by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
In regards to how to deal with a raiser in stealing position (when we’re in the blinds), there are many schools of thought. One method we see many players use is becoming a calling machine that habitually defends their blinds. Another less popular method involves trying not to call out of the blinds as often, and instead choosing to re-raise or fold. No matter what your preferred method of playing out of the blinds, other players at the table will be taking a notice in order to exploit you.
My general view of players that habitually defend their big blind is they put themselves at a major disadvantage. If nothing else, they’re something that all no-limit tournament players strive to stay away from being: predictable. We’re able to raise into these players, knowing they will call, allowing us to use our positional advantage on an on-going basis. Another thing worth considering is that players that like to call typically don’t like to re-raise. Therefore, when a habitual caller does re-raise, we can be confident that they’re only doing so with premium hands, making their play very predictable and easy to counter.
One major upside I see habitual blind defenders gaining is that less-than-confident players will choose not to raise their blinds - knowing they won’t be getting the pre-flop fold they desire. On the flip-side of the coin, confident players will take advantage of habitual blind defenders by raising into them at will. Many high-skill players consider any call out of position a deadmoney call. Accordingly, defending their bigblind by calling will not deter them.
The least utilized technique to keep the players in stealing position off your blinds is to get in the habit of re-raising. Target individual loose openers and work in re-raises of varying sizes. If your opponent calls, get in the habit of making a normal sized continuation-bet on the flop if you miss. If there are multiple players in the hand pre-flop, you’ll be forced to make your reraise sizing larger to efficiently thin the field. If you’re a player that is playing too tight, you should probably disregard some of what you’ve just read and begin calling more often (alongside re-raising). Playing well out of the blinds entails having varied responses to different situations. There is nothing wrong with defending the big blind. In fact, it’s a very vital component that we all must develop as players.
We want to be able to mix in calls, folds, and re-raises from the blinds. Polarized play from the blinds can be heavily exploited; whether it’s a player that habitually defends their big blind by calling, or someone that folds too often. Take an honest look at your game and decide if you’re doing one of them too often, or another not enough.
David “The Maven” Chicotsky is the 2008 Online Player of the Year and a former No. 1 ranked online tournament poker player. He is also an experienced poker coach and can be reached at TheMavenTraining.com.