Stealing the Blinds – How to do it in 2020

Stealing the Blinds

It’s one of the most important skills to develop as a tournament player – stealing the blinds. Players don’t seem bothered about stealing the blinds early on. However, soon as the blinds and antes rise and represent more value, the best players are fighting over them. It’s a skill that will help your in the money rate and ultimately your long-term profitability in tournament poker. When I started playing online, it was a secretive thing that was not discussed. Most players did it without divulging the information. Even in live tournaments, you’d steal from the button, the big blind would show just an ace and you’d muck… but claim a better hand. Things are a little different now but it’s still a critical skill to learn and implement on European, Asian and USA friendly poker sites.

How Can I Keep Stealing the Blinds in 2020?

Sometimes stubbornness and being relentless is a good thing in poker. I see players attempt a couple of steals, get 3 bet and go into a shell. They have the mentality that they will tighten up, hope to get 3 bet again, yet still get paid. There are worse things to do but it’s not great strategy in my book (I haven’t actually authored a book yet!). I always tell players to continue with what you think is right. People seem to forget the beauty of the small open raises. It allows you to raise more frequently as you need a lower success % for it to be profitable. Why bother raising so small if you are only doing it with the top 15% of hands? To answer the question though, we can try several things.

Stealing the blinds

3 Bet the Cut-off from the Button

Players know that the button is the prime spot for stealing, so many players are widening their range from cut-off instead. It looks like threatening doesn’t it when you see a raise from there? Guess what? A lot of players know this and are effectively “stealing the button”. A simple counter play is to 3 bet from the button. The beauty in this play is that cards are almost irrelevant and it has a high success rate. Yes, there are players that pick up on this if you do it too much but these are few and far between. This works best against those who have demonstrated a lot of activity from the cut-off but even against solid players it can be profitable. Consider a tight player in the cut-off with A-9. They will gladly open raise this but fold without question. The best part of the 3 bet in this spot is that most people are less inclined to play 3 bet pots out of position so a lot will just fold pre flop.

Min Raise from Early Position

This is a tricky play that should be used sporadically and only with the right table makeup. A min raise from early position screams strength to most online players. They respect early position and the min raise too. By opening raising the minimum from under the gun, you are telling the table you want action and this sends alarm signals. You might be surprised how often this play will get through. Sometimes you get the big blind defend but even then, it’s ok, you have the perception of strength and position. A continuation bet will work a high amount of the time in this situation.

Attack the Small Blind

A great spot to pick up chips is actually in blind battles, specifically if you’re the big blind. The psychology involved in blind battles is fascinating but it boils down to aggression and position. If the small blind raises, you know, that he knows, you have a random hand and is likely stealing. Now you know that, you can just 3 bet him and likely win. What if he limps? Raise again, you know he probably would have raised himself if he had something so just bet and pick it up. Blind battles are less about hand strength and more about wanting that pot.

Take the Nothing Pots

Online poker may not be as easy as it was, but there is still a heck of a lot of favourable spots in tournaments. There is an abundance of nothing pots around. Pick them up throughout a tournament and you will increase your chances of success. It doesn’t take much, just bet at them and see. Most players are not giving the game enough attention. Perhaps they see a 4 big blind pot and don’t care or maybe they are watching Netflix. They are probably playing too many tables and only playing their cards. Take advantage of these nothing pots. I mean the pots where it’s a limped pot, it’s checked round and maybe you’re in the big blind with nothing. Take a stab and win the free chips.

Don’t Stop Raising Your Button

The last tip I can give is the simplest of all. Don’t stop raising your button. Soon as you stop, you’re beat and only waiting for luck to help you. People may 3 bet you, but they won’t every time. If they start 3 betting too much, that’s fine, they are risking more than you are. You can choose to take a stand with a lesser hand and make him show you better or you can play patient. The reality is, the small open raise is still incredibly profitable from the button. A competent post flop player won’t mind the blinds calling and is also happy to steal the blinds. Either way, you’re golden in the long run. Keep opening your button and don’t give up.

