Poker from the Small Blind is the Worst

Small Blind Poker

Whether you are playing short-handed or full ring, you know the positions of the poker table. You probably have them grouped in your head “early, middle, late position and the blinds”. Have you given much thought about the small blind? How much do you win there? What strategy do you employ? Playing from the small blind is difficult for several reasons whether you know it or not. This article will explore why it’s challenging and why I think it’s the worst spot at the table.

Battling with the Big Blind

Blind battles are prevalent in both cash games and tournaments. The psychology involved in blind battles is almost as important as the quality of your hands. The problem is that being out of position from small blind puts you at the disadvantage. When it folds to you in the small blind you know you are getting a fantastic price to play the hand, regardless of your hand. This leads to many players opting to raise with junk in a bid to steal the pot. Here’s the problem, any half decent player knows this and is liable to defend or 3 bet with impunity. Then we are getting into the “I know that he knows that I know” to infinity…. This can potentially lead to a lot of unnecessarily large pots and lost money.

First to Act Every Round

You want to act last when you play poker don’t you? Well playing from the small blind means you are first to act, on every round of betting post flop. This is less than ideal to put it nicely and completely sucks to put it truthfully. You can’t pot control, extract full value or gain information when you are the first one to act all the time. You can throw in a check raise or try to trap an aggressive player but other than that, you’re pretty limited in what you can do. Gus Hansen’s style of donk leading into raiser’s is an interesting strategy but rarely the optimal play.

Solutions?

Of the 6 or 9 spots at the table, the small blind will be the one you lose the most money or win the least. Unless you’re very weak at some other spots at the table, then it’s almost certainly going to be the worst position from a win rate perspective. There are ways to mitigate your loss or help improve your win rate though. Without delving too much into technical poker here is a quick guide to help you:

  1. Throw away the hands that look pretty but play awful heads up e.g J 8s
  2. Adapt to who is in the big blind. If it’s a nit, steal. If it’s a LAG, play solid
  3. Play careful, let the strength of your hand do the work
  4. Limit your bluffing, when you don’t have someone checking to you, it’s harder to narrow ranges


The Cutoff Position in Poker – Everything You Need to Know

What is the Cutoff in Poker?

The cutoff in poker is the person sitting immediately to the right of the dealer button. It is a great position to play from as you are often the last person to act. At worst, there will be one player behind you post flop. There is not much strategy available about how to play the cutoff seat well. This article will detail all the information you need to know about cutoff poker.

Stealing the Button

This expression is coined from effectively taking the initiative and stealing the blinds from the cutoff seat. Some people get very proud about “their button” and will get annoyed if you raise liberally and regularly from the cutoff. Who cares though? If they want to react and start 3 betting, you can choose whether to 4 bet or just tighten back up.

Cutoff Poker

More Believable Bluffs

The great thing about being active from the cutoff position is the believability. Player’s don’t view the cutoff with quite the same disdain as they do button raises. This makes it easier to get steals through, continuation betting has higher success rates and you represent more credible hands. Who would have thought that one extra seat makes the difference? The vast majority of poker education is focused on playing your button that it put the cutoff poker position to one side.

3 Betting from the Cutoff

Another great thing about playing from here is the 3 bet strategy you can employ. If you are to the left of a serial raiser, you know you only have 3 random hands behind you. This makes a 3 bet an effective strategy against someone raising liberally from the hijack. You also get more respect 3 betting from the cutoff than you do from the button. I actually think in 2020, the cutoff could arguably be more profitable than the button in many games.

Isolating Limpers is Easy

Raising over limpers is a great thing to do from the cutoff poker position. Once the dealer button folds, you have position on the limpers and can pick up a lot of pots post flop. I’ve explained before why limping is bad and isolating limpers from cutoff is one way you can get abused for limping.

Beginner Texas Holdem Question

Why is it Called the Cutoff?

It is called the cutoff because if everyone folds to you, you can choose to “cut off” the buttons favourable position with an open raise.

