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The Blinds in Poker

The blinds (big and small blind) The Blinds are a key component in a game of poker and understanding how to profit from their existence is key to playing winning poker. The blinds prevent players from just folding every hand waiting for the very best hands. Imagine a game where every player folded every hand until they either got AA, KK or QQ. Well, that wouldn’t make for much fun as there would never be any action and when players played, their opponents would know they had one of the top starting hands. Additionally, there would be no incentive to play as it wouldn’t cost you anything to wait for a top hand. Blinds are mandatory bets in poker and have been introduced to prevent this very thing. The blinds ensure that on every pot, there is always something to play for. It also means that all players lose money to the blinds every X hands - this means folding for hours isn't a profitable strategy.

 

 

Prior to any cards being dealt, the two players to the left of the dealer button would post the big blind and small blind. The small blind is always half the value of the big blind. In cash games the value of these mandatory bets is based upon the stakes that you are playing. So if you join a £2-£4 value ring game, the big blind would be £4 and the small £2. In a tournament, the blinds would periodically increase throughout the tournament. As players get knocked out and stacks grow, so do the blinds and antes, so the further into the tournament you go, the more attempts there are to steal the blinds (as they are worth more). Playing too tight will ultimately result in your stack dwindling away into an early night.


The blinds offer the potential for easy money. Imagine a standard ring game where the small blind is $10 and the big blind is $20. That’s $30 in the pot before any cards have been dealt. If a player raises and all other players fold, he will take that $30 along with any other monies in the pot. Assuming there are 10 players in the game, then every 10 hands, you will pay the big and small blinds, which is $30 that is coming out of your stack. If you have $600 in your stack, you have 200 hands before you’re broke, so you can’t afford to fold every hand (assuming the blinds stay constant). It’s even less if there is an ante to post on each hand.


Logically, if you take down the blinds at least one in every 10 hands, you will maintain your stack. The blinds tempt players to make plays with less than premium hands, the reason why stealing is so common in late position (particularly if the action folds to you). The fewer players after you, the better the chance they will fold and allow you to pick up the blinds with a raise.


The Button

The button indicates which players will be on the big and small blind for the hand. The player to the immediate left of the dealer button would post the small blind, with the player two places to the left (or immediately left of the small blind) of the button being the big blind. The button moves around the table in a clockwise manner, one place after each hand, which means that no player gets an advantage (or disadvantage). Each player will have post both a big and a small blind by the time the dealer button has gone one revolution around the table.

 

Almost all poker games use a dealer button of some sort to indicate the order of play. The only exceptions are in some stud and draw variants in which the order of play is determined by up cards on show.

 

The Blinds in Tournament Play

Tournament BlindsAs stated already, the small blind will always be set equal to half value of the big blind. The same is true whether playing in cash games or tournaments in as much as the blinds would still be posted in the same way. Tournaments are a little different for the reason that the blinds would be paid from your starting stack and would not remain constant. Typically, you would buy in to a tournament for a set amount. Once the buy in is paid, all players would receive a set amount of chips – everyone would be on an even playing field. At this point, the blinds would start at the lowest level and would increase every 15 minutes (typically), unless you are playing a turbo event which could see levels increase every 5 or 10 minutes.

 

 

The blind increase varies, however it is typical to see an increase of 25-50%. As the blinds increase, the shorter stacks are put under pressure to increase their stack. This ultimately forces players to make plays with hands they might usually fold (if they were not under pressure). You will often hear players say that they have 10 or 20 big blinds. If the blinds were 10/20 and a player had $300, he would have 10 big blinds (10+20) x 10. In tournaments it is common for an all in bet with any ace when a player has less than 10 big blinds as this is considered short stacked.


It is also common practice for players in late position to try to steal your blinds. This is part of the game so it’s key that you don’t lose money aimlessly trying to defend your blinds with poor hands.


Defending Your Blinds

As the blinds are automatic bets, factoring them into whether or not you play a given hand should hold little sway. Only commit chips to a pot if you are prepared to play your hand, no matter if you have been forced to place chips unwillingly.


Of course this is easier said than done at times as showing weakness only encourages players to continually steal your blinds. There are a number of ways to deal with this but the most sensible way is to send the player a message that it isn’t open house on your blinds. This can be done either by saying something to the player, just to make sure they know their game, or waiting for a big hand and hitting back.


Remember – you want to send a message, not end your tournament or go bust. Risk Vs reward. More Common than you might think..


A common mistake made by players is over valuing their blinds. I finished the last paragraph with Risk Vs Reward and by looking at both, an important point can be made. Let’s assume that you are in a tournament and the player to your right has raised your blinds a number of times and always where the action has folded to you. Wanting to make a stand is good, as is trying to get him to lay off. That said, we need to be careful. The first question is how much are you protecting? Let’s say the blinds are 300-600 and you are on the big blind. Your stack is 16400. You are protecting 600. Is it worth going bust trying to protect 600? That's easy, no. So pushing all in with a weak hand is not the correct move – simply as you are then risking 16400 to protect 600. Now as crazy as that sounds, I see if every day both online and in live cash games. needlessly making moves where a player didn't need to, hitting a rag pair and then defending the first bad decision with the rest of their stack.


The second question is what is the reward? How much would you win if you got the player to your right to fold? Assuming no action, it would be 900 plus any antes. Lets call it 1200. So how much should you be risking to win 1200? Your full 16400? Well, probably not again. After all, he could actually have the best hand. If you have 1200 to win, why not re-raise the player to 1800 to see where you stand. Ask the question but leave yourself the possibility that he actually has a hand. What you have to remember is that although players will at times continually raise your blinds, sometimes they will have nothing and other times they will have a hand. Protecting your blinds can lead to trouble if you play with trash.


Let us assume you hold 9-6 in a game of Hold’em. You blinds are raised and you call, or worse, re-raise the bet – you are called. The board comes 9-8-2. Your opponent bets again, this time for a good proportion of your stack. This isn’t a position you really want to be in and one which could have been avoided by not playing rag cards. You have hit top pair, which is as good as you could have hoped for, but still have no confidence in your hand as if your opponent has a 9, you are likely being out-kicked.

 

 

Wait for a hand before you make your move. If your cards don’t justify the play, don’t do it unless you really are so short stacked that you really have to make a stand. In this example you are being put to a decision for a good chunk of your stack, and for what? Protecting 1200 chips.. If you feel compelled to do it, raise it up and hope your opponent folds. If he doesn’t, don’t commit any more to the hand. There is nothing wrong with asking the question. There is however no point in asking the question, if you ignore the answer:) Remember, the reward should justify the risk.

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