Defending the Blinds in Poker Tournaments

Becoming a successful tournament player takes a wide array of skills but one of the most critical is defending the blinds. In an environment where survival is essential and stealing blinds and antes are imperative, a tournament player needs to know how, when and why they need to be defending their blinds properly. In this post, we’re going to share some helpful pointers on the how, when and why so you will be prepared next time you register for a tournament.

Why is Defending the Blinds Important?

To generate a decent ROI and ITM rate in mtts won’t just come down to luck in winning all in pre-flops or ability to play post-flop poker well. A big part of it is based upon your knack for picking up chips in “boring” or non-interesting scenarios. One of these scenarios is playing from the blinds, or big blind to be more specific. Contesting these pots are what will keep your stack healthy, ticking along and surviving the constant pressure from the increased blinds and antes. 

If you just play super tight from the blinds you are missing potential value and also giving your opponents an easy time. Even the most basic of poker players will recognise a weak tight big blind tendency and will abuse you every round.

By staying active in and protecting your big blind you will also deter some players from trying to steal from you. This is of great value as it means you will get more walks or play more blinds battles – which are fine when you’re the one in position.

How to Defend Your Blinds

Defending the blinds is achieved by one of two actions; calling a raise and playing post flop or 3 betting your opponent. Which option you choose should be based upon your opponents likely range of hands (based on seat and style), the amount it costs you to call, the stage of the tournament, your opponent’s playing style, the calibre of your opponent, the relative stack sizes and the type of hand you have. It probably sounds more complicated than it is so let’s take a look at an example to better illustrate.

Example of Defending Blind Defence & Analysis

Blinds: 1,000/2,000 and an ante of 250 at a 9 handed table. It folds to the cut-off who is tight aggressive but employs too much pot control post-flop. He raises to 4,500 and it folds to you in the big blind. He has 68,000 and you have 57,000.

Now let’s analyse the information we have already:

  1. Neither of us are short stacked yet (both > 28 big blinds)
  2. We are getting a great price to call (2,500 for a pot of 9,750). Some quick maths shows we only need around 20% equity to make the call.
  3. We have an opponent who is likely to be opening wide
  4. We are facing a moderately tough opponent but one who has a tendency to check post-flop a lot

Post Flop Play for Defending the Blinds

Armed with information above, we should be calling pretty wide here. We are a little too deep stacked to profitably 3 bet all in with anything less than top tier hands. Against this type of opponent, we know he will probably c-bet most flops if he misses but he will also c-bet if he makes a hand he will go with. A flop check from our opponent is likely to be mean a hand with showdown value or a bluff catcher like bottom pair or second pair. With these assumptions in place, we can now make some plans post-flop.

1) If we flop a draw we could try to check-raise and get it all in
2) If we miss entirely, we can check and consider barrelling turn and river if he checks back flop. There is no use betting just turn though as we know he probably is pot controlling
3) If we flop a medium strength hand, we can check/call flop and see how he proceeds on turn and river. Most TAGs won’t fire turn and river with these stack sizes unless he has “it”.
4) If we flop a monster hand, we can check/call flop then check turn hoping he has a hand. If he checks back flop, we can bet turn and put in a small value bet on river, enticing him to call with his bluff catchers.

Hands to Defend the Blinds with

Notice in the example above we didn’t even discuss hands – we already had plans based on the information we have. I know many of you will be specifically interested in what hands are valuable in blinds defence and which aren’t. First things first, the size of your opponents raise should influence your calling range. If they are open raising larger then 2.5 or 3 big blinds, you are getting weaker odds so you can’t profitably defend with the weaker hands. The opposite is true if they are raising smaller. A min raise from a weak opponent should be defended very liberally. After all, you can expect to win some pots post-flop which will compensate for your weaker hands too.

The images below are a guide on the types of hands you may want to call raises with. Please note that for simplicity I’ve not even gone into the player type, position or relative stack sizes. This is only on a standard assumption of a late position small raise (2.2 x bb). The hands in blue are certainly candidates for blinds defence and you could even mix in some other hands like the suited kings.