Final Thoughts

The cutoff poker position is a beautiful place to play poker from. You’re almost always the last person to act post flop, get more respect and can attack weaker players easier. Of the 9 seats at the table, this is mathematically the second-best position to be in. But in 2020 with little respect for button raises, if might actually overtake the button and be the best.

Poker Button – It’s Awesomeness Explained

The Poker Button

Let’s get the basics out of the way for those of you who are completely new. The poker button aka the dealer button is a small disc that indicates who is the dealer in a hand of Texas Hold’em. Unless you’re having a poker night it doesn’t define the actual dealer, most casinos have professional dealers. The two players to the left of the poker button have to post automatic bets known as the small and big blind. Being on the button means you are the last to act after every round of betting other than pre-flop where the big blind usually closes action.

Now the simple stuff is out of the way, I will explain why being on the button is fantastic.

Stealing the Blinds

One of the great things about being on the button is ability to steal the blinds and antes easier. When it folds to you on the button, often, you can just open raise two to three times the blinds and pick up pots every round. This may seem transparent to those in the blinds but consider their options. They can do one of the following:

3 Bet Lightly

This is a perfectly sound counter strategy to someone playing too many hands on the button. This is certainly something advocated by many professionals. However, they have to risk far more than the open raiser to pick up their raise. They are exposing themselves more. The problem with this strategy is that an astute player will call a 3 bet in position here a reasonable amount of the time, in the knowledge that they can pick up pots post flop or hit a hand and make money/chips.

Defend the Blinds

They may choose rather than 3 betting, to simply call a wider range from the small or big blind. This again is a legitimate strategy to employ as your range should be wider if they are opening wider. The problem is, you are out of position for the rest of the hand. This is not ideal for a beginner, intermediate or advanced player. The best players will play out of position if they think they need to, but even they won’t be thrilled about it.

Poker Button

Information is King

The poker button allows you to have more information at any point in the hand than your opponents. As I’ve said many times before, poker is a game of incomplete information. Players are acting on the information they have at hand and if you are acting after them all the time, you have more information than them. This concept is not fully appreciated by beginners, they don’t fully grasp what a massive advantage this gives you. Instead, they will play their cards and fit or fold poker without a care or worry. The better players will utilise this advantage as much as possible. This informational advantage means you can play more hands and 3 bet before flop more liberally as players are often reluctant to play 3 bet pots out of position

Pot Control is Easier

Being on the button allows you to control the size of the pots much better. You are able to manipulate the pot how you wish. This is not possible out of position. You can try blocker bets and probing bets but if your opponent re-raises you than you’re stuffed and have to play a bigger pot.

Value Bet More Accurately

Being last to act allows you to put in more optimal value bets. If a scare card comes and you are out of position, you are likely to check and often this will be a check-check situation. On the button, you get to see your opponent check more and thus have the opportunity to put in more accurate value bets that will get you paid and make more money.

More Bluffing Opportunities

No doubt about it, bluffing is far more prevalent on the button than anywhere else at the poker table. Consider a 3-way pot with a 4-diamond board and you’re first to act. You generally won’t bet out into the other two players on a bluff here as you’re betting into the unknown. Now, consider when you are the player acting after two opponents have checked. This is a pretty easy scenario to put in a bluff isn’t it? Think of the long-term value of these kind of scenarios and being the one able to bluff. 

Conclusion

Being on the button allows you to steal the blinds, value bet more accurately, pot control and bluff more easily. All in all, it is the one position at the table that you will earn more money than any other position. This is not speculation, it’s fact. Ask any serious poker player to look at their statistics from all positions, to find out which position they have made the most money and it will be unanimous – provided they have some decent volume.

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Poker Out of Position Sucks Doesn’t it?

Introduction to Out of Position Poker

The majority of poker enthusiasts have heard playing out of position is worse than in position, but they don’t truly understand the reasons why.  Why is it such a bad idea to play pots out of position? Why can’t I win as much playing out of position? This article will look at some reasons why playing poker out of position sucks.

