The Small Blind can be a minefield of potential disaster, with so much that can go wrong compared with other positions around the virtual poker table. In fact we could be forgiven – especially as the magical Button is just one hand away – for almost hoping that we are dealt a couple of lousy cards so that we can simply fold our hand and fast-forward to the next. It seems like decent hands are a curse in the Small Blind as we consequently might find ourselves drawn into a battle that could do us more harm than good.

However, there’s no escaping the reality that, literally every few minutes as the dealer button continuously travels around the table, orbit after orbit, we do indeed find ourselves in the Small Blind and, as problematic as that spot is, it’s worth at least giving the situation some thought.

Without sounding negative, if we could over time find a balance that maximises our gains but – more importantly – minimises our losses and avoids disaster when in the Small Blind, then that would leave us well placed to make the most of our opportunities in other positions.

A sensible approach, then, is to make a point of not being loose and to steer clear of potentially negative situations, but being on the lookout for those spots that we might be able to profit from or which offer considerable reward for minimal investment. It’s also possible that other factors allow us to use this conventionally awful position to our advantage.

Complete or Not Complete…

A very common mistake – and not one that is seen only at the lower stakes games – is automatically completing the Small Blind with weak holdings because it seems like a cheap play given that, compared with other positions, we need to put in only half a Big Blind. Thoughtlessly completing is a false economy. Rather than saving chips/money, in the vast majority of cases it’s actually a waste. What tends to happen subsequently is that we end up anyway giving up post Flop because we’ll usually be in too unfavourable a position (being the first to act) to continue. Moreover, the old adage that one mistake begets another couldn’t be more appropriate than it is in this scenario, which is why we see so many players compound their initial error of completing with throwing more chips at what is most often a lost cause.

So – returning to our pre-flop decision time, when we’re contemplating adding ‘only half a Big Blind’ to stay in the pot, much of the time the cold reality is two-fold: at best we’re wasting that half of a Big Blind, while there’s no limit to the negative level of the worst case scenario. And let’s underestimate the significance of the lesser evil here – it’s easy to underestimate the long-term damage to our bankroll of weak strategies like this but, cumulatively, the number of chips we’re throwing away over time, over literally thousands of hands, could be decisive! Bankrolls are obliterated in this way! If we have such a doomsday scenario in the back of our mind every time we’re in the Small Blind then at least it will serve as a constant reminder of the perils of automatically completing…

Of course, I’m not advocating snap folding all but premium hands in the Small Blind, but it’s worth remembering that here is a classic example of those times when a situation is likely to lead to winning a small pot or losing a big one. Even the potential great result isn’t that easy to achieve when we do finally hit a monster with a poor or random hand, because it can be so difficult to get opponents to pay us off.

You will find other articles in our YPD Strategy section that highlight those times when we can exploit our being in the Small Blind or at least make a stand in a hand but, as far as this article goes, the message is to beware – sometimes even treading carefully is too big a risk, and the prudent option is to not take any more steps at all…



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 05.03.2021 · last updated 05.03.2021

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