If you are not prepared to at least defend with the hands below, you may as well quit tournaments and play casino games at places that casino-bonus.com recommend.

When to Defend

We’ve covered why and how so now we need to handle when to defend the blinds. Basically, you want to defend when your stack size permits and when the odds of calling with your hand versus the opponent is likely to be profitable in the long run.

A hand like K7 off suit against a tough player who has raised 3 big blinds is unlikely to be profitable for you, particularly if you’re under 25 big blinds. You’re not getting amazing odds to defend, you’ll be out of position against a tough opponent and your hand doesn’t play well post-flop either.

Jack nine suited with 40 big blinds against an average opponent who has raised the 2.2 times the blinds will yield a positive return in the run. You will easily have enough equity to continue and you will have a better chance at winning some pots without contest post-flop.

Defending the big blind is more of a middle and late tournament strategy concept. In the early stages, you can play more conservatively if you prefer. There are no antes involved and giving up 25 or 50 chips is insignificant. The more experienced and competent you are post-flop, the earlier the stage of tournament you will probably defend. I recommend waiting until the antes kick in before actively defending your blinds. Until then it’s not as important.

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Playing the Turn in Texas Hold’em

Playing the Turn

Post flop poker is something many players struggle with. On inspection, most players issues actually arise when playing the turn card. The flop can be relatively straight forward. You’ve either hit or you haven’t. You either have a draw or you don’t. I know this is very simplistic as we are disregarding lots of factors but you know what I mean, most players know on the flop whether their hand has value or potential.

The river is the where the hand concludes and you have the most information. There are no future decisions to be made when there’s no cards to come.

The turn however, is a key card to play. The pot is bigger, there are plenty of community cards and pieces of information available and you need to make important mathematical decisions. In this article, we’re going to look at some critical elements to playing the turn well. We’ll highlight the different attitudes you can have on the turn and illustrate this with example hands too.

Using the Available Information

As previously stated, after the turn card has been peeled, you will have quite a bit of information. This is especially true if you are in position. If we are acting last on the turn, we have 75% of the hand complete and 3 or more actions from our opponents. At this point, an expert player will have a good idea of their opponents range of hands. By process of elimination, we can group them into different categories with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

As such, there are five mindsets or attitudes we can adopt, based on our hand strength and perception of our opponent’s likely holdings.

1] Value/Protection Bet
We think we have the best hand and want to charge our opponent and extract value from the better hand.

2] Bluff
We do not think we have the best hand but think we can get our opponent to fold.

3] Pot Control
We are unsure whether we have the best hand or not. Our bet will not stand up well to a check/raise and a bet is just as likely to get called by a better hand as a weaker hand.

4] Give Up
We think we are beat and don’t believe a bluff is likely to work at this point.

5] Drawing
We are hoping to hit a flush or straight but it has not arrived yet.

These are the 5 key mindsets on the turn. The tricky part, for some, is understanding and implementing the correct mindset. Picking the wrong one can mean losing money, particularly on the best sites to play poker where regs are common. When you consider the pot is likely to be bigger, making wrong decisions can have a terrible impact on your win rate and overall earnings.

Example of Value/Protection Bet on the Turn

Game: NL $50 6 Max
Player A (experienced TAG) opens to $1.50 from UTG + 1. It folds to us in the SB and we call with pockets 6s. He has $55 and we have $52.

The flop comes: 6d 8d Jh


We decide to donk-bet $2.50 and he calls.

Turn card comes: Ks

We bet $6 and he folds.

Explanation

With our monster hand of three sixes, we want to bet our hand for value and protection against draws. This is a fairly easy decision. Obviously, out of position we have the option to check-raise too but we risk our opponent checking back for free.

Example of Bluffing on the Turn

Game: NL $25 Full Ring
A nitty regular opens from middle position to $0.75 and we call in cut-off with 7s 9s. He has $27 and we have $25.50.

The flop comes : 2c 5s 6h


He bets $0.85c and we call with our overcards and gutshot straight draw.


Turn: 3d


He checks, we bet $1.90 and he folds.

Explanation

Our opponent is tight and could easily have missed this flop so we have an perfectly reasonable call on flop. We can either improve to best hand or potentially take it away on a later round.

