A poker friend asked my opinion about an interview published back in late February in another publication. The interview was with World Series of Poker bracelet winner Ryan Laplante, in which he discusses defending the Big Blind. His qualifications: Over the last seven years, Laplante has won $1.8 million online, $1.5 million live, and coaches no-limit hold’em.
Laplante explains that defending his Big Blind against a preflop raise depends on many factors, especially stack size, position of the raiser, size of the raise and the antes, and how well his opponents play. By way of example, he says, “if a really good player opens to just over two times the big blind and I look down on J-7 offsuit… I’m probably calling. But if a weak player opens to 2.5x, I am definitely calling, and it’s not even a close decision.”
Perhaps that strategy works in no-limit games; but for limit games (my preference), I must disagree. My comments here are focused on middle/low-limit hold’em games (not no-limit). In limit games, the factors Laplante identifies do not apply except for the type of opponents you are up against.
Were I not the Big Blind, I would never invest another chip in a J-7 hand. According to the Hold’em Algorithm, J-7 offsuit does not come even close to the minimum score criteria to be considered as a playable starting hand in any position. Holding such a weak hand in the Big Blind position, I would hope for a free card to see the flop; i.e., no raise. (Never refuse a free card.)
If there is a raise, I would rely on the Hold’em Caveat to decide if I should call that raise to defend my big blind. That requires a multiway pot – three or more opponents calling to see the flop – and no further raises. I would look to my left before calling that raise, to try to see if an opponent is preparing to raise; if so, I would promptly muck my hand. The reason, of course, for a multiway pot is to be sure there is likely to be a decent size pot should I get lucky (probability is against me) and my J-7 connects on the flop.
In addition, I would weigh my decision based on the types of opponents in the hand. In particular, I would promptly fold my hand if a tight player had called the raise – or if he was the raiser.
What’s more, any player I observe who plays such a weak hand, especially from the blinds (unless the Hold’em Caveat applies, or he gets to see the flop for free), I would list as a PokerPigeon. He is just plain gambling with the odds much against him. If his hand does improve on the flop, most likely it will be to pair one of his two holecards, for which the odds are only 2-to-1 against him.
If he catches a pair of 7’s, an opponent likely will flop a higher pair or better, or may hold a higher pocket pair in the hole. Pairing up his Jack on the flop would be much better, but he loses to another pair of Jacks with a higher kicker. Of course, he could get very lucky and catch trips or better on the flop (the odds are over 70-to-1 against it). Now we are talking really very long shots!
I “love” such opponents; they are bound to be losers. And I would welcome them to my table anytime – along with their chip “donations.”
Do you agree? What’s your opinion on defending the big blind? Your comments are invited.
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