Poker strategy is so complex that this or that subject very often requires a different approach from one scenario to another. We can’t make sweeping generalizations and narrow it down to No-Limit Hold’em, for instance – there are standard scenarios, non-standard scenarios, and scenarios within scenarios.

A very important aspect of the game is how to handle the Big Blind, and this is a perfect example of situational poker. In the context of tournaments, we can think along the lines of defending our Big Blind against (typically) those with a legitimate reason behind their aggression (i.e. their actual hand) and those simply looking to steal. These are plays which we are confronted with very often.

Being willing to make a stand rather than obligingly hand over our chips by passively stepping aside requires a level of courage and conviction and, as usual, it helps to be prepared for such eventualities – not least because we find ourselves in this very same position literally every orbit! Moreover, if we are to entertain any kind of ambition when playing tournaments we need to accumulate chips via whatever opportunities present themselves, and such a quest is inherently not without risk. Consequently, situations that afford us the possibility of picking up a pot should be seriously contemplated, and one such is when we’re in the Big Blind.

Selective action and aggression is key, so we need to be prepared to get our proverbial hands dirty by calling raises and even reraising ourselves. There will be times when one of these options is preferable to the other, and it’s a case of weighing up the pros and cons to see which is most appropriate. But the key is to adopt this way of thinking rather than lazily giving up without a fight. Each fold could mean missing out on a potentially promising spot.

A good one to look out for is the player who makes a standard pre-flop raise in late position but, when called and not connecting well enough with the Flop, will retreat into their shell and become too passive. These players are essentially trying out a textbook play but not capable of stepping up a gear to get the job done, so when further aggression is called for they fall short, which is a weakness we should be looking to exploit. With this in mind, identifying such players gives us a chance to use our being in the Big blind to our advantage, so we call the raise and then bet or check-raise dry flops accordingly. It sounds easy, and that’s because much of the time it is.

Then there are those players who come in with a pre-flop raise only to fold when faced with a 3-bet. And here is a good example of the psychological aspects of getting busy in the Big Blind. The very fact that we’re out of position in relation to, for instance, a pre-flop raise from the Button means that there’s a greater chance that our willingness to 3-bet despite this handicap will be believed. Many players don’t take too much convincing to fold, and often it’s a case of nudging them in the right direction, giving them a reason with our unexpected aggression to believe they’re too far behind to justify calling.

More food for thought regarding Big Blind opportunities and our justification in seeking them is that, as a tournament progresses, antes are added to the pre-flop pot, thus providing us with a juicier prize. Indeed, a more recent development in online poker’s evolution is that some tournaments feature antes from the very first hand. The result is that the presence of Antes gives us more reason to call from the Big Blind, with very favourable pot odds in the mix.

Conclusion

While being a notoriously problematic position to play from, the Big Blind can at the same time give us plenty of opportunities to make a stand and pick up pots, often by identifying specific types of players who are prone to making what are surprisingly common mistakes. Any strategy is going to involve risk, so there’s no point – in this or any case – being afraid to get our hands dirty in the quest to rack up a stack with which we can do some damage and progress to the money.

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About the Author

AngusD

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.

Latest changes

The last changes of the page “Tournament Strategy: Win chips when in the Big Blind” was made by AngusD on September 27, 2021