Stealing the Blinds is a big part of poker – whether it’s in a Cash game or Tournament setting. For new players who were initially attracted to online poker by the enormous amounts of money that can be won for what seems like minimal effort, it’s easy to wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, if we’re playing for such large amounts, then why go to so much potential trouble just for the chance of winning a measly few chips? It’s an understandable question. And, in fact, it’s also true that many experienced players who should know better simply don’t bother themselves with stealing the Blinds.
But not to make an effort to snaffle those blinds is effectively turning down what can quite often be free chips. We can’t afford to miss such opportunities. A common scenario is when we’re on the button and it’s folded round to us, thus presenting us with a gold-plated chance to steal the Blinds – ignoring this would be yet another poker sin (which too many of us are guilty of).
Apart from a steal attempt naturally suggesting itself in this situation, from a practical point of view, raising is anyway a sensible option compared with the other two alternatives. Let’s see why:
If we fold here, that’s us out of the race, the winner of which will be one of the Blinds. Often, the Small Blind understandably doesn’t want to be out of position in a heads-up tussle for the rest of the hand, and therefore folds and takes the minimum ‘loss’ of half a BB. The result here is that the Big Blind sees their obligatory bet returned without having lifted a finger, and they even get a mini bonus in the shape of the albeit modest booty from the Small Blind. Do we really want to give up those chips that easily?
What if we call? This tends to be worse than folding, which at least loses nothing. By calling we’re announcing that we’re willing to create a three-way pot (assuming the Small Blind is happy to do the same) in which we’re voluntarily adding more chips than our opponents. First, the Big Blind gets to the see Flop for free (in that they need not invest further). This is a luxury for which we should be trying to make opponents pay. And, of course, we’re opening the door open for the Big Blind to enter with what to us right now are totally random hole cards. We haven’t even put them to the question. Therefore, whatever the Flop brings, however random it is, they could hit a big hand and we’ll still be in the dark. Meanwhile, there’s the Small Blind to act first. With 2.5 BB already in the middle, the required 0.5 BB to attend this inviting party is a bargain, and thus an easy no-brainer decision for the Small Blind. Calling might have bought us into the pot, but if we’re going to get involved it should be on our terms, with us in the driving seat – not giving a free ride to one opponent and a bargain basement ticket to the other, and not a shred of information from either.
Our third option in this very typical situation is to take the proverbial bull by the horns and raise, thus initiating our attempt to steal the Blinds. Now the Small Blind is in a bad position – literally. Unless they have a big hand, in which case their continued involvement in itself is a lot of information, they will fold rather than add more chips to a hand that will see them out of position against both opponents.
This leaves the Big Blind, who has a decision to make. This exact situation, with the Big Blind facing a raise/steal attempt from the Button, with no other players involved, is a complex one. And, due to the Button having position for the rest of the hand, the task isn’t easy for the Big Blind. Consequently, even with a decent hand, it’s not at all unusual for discretion to be the better part of valour, and for them to err on the side of caution and fold. In fact, this will be the case most of the time, both in tournaments and cash games. Moreover, when we do meet a call, we should keep our foot on the pedal and throw in a continuation bet, not least to maintain the initiative, but also because there’s a good chance their resistance will end at this point (maybe half of the time after calling our raise pre-flop the Big Blind will fold to a C-bet).
Of course any kind of resistance needs to be appraised accordingly, with the usual factors being taken into account. We don’t necessarily have to think all is lost just because an opponent hasn’t folded – they might well have a wide calling range, be stubbornly defending their Big Blind (it’s worth noting that many players on the Big Blind get rather irked at what they see as an attack on their property, and will defend when they should be folding) or they might have connected with the Flop but still be behind us in the event we have a good hand and haven’t been on a pure teal since the beginning (which is what we’ll be doing a lot of the time until we experience effective resistance). Meanwhile, any other kind of fighting or aggressive play should of course set alarm bells ringing. Again, this is situational and there isn’t a fits all recipe for success. A good way of thinking is to persevere with strong hands and weigh up pros and cons with good hands, and always be flexible and pragmatic so that folding is a viable option. It would defeat the point of the exercise of stealing the Blinds if we accumulated chips over time with this tactic only to pay back our gains due to one or two poor decisions.
To conclude, stealing the Blinds is an important part of online poker that we must incorporate into our box of tricks if we are going to make the most of the many opportunities that present themselves to us. When we’re on the Button and it’s folded round to us, it’s usually a case of fold or raise, with calling a typical example of making life unnecessarily difficult for ourselves. In this situation, when it’s our turn to act and the prize is in full view, we should start seeing our name appearing on those chips in the middle…