Stealing The Blinds – Learn to Play your Position

Stealing BlindsLearning how and when to steal the blinds is an important part of playing a freezeout tournament.

During the early stages of a tournament it is not very important at all as the blinds are so small the return is quite minimal.

However as you get to the middle and late stages of the tournament the blinds can be a good percentage of your chip stack and so it becomes even more important, some would say essential to steal the blinds from time to time.

Everyone wants to steal the blinds, right? After all, it happens all the time on TV! It’s great to increase your chip stack without showing your hand but you must do it at the right times and not overuse it. Learning how and when to steal the blinds just gives you another weapon to use.

Position is still Key

First off when you think of stealing the blinds you think of the button position.  It’s the obvious place to start.  Even the cutoff seat (position before the button) should have its fair share of steal raises. If everyone has folded to you and you have a reasonable hand (for example J-10) from either the cutoff or the button this might be a good candidate for stealing.

From these two positions your hand strength does not have to be as strong as if you were to make a steal raise from, say, middle position as you only have 2 or 3 players left to act behind you. Remember the Gap concept? This is it in full force.

The earlier the position that you try this from the chances of someone having a premium hand acting after you is obviously greater so you should have a stronger hand according to the position you are in.

Remember it’s all about your table image and if players get the idea you are just trying to steal the blinds more often than not you will be called or re-raised, you have to disguise it as much as possible and play differently each time you do it.

That’s why you really have to pick your spots when you attempt a steal and vary your play.  I’m not saying call your opponent down to the river but you should call a re-raise once in a while.  If you hit nothing on the flop and your opponent bets you can go into your acting mode (like waiting 10 seconds to give the impression your thinking about calling) and then fold.

You can also use all that valuable information on the other players that you have accumulated in the early stages of the tournament. When you start making attempts to steal the blinds then you can that information to identify the tight or passive players at your table that are least likely to resist your aggression.

I have often made a note on many players that says “likes to bet out”. To me that means after a flop, no matter what, this person likes to bet whether they have hit or not. I often target these types of players for blind stealing because a high percentage of the time I can not only steal the blinds but pick up the extra bet they make on the flop as well.

You’ll notice that I say a high percentage of the time.  Its not full proof as the odd time they will wake up with a good hand or hit the flop hard but it’s been my experience that if they bet out after the flop and I re-raise they fold most of the time.

Stealing from the Button with any 2 Cards

A lot of players like to raise from the button with almost any 2 cards just to try and steal. I think you should be a little more selective than that.

I like to attempt steals with any suited ace, connectors cards, any big ace or medium pairs. These hands have some potential so that if things don’t go quite to plan you still have something to possibly fall back on and get you out of trouble.

What happens if an Opponent plays back at me?

One other point I wanted to mention is that if you attempt a steal, once in a while someone will try to re-steal and even re-steal with junk! You have to remember that if you are more often than not doing this from late position then you will be targeting the same 2 or 3 players each time and it soon starts to stick in their memory. At some point they may make a stand against you with a re-raise.

Whether you call this or just back down depends on a number of factors, your hand, the information you have on your opponent. You could just fold to him and try again next time, but the problem here is if he see’s it’s worked then he will be more inclined to do the same next time.

If you do decide to call his raise, or even re-raise him back then you will get to see a flop which may just connect with your hand. If it does, then your opponent is likely to be more willing to put chips in after the flop and the potential for a big pot is high. Trapping him may be the way to go in this situation.

Secondly if you call or re-raise, then all the players see this and it is a huge deterrent to that player or the next player who thinks “I’m going to make a stand against this guy”. Suddenly they realise that it might cost them quite a bit to do so, and might just fold to subsequent steal attempts without a very strong hand because they know your not willing to give up without a fight. Again, your building on your table image.

The early stages is where you lay the ground work for blind stealing in the middle and late stages.  You really have to pick your spots and it should fit in with the strategy you are mapping out in the early stages of the tournament.  I think stealing the blinds is an essential part of a successful formula for winning a tournament.  I hope this helps make you a better thief and remember if anyone asks, I never told you anything!

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