AVP resident pro Benton Blakeman goes over his suggested strategy for playing in blind-vs-blind situations.
Today I'd like to touch on a subject that most people don't think about too often. We all know that we are forced to pay blinds once a round. What we aren't used to, though, is playing blind-vs-blind when the action folds around to us. In live games, most of us are used to just "chopping" the blinds and moving on. But with so much online poker action in Nevada now, I thought it would be good to discuss the best methods of playing blind-vs-blind, since we aren't as familiar with that scenario.
Let’s begin with play from the small blind. It seems simple on the surface — you already have half a bet in, and you're only against one player, so you should complete the bet and see the flop. Well, yes, and no.
When playing from the small blind, you should adopt a raise-or-fold strategy. Limping is not profitable and will only lead to playing a hand out of position without initiative, which are two things we should try to avoid. Our hand range should vary based on how wide our opponent defends in blind-vs-blind battles. The more liberally they defend, the tighter our opening range should be. The tighter they defend, the wider our range should be. With that said, a "chart" against a standard player would have me raising any ace, any king, any two suited cards, any connectors, any one-gappers down to 6-4, most two-gappers down to 7-4, and any pairs.
While this is a wide range, history has proven through my several million hands played online that this results in a fold by our opponents more than half of the time. The rest of the time, we play a pot with initiative. Overall, this will give us a better chance of profiting from the small blind when playing blind-vs-blind than just limping in and seeing a flop.
Playing post-flop when called is pretty straightforward. You should be continuation-betting a high frequency and expecting a lot of folds. The big difference is that the small-blind-vs-big-blind steal should be a low-variance play that adds to your bottom line. Because of this, you shouldn't be running too many multi-barrel bluffs. So, when your opponent calls your C-bet, I'd highly recommend shutting down your bluffs on the turn and check-folding. Of course, if you actually flopped a hand, then feel free to bet the turn and river for value.
Now that we've covered small-blind play, let's move along and talk about playing from the big blind in blind-vs-blind battles.
Most people don't realize it, but playing in blind-vs-blind battles from the big blind is one of the most profitable spots in poker. The reason is that we are playing in position against only one opponent who has a random hand. Sure, we have a random hand as well, but with position (and hopefully initiative), which makes this a recipe for success!
There are three possible scenarios when in the big blind: 1) the small blind folds and we win, 2) the small blind calls, leaving us the option to check or raise, or 3) the small blind raises, which leaves us in the spot of calling, three-betting, or folding. We don't have to discuss the first option, so let’s jump right in to the second one.
When the small blind just calls, giving us the option of checking or raising from the big blind, we should be raising a range that's similar to our opening raising range from the small blind that I spoke about several paragraphs ago. This will lead to a lot of folds by the small blind, but more important, it will lead to a lot of calls by them in which they just check flops that they miss and fold to our continuation-bets. The only hands that I would check back preflop after the small blind just calls are hands at the very bottom of my range that are all but hopeless (like 7-2 off-suit, 9-3 off-suit, J-2 off-suit, etc.).
The last scenario is when the small blind open-raises in a blind-vs-blind battle. Once again, this is very player-dependent, but I'll speak assuming we're against a random player with standard betting stats and patterns. When the small blind open-raises and we are in the big blind, we should be three-betting a fair amount of the time. The reason is that they are likely open-raising a much wider range than normal, and also will be folding a large percentage of those hands to a three-bet. I would advocate three-betting pairs 9-9+, any pair below 9-9 that you would be willing to get all in preflop with against a loose enough opponent, any suited-face-card hand that you're OK folding to a four-bet (e.g., K-5 suited, J-6 suited), suited two-gappers, and most A-x hands. In other words, this is a good spot to three-bet hands that have blockers to your opponent having a good hand, as well as hands that play OK post-flop but aren't strong enough to call a raise.
I would opt to call in position with hands that play well post-flop but aren't good enough to three-bet and then call a reraise if we get four-bet. Hands like this might include K-J off-suit, A-10 off-suit, K-Q suited, 8-7 suited, J-9 suited, etc. When I decide to call, I would also be planning on calling a lot of flops, including flops where I just flop overcards. This will allow me to float and often win hands on the turn by sheer aggression when our opponent checks or makes a weak bet that we can raise and represent a strong hand. The range of hands that I would fold preflop to the small blind’s raise is the same range of hands that I would check behind if the small blind just called preflop.
As you can see by reading this, aggression is definitely key when playing in blind-vs-blind battles. Solid play can turn a profit in these spots, but well-timed, aggressive play can really add to your bottom line when multi-tabling online.
Good luck in these spots, and as always, please leave any questions or comments in the forum thread.
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