Stealing blinds from early position
No matter what poker book you read or poker show you watch, the topic of position will invariably be discussed and its importance stressed. There’s no doubt that position is a very important aspect of the game. But some players take this concept to the extreme and consequently miss opportunities when they refuse to play hands out of position.
A generally accepted poker rule is to play fewer hands from early position and look to steal blinds from later positions. From late position, with fewer players to act behind you, the chances of being reraised decrease. Conversely, the odds increase that another player will pick up a strong hand and reraise your bet if you make an early pre-flop raise.
It’s not uncommon for some players to make major adjustments in terms of what hands they’ll play based purely on position. They’ll even fold A-Q from early position yet raise from late position with 7-2 offsuit!
Well, in my opinion, it’s a mistake to make those kinds of drastic changes, particularly in No Limit tournaments with both blinds and antes. Here’s why.
An attempt to steal blinds with a late position raise often causes opponents to become suspicious. As a result, they’re more likely to reraise you with a wide range of hands, thinking you’re just playing your position and attempting a bit of grand larceny.
The fact is it’s extremely difficult to steal blinds from late position against aggressive players because they just might reraise you with any ace in their hands.
An early position raise arouses far less suspicion. Skilled players will usually respect these raises and fold their marginal hands. Against a late position raise, though, these same marginal hands might just become worthy of a reraise.
You see, the respect gained from of an out of position raise somewhat neutralizes the inherent disadvantages of having to act early.
Okay, say you raise from early position with J-s-9-s against the small blind that has K-10.
Most players would fold K-10 fearing they’d be dominated by pocket aces, kings, queens, jacks or tens, or A-K, K-Q, or K-J. Another reason they’d lay it down is that as small blind they’d be forced to play the hand from out of position.
Let’s change the situation slightly. This time, with the same J-s-9-s, you raise from the button instead of from early position. Now, not only is it probable that the other player will call with K-10, it’s actually more likely that he’ll reraise because he suspects a steal.
Here’s the bottom line: The range of hands with which you attempt to steal blinds should be almost identical, regardless of position. You can, however, attempt steals a bit more frequently when you’re sitting on the button.
Remember, though, to play more cautiously when attempting to steal blinds from early position, especially if another player reraises or even just calls your bet.
One more tip that goes against general consensus: Don’t make an automatic continuation bet after the flop if you get resistance to your early pre-flop raise.
Instead, give credit where credit is due; these players probably have strong hands of their own. If another player bets after the flop, lay down your hand — unless you’ve managed to hit the flop, too.
Look, you can’t win a No Limit hold’em tournament by playing too few hands. You’ll occasionally need to attack the blinds in order to build your stack.
Blind stealing is not exclusive to late position play. You can steal blinds from any position, and you should!
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