Stealing the Blinds Summary

Blind stealing is essential to being a successful tournament player. It reduces the variance and ensures you’re not just relying on good cards to see you through. The best tournament players are looking for profitable scenarios, not just profitable cards. This means thinking on your feet, adapting and perhaps being innovative. This may mean 3 betting the cutoff, trying a tricky minimum raise from early position or pounding on the small blind. These are all little strategies that you can incorporate into your game to help you have a better chance of surviving the increasing blinds.

If you enjoyed this article and want help with your tournament game. Feel free to trial our poker mentor service by email. Month 1 is only £50.

Poker Hand Reading Tips

Introduction to Poker Hand Reading

Poker hand reading is an intuitive, logical process of narrowing your opponents range down as much as you can with the information available. It’s about reading your opponent’s cards without physically seeing them. Believe it or not, many professionals can do this with relative ease against certain types of opponents. Daniel Negreanu has made a career from promoting his poker hand reading ability, whilst he is unquestionably gifted at it, many a professional can do likewise but aren’t afforded the same stage to advertise this skill or choose to stay quiet and rake in the money instead.

Narrowing an Opponent’s Hand Range

Poker hand reading is a process of elimination, not guess work. It involves ruling out as many hands a possible to arrive at your opponents likely holding. The way you narrow an opponent’s range of hands is by looking at the context of the situation, their position, their history, their table image and the actions they are taking in the hand to make informed, logical conclusions.  For instance, in a full ring table, with a tight player opening from under the gun, we can eliminate the vast majority of hands available to a list consisting of pocket 5s and up, any big suited ace and KQs. This information is invaluable as we can almost play any two cards in a deep stacked game against this type of opponent, cherry picking boards to take the pots away.

Remember There are 4 Rounds of Betting

The key thing to poker hand reading is remembering that as each round of betting is completed, more information is being given to you by your opponent. This means by the time you reach the river; you should be confident putting your opponent on some likely hands, based on how the hand has developed. There’s a lot to poker hand reading, its more complex than other forms of gambling where it’s mostly chance. If this is more your bag then look online for the best payout casinos. Reading your opponent takes experience, critical thinking and poker instinct.

poker hand reading
Image by freepik.com

Example Hand

Context

It is a cash game with $1-$2 blinds. Player A has $350 and you have $420.
Player A is a small ball type player, keen to attack a lot of pots but doesn’t get too involved or generate big pots unless he is very strong. You have a solid image.

It folds to Player A who opens to $7 on button, you make the call from the SB with As Ts.

The flop comes Jc 8s 4s
You check, and he checks.

At this point, we have some information. He raised before the flop when folded to him on the button. This is not very helpful; we know he will probably raise many hands here so nothing valuable here. On the flop however he has checked back on this board heads up. The fact he has not bet this flop heads up is unusual. A small baller will often continuation bet heads up to take down the pot or extract value. By checking back, we can reasonably assume he has neither a monster hand like two pair, overpair or three of a kind but he probably doesn’t have completely nothing either. If he had nothing, he would be more inclined to continuation bet. This leads me to think he could have a big ace which missed, an 8, a 4 or a pocket pair between 4 and 9 that he is pot controlling.

Turn 7d
We check again and he bets $10.

This is an interesting spot. What hands can we put our opponent on here? I would say he has played his hand like an 8 at this point. It’s possible he checked back the flop with a 7 9s type hand and now has a 7 and 5-6 is possible, although unlikely as I would expect him to bet the flop with that hand. At this point, with our nut flush draw, I anticipate people will often call the turn here, check the river and our opponent will check back for showdown value. We could consider a check raise? By check raising, we give ourself a good chance to win the pot now or make our hand on the river. We also are likely to get hands like 5-5/6-6, a 7 and an an 8 to fold. After all, we have shown immense strength by check raising the turn here and it’s entirely plausible we have three of a kind or a AJ type hand here.

