Stealing is perfectly legal and ethical in the game of poker

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We were all taught that stealing is a no-no. It’s immoral and illegal to steal in life. It’s dishonest and against the law to take something that doesn’t belong to you.

You could be punished – even go to jail – if caught. But stealing is common practice in the game of baseball. It wouldn’t be baseball otherwise. When a runner steals a base, it puts him in better position to score if the batter hits a single.

In addition, the threat of a steal serves to disturb the opposing pitcher, making it somewhat more difficult for him to focus on the opposing batter he is trying to strike out – all to the advantage of the runner’s team.

Likewise, stealing is perfectly legal and ethical in the game of poker.

In this case, you want to take the chips that are already in the pot; they don’t belong to you – not yet, anyway. What’s more, stealing makes the game that much more exciting and interesting.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you steal when you take something “without right or permission.” Well, that’s not quite correct in baseball or poker.

Sure, you don’t have permission from the other baseball team – or your opponents at the poker table, but it is your right to steal a base in baseball or steal the pot in poker. In both cases, it does require certain skills, especially in limit games where the size of the bet is constrained and limited in size. Not everyone can make the grade.

At the poker table, stealing is a form of bluffing. It’s often done by deceptive players before the flop and on the flop. And it’s best accomplished from a late position.

Preflop, if everyone has folded to you, your “steal bet” may be enough to persuade everyone behind you, including the blinds, to fold their hands. You win the blinds (less what the casino takes as its share). It’s not much of a pot, but it will pay for a blind.

Better yet is to steal on the flop. At least the chips from the preflop round of betting are in the pot. Here again, it is best to be in a late position – preferably on the button or in the cut-off position. This strategy works best if there are just a few limpers (no raising) during the preflop round of betting. Then, the flop doesn’t have any honor cards – Ace down to 10 – with which players are prone to play.

It’s also OK if there’s a small pair and a middle card on the flop. The opponents betting before you, all check to you. This indicates weakness. Most likely the flop completely missed their hands. One caveat: Best if there are not any tricky players among those who have checked to you.

Players don’t want to get caught in a check-raise. (I assume you have evaluated your opponents at the table before you decide to steal the pot.) Now, when you bet out, do it as you would when using the Esther Bluff – with confidence and self-assuredness.

Usually all your opponents will then fold, leaving the pot to you. But, it is possible someone will call your bet. To best deal with that contingency, it would be prudent to have a reasonable drawing hand or even a small pair.

Image can help: Just as a tight image is helpful when bluffing, so too is it when stealing the pot. Your opponents have noted you are highly selective in your starting hands, folding most hole cards before the flop. That’s to your advantage when you decide to steal the blinds or the pot on the flop, helping to achieve success.

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