by Barbara Connors
Poker players spend a great deal of time talking about bad beats and suckouts and the idiot who hit his two-outer on the river. So it’s easy to forget sometimes that the poker gods can give as well as take away. And one of the best poker gifts of all is known as the big blind special.
This particular bonus comes in two parts. First you get a free walk in the big blind with marginal cards. Then the flop hits those marginal cards well enough to actually give you a big hand. After a tough session of watching your premium pairs get cracked, big aces that never hit and draws that never come in, it’s strange to finally drag a pot with 8-3 offsuit because the flop came down 3-3-8, but that’s poker for you.
But the thing to keep in mind is that for every big blind special that successfully takes down the pot, there is at least one not-so-special hand that goes down in flames. Unexpectedly flopping a strong hand in the big blind is a bit like being propositioned by a beautiful stranger — it’s easy to get carried away and forget that you don’t really know this person.
So before you commit your chips on that unexpected good hand in the blind, stop and think what you’re getting into. Also bear in mind that, by definition, you will be out-of-position, putting you at a disadvantage throughout the hand , unless your sole opponent is in the small blind.
Two pair is the most common way of hitting a big hand in the blind, but while it’s usually a strong hand, two pair is also vulnerable and tricky to play. Suppose you get a walk in the big blind holding 10-5 and the flop comes down 10-5-3 rainbow. This is one of the best-case scenarios for your hand — top two on a dry board — and your hand is likely to be the best right now. But almost any turn card, save for a ten or a five, is not safe. Any face card could give an opponent a bigger two pair, since tens and face cards are all in the playing zone. Any deuce, four, six or seven puts a potential straight on the board. A nine could be OK if you don’t think your opponent would have limped with 10-9 suited. And another three could give somebody trips or a bigger two pair if some opponent slow-played an overpair.
The situation gets even more dangerous if you flop top and bottom pair, or bottom two. If you hold that same 10-5 and the flop comes down 10-7-5, there’s already a straight draw on the board. Moreover, your two pair could get counterfeited if another seven falls, or if the turn and river bring a runner-runner pair. And if the flop falls 10-K- 5 you’re even more vulnerable. Again, any Broadway card could give an opponent a larger two pair or, for that matter, Broadway. Whatever card comes on the turn, save for a ten or a five, you’d better hope it doesn’t fall again on the river. And if another king falls, you’re screwed. Obviously there are a lot of variables to consider when you flop a big hand in the blind. Bad position is a given, but the number and type of opponents, pot size, and texture of the board all play a huge role. The more coordinated the board, the worse it looks for two pair. The more opponents you face, the stronger your hand needs to be. What outs do you have to improve? How good are those outs likely to be? Making a flush with 4-2 suited is a pretty dicey proposition. But most of all, what do you put your opponent(s) on? These are the questions you must ask and attempt to answer before you can know if that big hand in the big blind is truly special.
Barbara Connors is a sucker for classic old movies, science fiction, and the St. Louis Cardinals. Her life’s ambition is to figure out the unusual behavior patterns of that unique breed of humans who call themselves poker players. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.