We actually call.

River – Ah
We check and he checks.

Before he turns over his hand, we can feel pretty confident he is going to show a hand like 8-10/7-9/Pocket 5s or Pocket 6s. How do we know this? What other hands is he likely to have that will check back flop, bet turn for protection/value and check back river?

He mucks and you win the pot.

Poker Hand Reading Considerations

The most important things when poker hand reading is knowing your opponents tendencies, knowing the types of hands they play and having an awareness of how they perceive you. By combining these factors, you can often arrive at a likely range of hands your opponent will hold. When you couple this with bet sizing and pot odds, it becomes even simpler. Remember, you can’t become an expert over night. It takes experience and hard work but it will be worth it.


Deep Stack Poker 4 Reasons to Love it

Introduction to Deep Stack Poker

A cash game with 200 big blinds or more and a slow-paced tournament (1 hour or more blind intervals), where you start with 200 big blinds or more is generally considered deep stack poker. It is the opposite to the turbo paced tournaments available online and the short stack cash games around too.

1)Flexibility to Make Moves

Poker shouldn’t just be about learning how to play the short stack in a tournament. Deep stack poker affords players the opportunity to make advanced plays, big bluffs and try sophisticated lines in hands that short stack poker just doesn’t allow you to. If you try a check raise bluff with less than 15 big blinds, you’ve committed all your chips rendering the play useless.

deep stack poker
Photo by Steve Benedict

2)Implied Odds

With stacks deeper, you can take a few more risks before the flop and play hands you don’t get the opportunity to usually. This is why you see people calling raises with three six suited on high stakes poker against the fish at the table. They are risking a few big blinds to potentially win everything the live one has in front of them.

3)Improves You as a Player

By playing with larger stacks, you will find yourself in tricky, awkward and challenging scenarios that you won’t be accustomed to. Experience generally makes people better at things, by gaining experience in lots of different scenario, you will learn and improve as a result.

4)Increases Your Edge

If you are table selecting properly, you should be the best or second-best player at the table when you play. With deeper stacks, you are minimising the variance and luck element and thus your edge will increase. It is in your interest to maximise your edge whenever possible. Playing with more money behind you and your weaker opponents is always in your interest, assuming you are employing correct bankroll management of course.

Beginner Texas Holdem Question

What is a Deep Stack Poker Tournament?

A deep stack poker tournament is one where you start with more than 300 big blinds, slow blind levels and small increments. The major live tournaments are usually deep stacked and slow. Online is generally faster paced but there are deep stack tournaments available too.

Summary

Deep stack poker is arguably the best and purest form to play. It reduces the luck and variance elements of poker and increases the skill. It allows you to make moves you don’t get the chance to usually and play hands you may want to play but can’t with a shorter stack. If you have the time to play them, I highly recommend the deep stack tournaments available online.

What is Small Ball Poker?

Introduction to Small Ball Poker

A poker strategy that has exploded in popularity in the last few years, small ball is an overarching poker mentality used successfully by professionals, yet often misunderstood and poorly used by novices. There are several components to playing small ball; hand selection, bet sizing, position and table image.

Hand Selection

Small ball poker dictates playing a lot of poker with a variety of hands. If you want to attack many unwanted pots, you need to widen your opening range. This varies player to player, but most professionals accept that suited connectors, suited aces and the paint cards have the most play-ability and equity to warrant including in opening raise ranges.

Bet Sizing

Small ball poker is what you expect, small bets. Professionals understand that a smaller, probing type bet accomplishes the same thing as a bigger bet and for less risk. This means many cheap bluffs. The underlying concept is that the player is consistent though. It’s no use sizing your bets differently based on hand strength, otherwise your opponents will correctly read your hand. It doesn’t take long to figure this out. Consistent bet sizing is critical to small ball poker. It means you can accomplish cheap bluffs but also extract value.

