Poker blinds defense is a challenging topic. When defending blinds in a cash game, common poker strategy and pokering conventional wisdom says we should never just ‘complete’ when defending the blinds, especially in the Small Blind. Heaven forbid we should never over-limp, what a fishy crime! We should either 3bet or fold we’re told. This is a rather broad and frankly dated way to look at the situation. What we really need to know is ‘If I choose not to 3bet, can I overcome the cost of repeatedly folding this particular hand vs this/these opponents?’
Remember, every time you fold a particular junky hand in the SB you lose -50bb/100. Folding in the BB, it’s twice the price @ 100bb/100! It’s easy to see how we’d all be rich if we were not forced to cough up 2 out of every 6 hands. So while ‘playing tight in the blinds’ was what we all were taught, I’d like to break the mould.
Below are 2 HEM2 screenshots. The upper shot shows all hands that I’d previously have folded in the SB/BB vs a steal and the cost of doing so. This is with a hand range of everything but Broadway hands and pairs (hands such as 9To and 46s). The lower shot shows the same hands when I’ve called or over-limped. I’m beating my folding cost of -70bb/100 and not only am I in the green, It’s important to note I’d still be making money even if I was losing say -35bb/100 with this hand range. As long as I beat my cost of folding I still make money.
An important caveat
Bias hand selection: ‘Choosing a range of hands and not being objective enough with the results’. E.g. you may find you make money calling 44 in the blinds. But were those hands vs regs or fish? This is important; you may have made all your money vs the fish, and be losing heavily vs the regs! But the green number doesn’t show this. So don’t be bias, check the losing hands and make sure they weren’t all vs regs.
With this caveat firmly in mind let’s discuss the situations I’m talking about. There are 3 main scenarios:
Let’s delve into each scenario as they are all slightly different:
Over-limping our SB vs an In Position limp
Take hands like 67o, T7s and J9o. If you don’t think you can Iso-raise and get tons of folds post-flop, you may have previously mucked them without a thought. But I urge you to pay more attention. When I figure to have marginal post-flop fold equity when I miss (i.e. they have a fold to cbet of around <45%), I’d rather very cheaply call with a reasonably playable hand rather than juicing the pot up, especially if I’ve already been iso-ing a lot.
Obviously the calibre of our opponents is key. I like to see:
(As in they fold to a cbet >50%. Although any lead from Hero won’t be a cbet as such, it does show a willingness to fold).
With our risk so small, we can almost play fit-or-fold ourselves post-flop. I donk-bet any pair, any sort of draw or even random Ace high boards. You can even check-raise vs the guys who just can’t help themselves.
SB vs CO/BTN steal
I’m not quite as liberal in calling when the late position stealer is the reg-ish type. That said, if BB is either passive, predictable or somehow fit-or-fold, I’m defending a hand like JTo if I can’t 3bet it. By can’t 3bet, I mean my CO/BTN opponent likes to defend vs 3bets and I’d often be in tough spots. Whereas in a small pot I’d have more room to manoeuvre with the deeper stacks. Again, planning ahead I’d be looking for tendencies in my opponents to exploit. If they always cbet, I can check-raise. If they hardly cbet, I’d donk-bet.
BB vs min BTN open
We briefly discussed this back in my 3bet article. I defend almost half the time and I don’t think that’s enough. Check the buttons Raise-first-In stat from that position. Min opens are usually 60%+ raisers, and they just aren’t going to get away with it. If I’ve been 3betting a lot I’ll call too, to mix it up. Anything playable will do: connecting cards like 67o, suited semi-gappers like 96s are great. As always, I’ll be looking for flops to represent and apply the pressure. Don’t forget to take different lines, these are regs and they’ll adjust fairly quickly.
General Do’s and Don’ts
Your homework – check your current hands for this spot, the sample size of each and the opponents they were vs.
Plan ahead – Don’t call then hopelessly have a random stab. We plan preflop, looking at potential postflop weaknesses.
Use your image – If you’ve been quiet an observant opponent will give you more credit.
Try to out-LAG a LAG- they’ll put you in too many sticky spots. Vs LAGs I still like to ‘keep it tight’ lol
Bluff non Non believers- Some guys just don’t discriminate and don’t believe anyone. You know the type.
Over defend – This is not carte blanche to defend every time. You still need to pick your opponents carefully. We’re still playing OOP and don’t want a suspicious reg start to call us down and ruin the effectiveness of our plays. Sprinkle them in. I hope you enjoyed this article on poker blinds defense…
Up Next… Pre-game Preparation