Blind vs. Blind Strategy Basics – Expert Tips by Fedor Holz
Last Updated: November 5, 2023
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In today’s lesson, I will cover blind vs. blind play. Playing from the big or the small blind is one segment of poker strategy that beginners often overlook, but it’s actually very important for your overall success.
While not that many hands get down to the battle of the blinds (as there is usually action before), these situations aren’t that uncommon in poker tournaments.
I will focus more on the small blind, i.e., when you’re the first player in, but I will also discuss how to respond from the big blind. Of course, like with so many other situations, your strategy will vary significantly depending on the effective stack size.
We will cover 100, 40, and 15 big blind scenarios, which should help prepare you for almost every scenario you’ll encounter at the tables.
100 Big Blinds Strategy
When playing 100 big blinds deep from the small blind, you should be playing almost purely limp strategy, with a few hands raising hands thrown into the mix for balance.
We want to have a very high VPIP percentage in these situations and to be able to do that, we have to limp a lot. Of course, we’ll still want to protect our strongest hands by coming in for a raise of about four big blinds with some frequency.
Switching to the big blind, our strategy should be very polarized. The idea is to build a bigger pot with our strong hands, which means isolating limps with a fairly wide range.
To do this effectively, we’ll also add some weaker hands to the isolation range for balance and to try and fold out some of our opponent’s equity.
The small blind reaction should be adjusted accordingly. We definitely want to 3-bet our strongest hands (99+) and also good blocking hands, i.e., those hands containing an ace or a king, making it less likely that the big blind is isolating with a strong hand.
As for the rest of your holdings, you should be continuing with a fairly wide range, calling with hands as weak as 74s and even T2s. This is an important point to memorize, as I’ve seen many players over-fold to the big blind aggression and give up some marginal hands that they should be taking the flop with.
Playing 40 Big Blinds Deep
Once we get into the 40 big blinds territory, our strategy changes quite a bit to include more raises. We still want to build the pot with our strongest hands, but it’s very important to balance that with some weaker hands, allowing you to have good coverage across all different types of boards.
Of course, given this change, we’ll also need to open fold more hands as well.
From the big blind, we will play back with a rather narrow range in these 40 big blind scenarios. When it comes to 3-betting, the strategy is very polarized, restricted to our strongest hands and then a selection of weak hands such as T7o, 93s, etc.
Conversely, our calling range from the big blind will be very wide, and it will include almost all suited hands while folding out a bottom portion of our non-suited range (as these hands will often be dominated).
When facing a limp, our isolation range from the big blind will be somewhat polarized. We don’t want to overdo it, though, where it is clear we only have very strong and very weak hands, so we’ll mix in some hands in the middle with varying frequencies.
The hands we will check back with are those that have good playability and that we don’t want to be pushed off of.
15 Big Blinds Strategy
Once we get into the 15 big blinds territory, our strategy from the small blind changes significantly. We’ll start shoving a lot of our suited and off-suit aces while limping in with lower-tier hands as well as the top of our range.
It is important to limp with these very strong hands, as this allows us to have a wide limping range. Keeping these hands in your limping range allows you to call off shoves, making it harder for your opponents to play against you.
As for the big blind reaction to a shove, it is a fairly straightforward equity calculation. Even still, many players make the mistake of not calling off with some hands that make for a clear call, and that’s not something you want to do.
Facing a limp, your strategy should be very varied to include different types of hands at different frequencies, combining all-ins, raises, and checks.
We will iso-raise with our strongest hands and with very weak hands to try and fold out some equity. Hands such as smaller pocket pairs (deuces through fives), A2o through AJo, and some smaller suited kings are better played as all-ins, as they still have enough equity when called.
These tips should give you a good foundation for your blind vs. blind play. Of course, it will take some time to memorize and get used to all of it.
The best way to become better in these spots is by using different poker tools to set up practice scenarios and see different solutions. This will help you develop a deep understanding of these situations and outplay your opponents!