Poker
Photo by Keenan Constance @keenangrams

Position

As always, position is important. Small ball experts will play as many pots in position as they can. They understand there are an abundance of chips to be picked up in pots that people aren’t interested in contesting. As such, they will be opening an incredibly high amount of pots in position when it folds to them and also be calling raises in position if multi way and cheap. The reason being they can risk few chips to gain many. They understand the implied odds, that they can play the 3h 4h for a small raise when stack sizes are 100 bb + because they are risking 2.5 big blinds to bust a weak player who is prone to overplaying their pocket Aces on a 3s 3h Kd type flop.

Table Image

The beauty of small ball is the image you project to your opponents. By playing many pots you are giving the illusion you are a bit wild and almost certainly a bluffer. After all, you are playing many pots and often betting and winning without showdown. On close inspection though, the small ball expert is not betting crazily and big amounts. They are often 40-50% of the pot and carefully wagered, often heads up pots or when the time is right. In short, the table image a small ball player projects is perfect! An opponent may notice after hours of lost pots, take a stand and then bust out when they finally realise that the small baller is only playing big pots with monster hands.  

Warning

Small ball requires a player to be expert before and after the flop, experienced and attentive. Don’t try this style of poker if you are not confident playing many different scenarios. It’s also worth pointing out this is not the ideal strategy for most cash games and is mostly utilised in tournaments to build a stack without much risk.

This article has touched on just a few parts involved in small ball poker. If you are interested in knowing more or want mentoring in small ball, email us at info@texasholdemquestions.com.

Thanks

Poker Float – Winning with Air

What is a Float in Poker?

A rarely used poker phrase, a poker float is slang for calling an opponent’s bet with the sole intention of taking away the pot later in the hand.

poker float
Photo by Haley Phelps @haleyphelps

How do I use a Poker Float?

The poker float should be used against opposition that you have identified as continuation betting or flop betting too much. It’s important that you use it against those who are unlikely to barrel off. Many a player will continuation bet heads up or even multi-way on certain board textures, but a smaller percentage will keep firing bets on the turn and river. The float protects you against those that like to c bet but liable to give up later, particularly out of position.

Why Not Just Re Raise on the Flop?

It is also a cheaper alternative to just re-raising a continuation bet as a turn bet need only be a small probing to take the pot away when an opponent is just continuation betting.

Example:
Player A raises before the flop to £10 and you call from the button. The flop is As 3h 3d. Your opponent continuation bets £20. You decide to call in position. The turn is a 5d. Your opponent checks, you bet £20 and your opponent folds. You win the pot and muck Ts Js.

Floating is Cheaper

The cost of a re raise is likely to be at least £55 whilst calling means you are feeling your opponent out cheaper. By calling you are giving yourself the option to bet the turn for as little as £20 or £25 thus saving you the additional £10 or more it costs to re raise on the flop.
Secondly, by calling post flop, you are representing more strength, in my humble opinion, than re raising. By re raising in these kinds of spots, you have to question whether it is how you would actually play the hand you are representing. Would you re raise with AT-AQ here? This is why floating is so powerful as you are playing it the same way you would play a strong hand.
Summary

Cost to Re Raise£55 +
Cost to Float & Bet Turn£40-45
Savings £10-£15 minimum

It’s also worth pointing out that floating is more likely to work as a bluff in these scenarios. By 3 betting the flop you often find a player will click it back to you (often with nothing themselves) whereas a float is more likely to protect you against being re bluffed.

Conclusion

A poker float is an excellent post flop poker move. It relies on your ability to understand your opponent’s tendencies and exploit them. You can use this move with impunity against regs at low stakes in both cash games and tournaments, particularly if they are playing lots of tables. It will make you very difficult to play against post flop, make you more money and you’ll enjoy it too.

I hope you enjoyed this article, if you are interested in knowing more about floating or anything else, please contact us today and see how we can help you take your game to the next level.

