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Defending the big blind

Article By: RuffPoker.com

What many people fail to realise when playing poker is the value of defending the blinds, particularly defending the big blind in tournament play when the blinds get considerable in the latter stages of the game. In low limit games of poker the blinds are always minimal, so the value in defending them, whilst worthwhile is not going to make major changes to your balance, however in tournament poker, especially if you get down to the final tables, blinds can be up in the thousands, as such reclaiming them with marginal hands is of paramount importance. After all, you can’t rely on being dealt monster pocket cards or hitting everything on the flop. You need some form of contingency, and defending the blinds is it.

Big blind defense can take several forms, 1) you can defend anything, by going in on every single pot, whatever the call. This obviously requires a great deal of luck and in time will be suicide. 2) Call with anything that is suited, even as poor a hand as 7/2. Again, you need a lot of help on the flop with this type of hand, but the suited cards do give you outs. 3) Play the blinds as you would any other hand, working on the principle that your blinds are already gone, you no longer own them.

Obviously any philosophy based on the principles in (1) or (2) will ultimately cost you money. You will end up calling some huge pre flop raise and get stung when your marginal hand gets beaten up badly. So to my mind it is best to practice a philosophy somewhere in between (2) and (3) with considerable thought given to how many opponents are in the pot. I say this because you don’t want to waste too many chips on a very poor hand if you are up against lots of opponents who most likely hold A,K,Q combinations. You don’t want to do this no matter how much you think to yourself ‘well I’ve already thrown $5 in, so I may as well see the flop now even at $25’.

Typical hands that are bad news to defend are A/9-2 off suit. In this instance you have a weak kicker, so your A doesn’t hold up very well to many opponents. You have to be a very loose player to make such a call worth your while, with aggressive betting and clean folding when appropriate. But as many players already feel pot committed and are holding a powerful card i.e. Ace, they are compelled to see the hand unfold. However this hand will be a losing one in the long run simply because you will get out kicked on occasions and lose a considerable amount of chips. As we have previously mentioned however, if you do have minimal opponents, such a hand can be a winner because there is less likelihood of them also holding an A with a better kicker. Again, look at there position and betting style. If they are tight, and come with you when you do hit that A on the flop, you can safely say the kicker you have is not going to hold up.

In defending the blinds of course take a free card whenever you can to see the flop. You never know that 7/2 off suit might hit two pair or trips, but don’t be so reckless as to follow your opponents pre flop raises with such weak hands, and when you do get marginal hands consider the number of players left in the hand before proceeding with the call.

When it comes to suited cards, especially those containing an A or K, defending the blinds becomes much more worthwhile. You have outs, granted you may have a weak kicker, but unless there is serious (all-in) money on the pre flop raise you can probably follow somebody into the flop, simply because there aggressive bet will have eliminated most if not all of the other players. However a word of warning, you are in the worst position on the table, having to act first/second so you have no information on which to base any subsequent check or bet. As such you will lose a lot of pots because of your fear of the unknown. You will check with your tentative pair of Aces (and useless kicker) only for those acting after you to apply the pressure with a bet. Even if they have no Ace, you will have to be brave to call that bet from such a position of weakness.