Lack of Information

Poker is a game of information; you’re trying to find out what your opponents have while hide the hand you have. You’re trying to gain information throughout a hand intuitively so you can make the best decisions possible. The truth is, when you are out of position, you lack information on your opponents. You are always acting before them and don’t know what they are going to do. You are left with two main options, check and play carefully or bet into the unknown. Neither are great options, you’re either inflating the pot at times you don’t want to or playing passively.

blind fold poker
Photo by Kirill Balobanov

It can feel like your playing blind folded or in the dark, not knowing what your opponent will do!

Very Difficult to Pot Control

As discussed in a previous article, pot control is very important to the expert poker player. They want to play poker on their terms, manage pot size how they want, relative to their hand strength, opponent and position. This is a challenging task to say the least when you’re playing pots out of position. Why? How can you control the pot when you’re the first to act? Bet and they can raise, check and they can bet still. When you’re in position, you are closing the action on each round of betting, affording you the opportunity to check back, call, bet or re raise at your discretion.

Hard to Maximise Value

Another problem with playing poker out of position is the times you make your hand and want to get value; you find it is hard to get the maximum. You’ll often find your opponent is just calling you, checking back or folding. You may make a turn call on a draw, hit your hand and then the dilemma comes on the river. Are you going to bet into your opponent? If so, how much is the right amount to get called? Are you going to try and check raise? Woe when your opponent checks back and you get nothing.

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Conclusion

There are times when you have to play out of position in poker, perhaps your hand is strong or you’re getting great pot odds against a weak player. But don’t look to play too many pots when you are learning as you will find it very difficult. Even the best of players doesn’t enjoy it and recognise most of their profits come from playing poker in position. Don’t handicap yourself playing pots out of position with questionable hands.

Under the Gun is No Fun

What does under the gun mean in poker?

Don’t worry it doesn’t mean there’s a rifle above your head. Under the gun is a phrase in poker referred to the position when acting first before the flop in Texas Holdem. From a strategic point of view, it is the worst position to be in as you have the least information available at that point. You have 8 players to act behind you before the potential to see the flop. For this reason, it is usually identified as a position that requires playing fewer and stronger hands. Even the loosest of of loose aggressive (LAG) players know that it is unprofitable to play a wide range of hands from under the gun.

under the gun
Photo by Alex Kalligas (@alkal)

Why do I need to play tighter from under the gun?

It is not just about having less information before the flop. One must remember that Texas Holdem is played across multiple rounds of betting and by playing from under the gun, you will often be the first to act on each street or sandwiched between players. This makes it very challenging to play hands and pot control how you wish. Look at the example hand below to illustrate this.
 

Example Hand

You have A (clubs) 10 (diamonds) and decide to raise from under the gun, you are called by 1 player in mid position (loose), a tight aggressive player on the button and the big blind too. Everyone has deep stacks. The flop is Jc 10c 6s. The big blind checks, what do you do? You are in a tricky position as you have 2 people behind you but you also have 2nd pair and a good kicker. Betting and check- deciding both seem reasonable but what about the turn and river too? What is your plan? You are prone to getting bluffed out as your hand can’t take much resistance and you can’t expect to value bet with impunity. In short, unless you make a very strong hand that is easy to play or you are heads up against one of the blinds, it is not an appealing option to be playing weak or medium strength hands from under the gun, unless you play post flop excellently and have a weak table.

Final Thoughts

Strong players are opening their range of raising hands when in early position as they have correctly read that players will fold reasonable hands when facing an open raise. There is also deception in open raising the suited connectors and suited aces from early position but a word of caution of to you. This is only profitable to the most experienced of players who are confident in awkward post flop scenarios. By playing a wide range of hands from under the gun, you are going to find yourself in a lot of tricky scenarios that can cost you a lot of chips.

Next time you play and find a King Ten or Ace 8 suited under the gun, think twice before you enter the pot!

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.

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