Poker Squeeze

What is the Poker Squeeze?

A phrase given to a pre flop play in Texas Holdem where a player will re-raise over an initial raise and one or more pre-flop calls. It is usually with the intention of picking the pot up before the flop without showdown. When executed properly, the poker squeeze is one of greatest pre-flop plays.

History of Squeeze Play

Twenty years ago, the squeeze was not even a play as such, a few of the best players probably did it without giving it the name but it was seldom used. Then Dan Harrington brought out his tournament books and with it, a revolutionary concept. Tight aggressive players found a new weapon to use and exploit opposition with.
However, poker is an evolving game with trends and once this strategy was being used all the time, winning players started taking note and with it, a shift in mentality. No longer could the squeeze play be used with impunity as you were likely to get 4 bet by a competent and thinking player. Or they would flat call an open with AA/KK from an aggressive player, hoping you would squeeze. The pendulum has swung back again though and it is not a move mentioned too often and it’s used less than the aftermath of its revelation to the poker world. It’s a brilliant move to use but only if the ingredients are there and you don’t over use it.

When is the Right Time to Squeeze?

The squeeze play loosely rests on the assumption that the open raiser is unlikely to be holding a premium hand. The theory being that a flat caller is also unlikely to be super strong, otherwise, they surely would have re-raised themselves. Whilst the logic is reasonable, you need certain to ingredients to be on your side for the squeeze have a reasonable chance of success. Please consider the factors below before squeezing.

poker squeeze

Stack Sizes

There is no use squeezing and committing your chips and having to call an all in because you’ve priced yourself in. Have a close look at the stack sizes when you are considering a squeeze. It’s entirely plausible that a flat caller is setting a trap when short stacked or that either player will just go with their hand if they are short stacked at the start of the hand.

Your Table Image & Reputation

If you have a reputation for pulling off a lot of 4 bets and tricky aggressive moves then it far less likely to work. It’s better to have a solid table image at the time of making a squeeze. Your squeeze has to be credible i.e. your opponents need to believe that you are likely holding a premium hand.

Calibre of Opponent

If your opponent has shown no inclinations to fold before the flop, do not consider squeezing. Whilst your logic that they are weak pre flop is true, it does not mean they will fold. You can still squeeze if you wish but be prepared to play a big pot.

Position

As always, position is important. It’s better to be squeezing in position than out of position as you will get to play the hand in position for the rest of the hand. It’s not 100% essential to be in position when squeezing as the intention is to pick it up pre flop, however, it is another factor to consider.

Hand Strength

There’s no use turning very playable hands and positive scenarios into wasteful ones by squeezing. If you are holding a suited connector or a little pair in position, multi-way, then it’s best to play the pot and try to get value. A squeeze is usually better to do with a hand of little value or good blockers, e.g. Ace Three.

I hope you enjoyed this article on the poker squeeze play. Feel free to subscribe our mailing list and receive more free tips and exclusive offers or follow us on twitter. You can also contact us at info@texasholdemquestions.com.

Pot Control

This is a concept that is lost on beginners and even some intermediate poker players. Pot control is about dictating the pot size, or trying to, on your terms. This is achieved by the sizing of your bets and relative position in the hand.

What is Pot Control?

It is manipulating the pot size how you wish, factoring in relative hand strength, stack size and opposition in the hand. Never has “big hand, big pot, small hand, small pot” been more relevant. Pot controlling is understanding that there are multiple rounds of poker, and with each round a decision to be made that will increase the pot size, how much is dependent on the sizing of yours and your opponent’s bets.
Playing in position makes pot control far easier as you are closing the action and it is common for players to check out of position. This allows you to dictate how a hand and pot will flow.

Flop Play

Quite often there are multiple people in the hand at this point and controlling the pot isn’t particularly easy. Your ability to understand relative hand strength will be critical as will your position in the hand.
This is where small ball is useful. Small ball is a style of poker that involves making a lot of probing bets. This accomplishes several things; eliminating players from a pot, narrowing hand ranges, keeping the pot manageable, obtaining value and winning the pot inexpensively.

