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On Poker: Keep it simple and cheap in the blinds spots

April 22, 2017

There are a few fancy labels given to chair spots during the play of any given hand, but there really are only two player groupings: players who are in the small and big blinds, and everyone else, who isn’t. Blinds have to commit money to the hand, and with those spots come a little bit of anonymity and a lot of options.

The beauty of the blinds is the randomness. If the pot is minimally raised or limped into and the blinds can see a flop on the cheap, it’s typically a good idea to proceed with just about anything.

There is no way to put blinds players on a hand with any accuracy, creating an incredible guessing game. This is why it usually is a mistake to ever raise from these spots when other players enter the hand, especially in the limit varieties of Texas Hold. Here’s why:

Building pot: If two or more players are in the hand when it gets to the blinds, a raise is unlikely to drive anyone out. All you’ve accomplished is an additional incentive for opponents to stay in and build a larger pot that can cost you more money down the road. In limit, everybody will call that extra bet.

Position: If you raised and whiffed from the small blind with a hand like A-10, congratulations -- you are first to act on every betting street and are horribly out of position with money unnecessarily committed to the pot. You will be more likely to force bluff money into the pot, and easily can fall into an assortment of traps.

Expose your hand: It’s not uncommon to wake up with a legit monster. However, by raising, you are screaming to the rest of the table that you really have something.

Suppose you wake up with A-K in the big blind, with three players in the hand. By refusing to raise, if an ace or a king comes down on the flop, you are in a position to get paid off very handsomely. Most opponents would assume that you would have raised in that spot with one of poker’s best starting hands. However, if you would have raised, it wouldn’t have been hard for your opponents to put you on that big pair. The difference in pot sizes would be substantial.

An exception: If a player bets, another raises before the action gets to the blinds and you have something really big, like pocket queens, kings or aces, there’s already enough money in the pot to pop a big re-raise and isolate the hand.

Flop bet: Because you will be first to act in the blinds after the flop, and there is so much mystery to your hand, the flop creates a lot of opportunity to take down the hand with an immediate bet in no-limit games. If you were given a choice between an Ac-Kh-7s or a 6h-3d-9c board, you’re almost better off representing the trash. And in a profit opportunity similar to the A-K scenario, opponents will stick around and pay you off if you hit your hand.

Flipping into defense: If you are in a hand with several others and one of them is the blind, be aware that a bet or raise from the blind is a different situation versus another player. And a check-raise after the flop almost always is a surefire sign that you are up against the goods.

Blinds play is a meticulously studied part of Hold ’em strategy, and to borrow a line from the late first lady Nancy Reagan, “just say no” to the desire to raise from those spots.