

In the video below, Clarke talks through a hand example showing the problem with flat-calling from the small blind, here choosing a good speculative hand — {10-Hearts}{9-Hearts} — to demonstrate.

If you're going to call a button raise with a hand like ten-nine suited, Clarke shows, three-betting is often better as it prevents the BB from trying a squeeze play and reraising, which then leads either to folding and losing more, or being lured into making another bad call and potentially dropping even more in the hand.

Clarke lists other reasons why folding or reraising are both preferable options to flat-calling from the small blind here. Take a look:

For more small blind strategy, see "How to Play — or Not to Play — from the Small Blind."

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