Turn Play

It’s been said for years that the turn is the most important round of betting in Texas holdem. Professional poker players recognize that this is where the hand has almost reached conclusion, there is just one card left to deal (making pot odds and math even more important). The turn is the round where a player will often make a decision ahead of the river.

pot control
Photo by Chris Liverani @chrisliverani

Intuitively you are often thinking one of a few things on the turn card. Let’s take a look at them:

“I have the best hand and want to build the pot for value and protect my hand”

In this situation, you will typically be looking to bet for value and protection. This usually involves a decent sized bet to enforce a mathematical error on your opponent’s part whilst increasing the pot for value too.

“I am on a draw and want to see the river cheaply”

In this instance, out of position, you are at the mercy of those in position. However, in position, you have the option of semi bluffing when checked to or taking the free card. A luxury not afforded to you out of position.

“I am not 100% sure I have the best hand and want to see the river cheaply or showdown my hand”

This will usually mean checking or betting small. This is a great tactic to employ when your opponent plays ball i.e. doesn’t raise. By betting small you can often get a check on the river and show your hand down, conversely checking back turn cards often means you can bluff catch cheaply on the river too.

Conclusion on Pot Control

Pot control is a key concept to understand and put into practice. You are quite often employing pot control without thinking about it so it is partly intuitive but also considered and methodical. It is important to avoid being predictable with your lines in hands as well though so please remember to have variety to the lines you take, particularly when you are facing strong players. The underlying theme behind pot control is that you are doing your utmost to control the size of pot how you wish; this is accomplished by playing more pots in position and also understanding how to size your bets appropriately. Please contact us if you need help with bet sizing or more information on pot control.

Battle of the Blinds

People don’t talk about blind battles much and I don’t know why? Every round you have a decision to play from these positions and a reasonable amount of the time it’s just the two of you.

How many times does it fold to the small blind and you pray he will give you a walk or you’re in the small blind and dreading raising but do it anyway?

Let’s start with some facts and reasonable assumptions about how our opponents will be playing in the blinds.

  1. People always assume you are stealing in blind battles
  2. People try to bluff more in the blinds both pre and post flop
  3. People don’t like to fold a pair heads up in blind battles

Now we have some basic facts and assumptions, we can adjust our strategy accordingly.

Playing from the Small Blind
As people often think we will be stealing; we need to be more straightforward. Our strategy for playing in the small blind will be to win the pot, what is the best way to accomplish this? I suggest playing the strong hands for value and raising and betting for value and trying to show down our weak showdown hands like Ace or King high by checking and bluff catching.
As weak as it sounds, with our weak hands, to win these pots, we should consider completing and making probe bets after flop hoping the opponent has missed. This is a realistic way of winning the pot as the big blind will respect the fact we have not just tried to steal pre flop and often just fold post flop.
It is not in our interest to raise and inflate the pot from the small blind pre flop with junk hands unless the opponent is very tight or disinterested and likely to fold. The majority of players will defend wide from the big blind so we need to be more careful particularly as they suspect we are stealing. 

Playing from the Big Blind
We will be in position throughout the hand so we should defend wide either by calling pre-flop raises or re raising pre-flop ourselves. Both strategies work very well as we have 2 main ingredients on our side before the flop is even deal. We are the pre-flop aggressor and we have position. When we have strong hands, we also have the mathematical ingredient on our side too.
If you are in the big blind, you should intend on playing as many hands against the small blind as possible as they will often be raising pre-flop just to steal with no consideration on how they will play post flop. In fact, many of these pre-flop raisers will give up on the flop and an even greater give up when called with a continuation bet. This is an effective strategy to countering both strong and weak players.

I hope you found this post useful. If you are interested or have any questions about our services, please contact us today.

Thanks
Texas Holdem Questions