ALL ABOUT POKER:
DEFENDING THE BLIND
by Bill Burton
Bill Burton is the Casino Gambling Guide and columnist for the Internet portal About.com located at:www.casinogambling.about.com. He is the author of "1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets" (available online at www.billburton.com ) and "Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em" (available at 10% discount from the BJI online store). Bill is also an instructor for Golden Touch Craps: www.thecrapsclub.com
In Texas Holdíem, to get some money in the pot at the beginning of a hand the player to the immediate left of the dealer button puts in, or posts, the small blind, which equals half of the minimum bet for the first betting round. The next player to the left is the big blind and post a full bet. They are called blinds because they are blind bets made before any cards are dealt.
When a player in the blind puts in additional money to call a raise it is known as "Defending the Blind." Many players lose a lot of money by playing incorrectly from the blinds, and defending the blind with inferior hands is one of the major leaks in the game of otherwise solid players. Consider that in a 10-handed game, your blinds will account for 2/10 of all the hands you will be dealt. Playing every hand from the blinds without regard to the action in front of you is no better that the "any two will do" attitude. In the long run, defending your blind every time can be extremely costly.
Many players are under the impression that when they put money in the pot it is their money. This is not true. Once you put money in the pot, it is no longer your money. It belongs to the player who ultimately wins the hand. Calling a raise from the blind just because you have put money into the pot is not what winning players do. This is especially true if you are the small blind.
Defending the Small Blind
Even in an unraised pot, the small blind must make a decision whether or not to complete the bet. That half of the bet you have to put in to complete your small blind can pay for your small blind the next time around the table. In some games the small blind only puts in a third of a bet because they donít use 50 cent chips. In a $3/6 game, the small blind is a dollar so relinquishing your small blind will give you money for our next two times around the table.
In the small blind, it will cost you one and a half bets to call a raise if you are in a game where the small blind is half the bet. In most instances you should play the small blinds as if you never had any money in the pot at all, and fold those marginal hands whether it was raised or not.
Defending the Big Blind
Some players will always defend their big blind to a raise. Before you automatically throw more money into the pot, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
Who made the raise?
Itís not too hard to figure out the types of players at your table. The maniac will be raising at every opportunity, and the rock will barely bet unless he has a big hand and a passive player will usually just call many hands. Knowing the type of player who made the raise will be a big factor into determining if you defend or not.
How many players called the raise?
If there are three or more players calling the raise before it is your turn to act, your will be getting good odds to call a single raise. You can call with any pair, connectors, or a suited Ace. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if would normally play this hand for a single bet if you were not in the big blind.
What position was the raise made from?
If the raise came from a player in early position it usually is an indication of a strong hand. That is if the player is not one of the maniacs who has been raising at every opportunity. If the raise came from late position and no one has entered the pot to that point you are may be looking at a raise that was made in an attempt to steal the blinds.
Countering a Steal
There will be times when you just know a raise from a late position player is an attempt to steal. If you have been playing tight and relinquishing your blind to every raise you will have players trying to steal more often. If you are in the big blind and are heads-up with the raiser, you will be getting 3 to 1 odds on your money so you can call with many hands that you would fold if there were more players in the hand.
Sometimes it is best to call a raise from the blind if you are just sitting down in the game. This will alert some of the players that you will just not automatically fold to a raise.
If you have a player who is constantly raising to attempt a steal then you should wait until you have a semi-strong hand and play back at them by re-raising them. A small pocket pair is a good hand to do this with. If you re-raise before the flop, and then come out betting after the flop, there is a good chance the player will fold if they have only raised in an attempt to steal.
If you do call a raise from a player you put on a steal, and then hit your hand, you are in a good situation to milk some money from them by just checking the flop. Most players who try to steal before the flop will come out betting in an attempt to convey a legitimate hand. You can shut them down with a check raise or slow play it and check raise on the Turn. Knowing when and from whom to defend your blind will help make your game profitable. Observe and adapt to the situation.
Until next time, remember:
"Luck comes and goes...Knowledge Stays Forever!"
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