The turn is another low card bringing a potential straight. After our opponent checks, we have an easy steal attempt. He is unlikely to be holding a four raising from middle position and is likely to have big cards that missed.

Furthermore, if he has an overpair, he won’t love this turn card as we can represent a hand containing a four easily. If he calls our turn bet we can be fairly sure he has an overpair but this makes up a small percentage of his overall range. We can then decide what to do on the river.

Example of Pot Control on the Turn

Game: NL $100 6 Max

It folds to us on the button and we raise to $2.50 with Jd 7d. A strong regular calls from the small blind and the big blind folds. We have $121 and he has $190.

The flop comes: 7c 9d Qc

He checks to us and we bet $3. He calls.

The turn comes: 6h.

He checks and so do we.

Explanation

This is a fairly standard check back. We opted to continuation bet on the flop with our bottom pair expecting to have the best hand a reasonable amount of the time. After our opponent flat calls, our relative hand strength goes down. We might very well have the best hand here as our opponent can certainly have drawing hands or even weaker made hands like pocket fives. However, given our hand is quite weak, we will want to pot control and show our hand down cheaply.

Example of Giving up on the Turn

Game: NL $50 6 Max
A decent LAG opens from UTG to $1 and we defend the big blind with As 3s. He has $54 and we have $72.


The flop comes: 3d 9c Jd

We check, he bets $1.50 and we make it $5. He calls.


Turn comes : Qs


We check, he bets $9 and we fold.

Explanation

Our opponent made a min raise so we defended with the suited ace. We’ve connected with bottom pair but it’s a dangerous flop texture with straight and flush draws. We opt to check-raise, hoping he will fold obviously. He opts to call and now the turn brings an overcard and straight possibility too. We opt to check and fold. After our opponent called the check raise, we’ve given him a fairly solid range which might very well have improved with the queen turn.

Example of Drawing on the Turn

Game: NL $10 6 Max
Player A (nit) opens to $0.30c from middle position and we call on the button with 4d 5d. He has $12 and we have $15.



The flop comes: 6h Ad Qd

He bets $0.40c and we call.

Turn card comes: Kc.


He bets $1.15 and we fold.

Explanation

Unlike the other mindsets, a drawing scenario can be used with multiple mindsets. For instance, you can turn it into a bluff or semi bluff. The more common way of playing draws on turn is to use basic pot odds to calculate the profitability of a call. In the scenario above, we have a low a flush draw on a high connected board. Our opponent is firing every round and given his tight image, is likely to be holding a hand two pair or better.

With a pot size of $2.70 and needing to call $1.15, we are need around 30% equity. (Amount to call divide by pot size + amount to call). Assuming 9 diamonds give us the win, we are only like to hit around 18% of the time. This is where more maths is needed as players can, if necessary, work out implied odds i.e. how much can they reasonably expect to win if they hit their card. Given the opponent is a nit though, the fold seems fine here.

Conclusion on Playing the Turn

I hope the examples in this article are useful. By understanding that your hand and the scenario in front of you can be seen as a mindset, instead of playing on auto-pilot, you will be prepared to make correct decisions when playing the turn. Moreover, you will in also be better placed for the river. By implementing the appropriate attitude on the turn, the pot size should be in line with your plans. This isn’t always in your control, but you get the picture I hope?

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Flop Poker Strategy Guide

Flop Poker Strategy Introduction

It’s where Texas Hold’em starts to come alive isn’t it? Pre-flop hand selection is all well and good but what you make when the flop comes is when action develops. It’s where you can start to get a feel for your opponent’s likely ranges, deciding whether you want to continue and assessing the texture to determine whether a bluff might work.  This article will look at the key factors of playing the flop that will help shape your decision making when playing flop poker in Texas Hold’em.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is a flop in poker?

The flop is the first 3 community cards that are dealt face up. Players use them with their hole cards to make a 5 card poker hand.

