AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 25.05.2021 · last updated 25.05.2021

What’s so great about poker – that it’s an incredibly rich the game – is also what makes it so frustratingly difficult. There are so many situations that are so problematic to play, and we find ourselves, over and over, facing very difficult decisions.

Moreover, even when we’re well aware of – and fully understand how – a particular situation might present us with a potentially favourable outcome, there often tends to be a potential downside to factor in, too. It’s being able to cut a path through these contrasting elements, extracting as much as we can from the positives while being mindful of the negatives, that helps determine how successful we are at the tables.

One such poker conundrum is the difficulties experienced when in the Big Blind. By definition, the fact that when in this spot we have to contribute to the pot before any cards have been dealt means that there’s a greater incentive to not give up so readily compared with other positions. Adding to the complications is that, for the pre-flop round of betting, the Big Blind is last to act and therefore has more information available when choosing how to continue, a typical scenario being that we might be the only player left with the opportunity to deny the Button taking (or, very often – stealing) the blinds. Unless we have a trash hand, it can be a tough spot…

Regardless of the often favorable odds afforded us by calling a raise in the BB, there’s the fundamental disadvantage we’re accepting in our having to play the rest of the hand out of position. Just because skillful players have the ability to find ways of overcoming this handicap, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the vast majority of online poker fans can successfully engineer enough profitable situations to justify too liberally calling in the BB. And it’s worth pointing out that this subject is becoming increasingly relevant because Antes are now common in the earlier stages of tournaments, and recent years have seen the use of smaller betting/raising sizes (the result being to make the pot odds even more appealing for the player in the BB).

This brings us to the much-recommended strategy for the Big Blind in this situation when it’s common for the pre-flop aggressor to throw in a Continuation Bet – namely setting up a check-raise on the Flop accordingly. Indeed, it’s a tactic that tends to play itself.

It’s interesting that, in multi-table tournaments, for example, this particular play is not executed as much as it should be. Ordinarily, it will be seen less than 10% of the time, when in fact it would normally be justified to carry it out twice as often. And that’s a conservative figure – some Flop textures invite a greater frequency, while the potential for success increases further when (as so often happens) players get carried away with their Continuation Bet strategy and can be more easily ‘caught out’ with a check-raise.

It pays, then, to adopt a more proactive check-raise policy in tournaments, and with this in mind, we should make the most of both strong hands and semi-bluff opportunities, and constantly be on the lookout for those players who have a tendency to C-Bet too much. There’s also the additional flexibility in terms of profitable opportunities arising from check-raising on other streets. To sum up, incorporating – or increasing the frequency of – check-raising when in the Big Blind should ultimately contribute to profitability.

Good luck at the tables!

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