Stealing the Blinds

Published: 29/09/2011

Stealing the blinds is a Poker practice well known to experienced players. It refers to the strategy of winning both of the blinds (forced bets used to establish the pot) by making a raise that induces opponents to fold before seeing the flop. Although blind stealing is most often used as a type of bluff by tournament players, it can also be used in ring games (cash games) and heads-up matches with success.

To get the most out of this technique, players typically look for a particular set of circumstances. Stealing the blinds is usually more successful against certain kinds of players and during the later stages of play as opposed to early on when the blinds are small. Additional factors to be taken into account include table position and how large a player’s chip stack is with respect to the blinds.

Prior to trying to steal blinds, it is important to know some basics about the opponents sitting around the table. When the majority of them are playing loose, stealing the blinds may be next to impossible; loose players will call or re-raise just about any pre-flop raise. On the other hand, tight players are a cautious breed; the passive ones are especially susceptible to blind stealing.

Early in tournament action, when the blinds are relatively small, trying to steal blinds is a poor strategy for a number of reasons. For one thing, the amounts to be gained are miniscule relative to the risk required. Also, even when successful, very little is added to the winner’s stack. Additionally, failed attempts cause the player to be labeled by others as loose-aggressive—a possible “maniac” or an amateurish “fish.” Such branding is highly undesirable, if for no other reason than it draws too much attention to one’s play.

A better approach is for the player to use early hands for establishing a reputation of being tight aggressive. Any early raises should be made consistently, not just from the aspect of the amount raised but also from the position where it is made and relative hand strength. Creating an early look of tight aggressive play allows blind stealing to be pursued more aggressively in later stages of play.

Regarding seating position, stealing blinds doesn’t work well from early positions. Too many other players will have the opportunity to call or raise before the Big Blind has an opportunity to weigh in. The best case is to raise after several other players have already folded—i.e., from an intermediate or late position. This is especially true if the Big Blind is short-stacked. Whenever a player’s chip count is lower that ten times the Big Blind, the possibility of stealing the blinds should be considered.

Deciding the right amount to raise when attempting to steal the blinds is not just a matter of guess work. It depends largely on how much has been wagered when making previous raises. For example, a tight aggressive player will typically bump the pot 2.5 to 3 times the Big Blind. Any raise made in an attempt to steal the blinds has to look the same as previous raises, not out of pattern.

On occasion, it may be advisable to take a big risk, going ‘all in” to steal the blinds. Such a ploy can work well from any position, especially when stuck with a short stack. Indeed, it may even be expected, especially when the stack falls below six times the Big Blind. With larger stacks, however, the raise must look natural, not totally wild.

Inevitably, there will be times when the bluff is called, or perhaps even raised. In such cases, there are only a few options. One is to fold as quickly as possible; there’s no reason to chase bad money by throwing away more, especially since the strategy was to steal the blinds, not to get caught with one’s fingers in the till. Avoid the temptation to ride a mediocre hand to a poor ending.

Actually, it is not entirely a bad thing to get caught in an attempt to steal the blinds. The other players may begin to underestimate the would-be thief’s skill level. Thereafter, they may be tempted to call solid raises with mediocre hands.

When participating in head’s up games, stealing the blinds is an essential part of play. Knowing how much to raise and when requires being able to read one’s opponent correctly. As the number of stolen blinds mounts, the game can be turned around, causing the opponent to adopt a much looser style of play.

A case can also be made for loose-aggressive blind stealing, which means making pre-flop raises on virtually every hand. Not only will it allow numerous blinds to be collected unchallenged, it may also trick others into staying in against a monster hand.

Published on: 29/09/2011

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