Texture

There are so many possible flop textures to list but we can condense this to 3 types; dry, wet and mixed flops. Dry flops are very disconnected with no potentials for straights or flushes. A wet board is draw heavy or already presents potential for straight and/or flush. Finally, a mixed board is somewhere in the middle, with possible draws but not both. The texture of the flop should be a heavy consideration when choosing how much money to invest in your hand. It’s complex isn’t it? Texas Hold’em is not a simple game to play, if you want simplicity, try 3 card poker instead.

Example:
Pocket aces (Ac-Ad) look great but are very vulnerable on a board like 7h 8h 9h. Contrast this to a board of Kc 2s 2d and you can start to appreciate the importance of relative hand strength.

How good is your hand on the flop?

A basic question but one that must be asked. How good is your hand when you’ve got to the flop? Do you have a top pair? Only have 2 overcards? Are you on a flush draw? Your hand value can be converted to represent the following groups.

Hand Type Strength Decision Making
2 Pair or betterExceptionalYou’re in it for the long haul. Strap yourself in and bet lots.
Over-cards and a straight or flush drawVery strongThis hand is has fantastic equity against most hands and should rarely ever be folded on the flop. You’re never in bad shape and actually a favourite against top pair hands.
Top pairRelatively strong Top pair is a good hand but consider texture and number of opponents. You will often stick around past the flop but tread careful.
Straight/Flush drawAverageYou will often try to peel a turn card off but remember it’s just a draw. You generally want position and bluffing opportunities too to make these calls profitable
Second pair AverageSecond pair is often worth a flop call particularly heads up. The more players involved, the weaker the value. Keep the pot small and look for thin value if it’s checked down to river.
Bottom pair/ underpair WeakBottom pair or underpair can win heads up in small pots but very rarely when multi-way.
Overcards Very weakBeginners seem to have trouble releasing big cards even they miss. If you have no draws and just 2 big cards, get out of the way, you have nothing and are beat by a pair of 2s.

Flop Poker Tips

If you are new to poker and want some tips on flop poker. The list below is a basic overview of what to do when you get to the flop.

  • Miss the flop – get out the pot
  • Top pair is good but remember your kicker. The second card may be beat by your opponent
  • If top pair is a low card, you can still be beat by overpairs
  • Flush or straight draws are at best 36% chance to hit by the river. If your opponent is trying to force a big pot or get you all in, you should fold
  • If you raised pre-flop and are heads up – bet most flops. Check out our article on continuation betting for more detailed tips

Small hand, small pot. Big hand, big pot. Remember this and you won’t go far wrong at low stakes.

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Pocket Jacks – Tips for Beginners

Pocket Jacks

It has to be the hand players complain the most about. I’ve had many discussions with players over pocket jacks. They’ve ranged from questioning whether they should be folded to a 4 bet to should they be played for set value only. Many players seem to have a phobia about pocket jacks. I think a lot of it stems from players stubbornness, an unwillingness to fold strong hands. This causes them to lose more than they should with a strong, but very beatable hand. This article will cover everything a beginner needs to know about a pair of fish hooks in Texas Hold’em.

Pocket Jacks Odds

Over-card will flop57%
Ahead of smaller pairs80%
Chance of beating a higher pocket pair19%
Beating a random hand77%
Against two over-cards52%

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

How Often Will I be Dealt Jacks?

You can expect to be dealt pocket jacks approximately 0.45% of the time or 1 in 221 hands.

Why Do People Hate Pocket Jacks?

Players like poker to be simple, straightforward and easy. Sadly, this is rarely the case, particularly when you hold pocket jacks. People don’t like being in awkward situations and have tough decision. That’s logical isn’t it? Do you want easier decisions or tough ones? It’s a no brainer. When you’re holding a pair of jacks, a higher card will flop over ½ the time. The problem with this is that people like big cards. They are the most favourable hands to play in Texas Hold’em. Therefore, people get concerned, and rightly so to some extent, that their jacks are already beat.

Tips How to Play Pocket Jacks

Exercise caution and pot control

If you lose lots of money with jacks, try playing a bit more careful. Perhaps you’ve been overplaying them. If it’s an early position raise, perhaps just flat call and take a flop? If you’ve flopped an overpair, perhaps just flat call on the flop instead of raising? Pot control can be a fantastic thing. You can bluff catch, bet for value later and save money if you’re beat too.

