License to steal!

Mar 14, 2006 3:56 AM

This week we turn our attention to the blinds, the mandatory bet in which two players at the table must make a small and big blind bet, prior to receiving their starting cards.

Typically, the big blind is double the small blind, and there may or may not be an ante to go along with them.

Knowing how to play against the blinds can be a key component of your limit and no limit Texas hold’em strategy, especially in tournament play.

The fact that the bets are mandatory implies that the players making them will often be holding a hand that is simply unplayable.

We know this because players usually have less than a 50 percent chance of receiving a starting hand that’s worth playing. In fact, only a small percentage of players are dealt a starting hand worth raising.

"Attacking" the blinds or "stealing" the blinds is the process of raising enough before the flop to cause the blind holder to fold.

Although the blinds usually represent a small pot, some players make capturing the blinds an integral part of their game.

For instance, the great poker pro Doyle Brunson is famous for attacking the blinds. In one books, he recommends that players rob as many blinds as possible, often as a means of generating a large stack of chips, which can be used for other aggressive play in the game.

I think there are several keys to stealing the blinds.

While the late position is probably the best place to attack the blinds (because everyone else has acted before you), it’s also the most obvious.

Thus, you would do well to mix up your attack and try not to always attack from the late position.

For example, I sometimes like to raise from the fourth or fifth position, often right after a caller or two, who are positioned just in front of the blinds. Keep in mind that a raise in early position always commands attention and respect as it usually represents a good starting hand.

The amount of the raise can vary, but generally I will raise two to three times the amount of the blinds (plus antes, if any).

Of course, if you have a huge hand, such as pocket aces or kings, you might want to bet a little less, thus inviting action from the other players, maybe even a re-raise that can generate more action for you.

The size of your chip stack can also make a difference. If you have a big stack, then you can increase the pressure on your opponents by attacking more often.

In any case you don’t want to make it easy for the big blind to call your bet.

My raising the bet is predicated on there not being a raise in front of me. If there is a raise, then I have to evaluate the bet and the player making it.

If I’ve determined the player is very loose and typically plays a lot of pots, then I may proceed. If he’s a very conservative player that seldom gets involved, then his raise carries more weight and you have to be cautious, especially if his bet comes from an early or middle position.

Generally, in tournament play I don’t bother with attacking blinds in the early stages. They’re simply too small to make it worthwhile. Moreover, I don’t want to be perceived by other players as a "cowboy" out to steal blinds.

But in the later stages of a tourney, stealing the blinds can make a significant difference. That’s when it’s time to go after them.

Finally, keep in mind that you’re being evaluated by players, as you evaluate them. If you’re perceived as one who attacks frivolously, then you’ve probably lost respect, possibly opening yourself to a counter bluff.

So, pick your spots carefully, so when you do act, it will be from a position of strength and respect.