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Stealing from position

The blinds are the catalysts of poker. They are the source of all action and often times the battle for the blinds is decisive in the battle for the overall money turned around at a table. In fixed limit poker, the action doesn’t just start with the blinds, often it’s where it ends too. The size of the blinds determines the whole pace of the game. Extremely small blinds (in comparison to the size of an average bet that is) will make for a very tight, slow game in which starting hand values are generally high. The small blinds create adverse pot odds for the players which means they need something really solid to commit money on. If there were no blinds, the game would degenerate into a tag kind of thing where players would take turns in putting money into the pot on the nut hands. Poker simply couldn’t function that way.

If the blinds were extremely high when compared to the size of an average future bet on the other hand, the pot odds created would produce an extremely loose environment in which calling would make sense with just about any two pocket cards. Now that you know the effect that blinds have on action, you’ll understand why stealing blinds becomes a matter of life and death under certain circumstances.

If you’re SNG player, chances are you already know what I’m about to detail. In a SNG (Sit’n Go) play commences with everyone being relatively deep-stacked. Don’t get me wrong, nobody is really stacked enough to be able to play good old healthy implied-odds based poker, it’s just that the urgency to squeeze money out of the action is not quite there yet. As players begin to head to the rail, this urgency becomes more and more acute. There’s an especially tricky stage in every SNG: after about half the field busts out, just a couple of players short of the bubble, when you’ll be forced to steal blinds in order to stay alive.

At this stage of the game, the blinds have escalated enough that they represent a good source of income for the hungry survivors, and in the same time a big enough and growing threat to their stacks. There’s just one thing left to do: they need to be attacked. Attacking the blinds is always best done from position. As a matter of fact, any sort of move involving a bluff is best done from late position. In Texas Holdem (and in Omaha, too) there’s a dealer button which moves one position to the left with each hand played. The small blind and the big blind are attached to the dealer button as it “pushes” them around in front of it. The player on the button is the last to act (before the two blinds that is) which means it’s the best place to attack the blinds from. If everyone else folds to the button (which is not that big of a long-shot at a 5–handed table), it’s quite obvious you have to attack the blinds (but you may do it even if they just call and you sense weakness).

Do that through a reasonable raise (like making it twice the BB) and if possible stay away from going all-in. Putting your tournament life on the line for a BB+SB doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and you always have to consider the possibility that the BB may decide to call or even re-raise you. Also, you need to take it into account that your blinds-attacking hands won’t exactly be J,J and upward hands either.

If all players involved in the game are skilled, you can quite literally watch the money go around as the button attacks the blinds on each hand. There’s only one person who can seriously mess up your stealing and that’s the guy in the cut-off (right of the button) who may decide he wants to attack the blinds himself.

Don’t forget to sign up for rakeback even if you happen to be a tournament player. There’s a handsome rebate on the tournament fees that you pay, and you’ll see first hand how big an impact that will have on your overall performance. Sign up for a poker prop deal if you’re looking for an even heftier rake back percentage.

Steve Larson


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