Consider the information first

Context is extremely important in poker. Rather than thinking “I’ve got pocket jacks, I’m doing X”, consider who is raising, what position, how many big blinds etc. You don’t need to rush to judgement. Take your time and consider the facts before making a rash decision.

Don’t worry about folding

If a dreaded over-card comes and you’re facing lots of aggression or been check raised, don’t be scared to fold. You are the only one that knows your cards. By the same token, if you’ve 3 bet a tight player and he’s jammed a deep stack, don’t be scared to fold just because you have a relatively big pair.

Conclusion

Pocket jacks is a strong hand in Texas Hold’em. There are only 3 higher pocket pairs so you rate to have the best hand before the flop most of the time you get them. Obviously, you need to be wary in a full ring, deep stacked game, but jacks should win you money in the long run. If you’re losing with this hand over a lot of hands, you need to reassess how you are playing them. We offer a hand history review service that can help you? You can book a session for £90. We’d be happy to look at this with you. Just email info@texasholdemquestions.com.

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you would like to read our articles on pocket kings and big slick.

Nit Poker is Losing Poker

What is a Nit in poker?

First of all, lets understand what nit poker is. A nit is a negative word that describes the tightest and most risk averse poker players around. It’s a term that can be heard in poker rooms all over the world. It can often be heard when a player loses action or folds a big hand and derides the opponent by calling him a nit.
A real nit is an insect that can be found on children’s heads. They are itchy, irritating and suck the blood out of the head. I am not sure why this was twinned with the most prudent of poker players? Nevertheless, this is what they are.

Nits Are Predictable

A nit is very easy to play against for several reasons. You know they won’t be bluffing; you know they only play a small range of hands and you know they won’t gamble. Poker is a game of missing information, with a nit, by process of elimination, you have a lot of information already. They play their range of hands and they play them the same way most of the time.

If you are playing predictably, you are making it easier for your opponents. This is contrary to what you are trying to achieve. You want to be difficult to read and to enforce errors from your opponents.

Nits Miss Out on Value

Due to the cautious nature of a nit, they will miss out on value a lot of the time. Even an intermediate player will be prepared to fold a strong hand if a nit is putting a lot of money in the pot. They also miss out on value by checking back hands they should be value betting or playing flop and turns cautiously when they should be betting and inflating the pot for value later.

Nits Are Restricted to Lower Stakes

A decade ago, nit poker may be enough to get you moving up the stakes. By employing a cautious style against players who multi-tabling and not paying attention, one could still have a decent win rate and move up stakes. This is simply not the case anymore. A nit can’t crush the mid stakes. As a result they are restricted to the lower stakes games. Players are better now than before. The game is always evolving and getting tougher. It’s survival of the fittest to get to the higher stakes. The fact is, nit poker won’t cut it in today’s poker world.

Nits Are More Likely to Get Bluffed

The range of a nit is well defined before you even get to a flop. An experienced player will know the range of hands you are playing from all positions at the table. As such, on certain board textures, they will abuse a nit. In deep stacked cash games, a nit may hold:

Flop:


A nit will often fold this to a lot of pressure. An astute player reads them for a one pair hand, and liable to fold to big betting. The worst part is, the nit probably thinks they have made a good fold in this spot. In fact, they’ve been outplayed and lost money.

Nits Lack Ambition

This is a debatable point. It’s meant from a theoretical and intellectual point of view. Anyone employing a strategy that involves playing under 15% of hands are not very ambitious, in my humble opinion. Strong poker players are profitable precisely because they have played many hands in different scenarios. They are able to adapt to difficult situations.

Conclusion

I don’t mean to pass judgement on nit poker. I am simply highlighting the drawbacks of the nit poker style; how it is unlikely to generate much money in 2021 and beyond. There are games where nit poker will win you money and that’s fine. I am hoping to reach players out there that are keen to improve their game. I want them to understand that they can increase their earning potential and poker ability by modifying their strategy. My intention was not to upset anyone who identifies as a nit.

