While playing Texas hold’em, once each round you will be the small blind, seated just to the left of the Button.
After the flop, the SB is the worst position to be in. You must act — check or bet — before any of the other players. That information gives your opponents an edge.
All poker players are aware of this; but, still may play it wrong, making a big mistake that can be very costly.
To illustrate, it’s a $4-$8 limit hold’em game with blinds of $2 and $4. In the small blind, you have put up your $2. Then you are dealt 8-2 offsuit — a poor starting hand. Ordinarily, you would muck those cards without hesitation, but three (or more) opponents have limped to see the flop, plus the big blind to your left is not likely to raise it up.
You ponder. There has not been a raise, so it will cost you only $2 more to see the flop. Since it’s a multi-way hand, you are getting reasonable pot odds. You never know what the flop will bring. So, you decide to toss two more chips into the pot. You can afford it. Those are likely your thoughts at that moment.
Now, let’s get realistic. You have no control over what the flop will bring; but you do know a little about probability (chance) from a practical standpoint. With those hole cards, the odds are against a significant improvement on the flop.
If your hand does improve, more likely — about 1 out of 3 times — the flop will pair up one of your hole cards. On rare occasions, your hand could even turn into trips; when did that last happen to you? The odds are about 50-to-1 against it.
Suppose you pair up on the flop to make a pair of deuces with an 8 kicker — hardly a hand worth writing home about. Even if you paired the 8, it’s still a weak hand, especially with your poor kicker — in case another player also has an 8 in the hole. With either pair, you have only two outs to catch trips — terrible card odds. As a matter of fact, one or more of your opponents likely holds a bigger pair or better.
No big deal, you think: If your hand does not improve on the flop, you can easily fold to any bet. It only cost you two more small chips.
But that is not the end of the story. You plan to play for seven to eight hours. During that time, with nine players at the table, you can expect to be the small-blind about 30 times — more often if the table is short-handed. That $2 you just tossed into the pot will add up to about $60 — or more — removed from your stacks during the session. That could well make the difference between a winning and losing session in that $4-$8 limit game.
But, there’s even more to it. Those times — about one-third of the time — that you do connect with a pair on the flop, you will likely decide to stay to see the turn. Perhaps you might further improve. However, with just two cards to come (the turn and the river), your small pair is hardly likely to lead to a hand that is better than that of one of your opponents.
Nevertheless, having already invested so many chips, if you do not improve on the turn, after your check followed by a bet and several calls, and with so many chips already in the pot, you decide to call again to see the river. Yes, you are chasing, but the pot is so big! On the river, with no improvement over your pair on the flop, finally you fold to a bet and a call. The winner caught two big pair on the turn.
Bottom line: don’t call from the small blind unless you have a decent starting hand.