Relevant Articles

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Semi Bluff Guide & Tips

Semi Bluff Introduction

A semi bluff is a bet made on the flop or turn designed to pick up the pot immediately or improve by the river and win at showdown. It’s usually a bet made with a straight or flush draw or with two overcards to the board.

Let’s look at an example:

The blinds are 50/100 and you raise to 225 with:

You are called by the big blind. The flop falls:

Your opponent checks, you bet 325 and he raises to 1,100. You decide to move all in for 5,200. Your opponent folds.

Now, at this exact moment you have ten high but let’s look at the hand closer. You have an open ended straight flush draw giving you 15 likely outs to win the pot by the river. This represents approximately 57% chance of the winning hand, if we assign your opponent a hand like Ace Jack offsuit. This is a perfect moment to semi bluff all in and either pick up the pot now or if you are called, win by showdown.

When do I Semi Bluff?

As always, position is important when semi bluffing, as is the stack sizes. It is usually a good idea to have deep stacks or sufficient fold equity when considering semi bluffing. There’s not much point trying any type of bluff if you are committed to calling your opponents all in.

Trying to semi bluff out of position is not a simple as in position but it can be achieved by check raising and defining an opponent’s range. This allows you the opportunity to outright bluff later if you miss your hand. Naturally the benefit of being in position is seeing how your opponent acts before you decide to bet. This is not possible when you are first to act thus semi bluffing becomes tricky.

History and Context

Semi Bluffing is a tendency and behaviour habit. Weak players tend not to think about semi bluffing draws and will often call down or do crazy nonsensical bluffs. It’s important to be aware of what you have shown down in hands and think about the context of the hand and history with your opponent. Ask yourself questions below when considering semi bluffing lines in hands.

  • Do I play strong hands like this?
  • Have I semi bluffed this session and shown it down?
  • Is my opponent observant?
  • Is my opponent likely to fold here or later in the hand if I continue to bet?

Final Thoughts

Semi bluffing is another weapon in the professional player’s arsenal that can be employed many times a session intuitively. If you have an aptitude for maths and observe your opponent’s closely, you too should be using the semi bluff often.

I hope you enjoyed this article on semi bluffing. If you are interested in improving your bluffing, we have a poker course dedicated to it.

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Check Raise – Ultimate Guide

What is a Check Raise?

A play that used to be considered bad etiquette and still is in some old casinos. The check raise is a tricky and powerful move when used effectively in poker. It is where a player will check (representing weakness) and then re-raise a bet on the same round of betting. Let’s took a look at an example:

Example Hand

Player A raises to £10 before the flop and Player B calls from the big blind. The flop comes 7s 8s 3d. Player B checks to the initial raiser. Player A bets £15 and Player B re-raises to £50.  

Notice Player B checked, then raised the bet hence “check raise”.

Why Check Raise?

There can many reasons a player may opt for check raising. It can be designed to build the pot up for bigger bets and value later in the hand. This play can also be used to represent a strong hand and in fact be bluffing. It can be used to exploit an aggressive player and it can also be used to semi bluff.

The Texas Hold’em Questions bluffing course has 2 modules dedicated to check raises, from the flop and on the river. Click below for more information.

Perceptions of a Check Raise

Strong PlayerWeak Player
An experienced player will usually identify strength with this move as the opponent is putting in more chips and money than necessary. If a player wants to bluff to win the pot – they will usually just bet to try and steal it. I mean, why risk more than necessary right?A weak player may not read much into the play and will probably just play the strength of their own hand. If you are trying an elaborate bluff against a beginner who probably has a top pair or better, it might be worth thinking twice before barrelling off.

Risks with Check Raising

By checking to your opponent you are risking giving free cards that can beat you. It also makes it harder to bluff if you have nothing as your opponent has less streets to fold to resistance. You need to feel pretty confident your opponent will bet if you are considering a check raise.

Secondly, if you are trying a check raise on a bluff that you are investing more than a standard bet. Let’s face it, if your opponent is strong, the fact you check raised isn’t going to make much of a difference.

There is also the risk that you do this move too often, even an intermediate player will pick up on tendencies so be careful not to over use the check raise.

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