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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How to Stop Losing So Much From the Blinds

How to Stop Losing So Much From the Blinds

Something that people ask me about all the time is losing too much from the blinds. After all, if you look at your stats in PokerTracker for instance, it is probably going to show a lot of red.

The first thing that I always remind people though is that everybody loses from the blinds. Yes, even the very best players in the world.

The reason why is because there is no possible way to overcome the massive disadvantage of being dealt two completely random cards AND having to play them out of position as well.

However, there is losing from the blinds and then there is losing way too much from the blinds! That is what I am going to discuss in this article.


What is an Acceptable Loss-Rate in the Blinds?


First things first, how much should you actually be losing from the blinds? This is a difficult question to answer for many reasons.

First off, it depends heavily on the game that you are playing in. For instance, as I have discussed before, NL2 online and NL5 online have perhaps the highest relative skill difference in all of online poker.

Your winrates are going to drop massively in every category across the board when you move up from NL2 to NL5.

I don't say that to scare you by the way. Both games are still exceedingly easy to beat for any decent poker player who table selects even just a little bit.

However, you don't see anywhere near as many completely clueless fish at NL5 and this will heavily affect your winnings. And this will in turn also heavily impact how much you  lose from the blinds.

So back when I used to play these two games a lot and beat them for some truly insane winrates I actually came close to breaking even from the small blind at NL2 along with a small loss of about -10bb/100 in the big blind.

My losses were considerably more than these at NL5 though for all of the reasons that I just discussed.

Now for most people these days though, especially in today's tighter games, I would say that something like a -10bb/100 loss-rate in the small blind and a -20bb/100 loss-rate in the big blinds would be very good.

But you can still definitely win at any limit (not just NL2 and NL5) with loss-rates that are higher than this as well.

However, it is important to remember that how much you lose from the blinds will directly impact your overall winnings. So if you have loss-rates of say -25bb/100 and -50bb/100 then there is definitely some cause for concern here.


You Will Always Lose More From the Big Blind than the Small Blind


Before I move on to the actual strategy on how to lose less from the blinds I want to touch on one other point though. And that is that you will always lose much more in the big blind than in the small blind.

It is usually right around twice as much in fact. You can go ahead and check your stats right now in PokerTracker and you will probably see something like this:

How to Stop Losing So Much From the Blinds

Now you don't need to be alarmed by this.

The reason why you are going to lose twice as much from the big blind compared to the small blind is pretty simple actually: You are paying twice as much from this seat.

Since you are in the exact same awful predicament as the small blind (random hand out of position), this just simply means that you are going to lose a lot more from this position.

It's simply a part of the game though like I said and everybody loses heavily from these seats, especially the big blind. And as you can see above it is heavily counter-balanced by extremely high win-rates especially around the button.

So don't let your losses from the blinds scare you. You can still win big overall, where it actually matters.


How to Stop Losing So Much From the Blinds


Ok, so let's assume now that you are losing too much from the blinds. Or maybe you aren't. Maybe you are already crushing it from these seats.

However, there is still always room for improvement in poker.

And this is because every little bit less that you can lose from these positions is going to directly affect how much you actually win in poker overall.

This is truly one of those cases where "a penny saved is a penny earned."

So how exactly do you start losing less from the small blind and big blind. Well, I have 3 strategies for you.


1. Play Less Hands From these Positions


Now, the first and most obvious way to stop losing so much from these positions is to simply play less hands. Duh right?

If you fold almost everything but the nuts from the small blind and the big blind, then you can really only ever end up losing the minimum.

And I will say that this is a strategy that I still largely recommend for complete beginners to poker who are playing at the lowest limits.

More specifically, I would recommend that they only play really strong hands from the blinds such as:
  • AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, 88, 77, AK, AQ, AJ, KQ, KJ and QJ

However, as with all things in life that seem too good to be true, this is also one of them.

While this strategy can work ok for total beginners at NL2 (or 1/2 live) to keep their loss-rates from the blinds down, once you start playing against any sort of players with a brain (NL5+ online), they are going to start exploiting you heavily for playing like this.

In fact, as I talk about all the time on this blog and in my books, when I see some guy folding 80% or 90% of his hands from the blinds, then I am just going to steal his blinds all day long. I am also never going to pay him off once he finally decides to fight back against me.

So this is why it is important that as you move up the stakes and start to develop a better understanding of the game, that you also defend from the blinds with several speculative hands as well.

For instance:
  • 66, 55, 44, 33, 22, JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s, ATs, A9s, A8s
s = suited.

And as you climb up the stakes and become more and more confident in your postflop abilities, then you can continue to add more and more hands to this list.


2. 3Bet from the Blinds and Take Back Control


Now another strategy that I also recommend is to 3Bet the crap out of people from the blinds especially when they are attempting to steal from a late position seat like the hijack, cutoff or button.

I don't recommend this quite as much today (explained below), but it is still an effective counter-strategy especially at the lower limits in particular.

And the reason why is because most people will be raising with their widest range from these positions (often 30% or more of their hands). Therefore, they simply will not be able to withstand a raise very often.

Also, as I talk about in Crushing the Microstakes, there are two pillars to playing winning poker.

These are:
  • Position
  • Initiative

Now obviously we can't do anything about the first one when we are in the blinds. We will always have to play the hand out of position on every postflop street.

However, we can choose to take back the initiative in the hand by re-raising or by simply making an isolation raise if it is a limped pot.

Now while I do still recommend this strategy of 3Betting quite a bit with your good hands and also throwing in a re-raise "bluff" with your speculative hands from time to time as well, there are also some problems with this strategy.

While you can still get away with this strategy at stakes like NL2 and maybe even NL5, thinking players at higher limits have adjusted in recent years. If they see that you are 3Betting too much from the blinds, then they will simply 4Bet you lighter or just flat call and outplay you in position.

So while you do still want to make sure you are re-popping them most of the time with all your super strong hands like AA, KK, QQ, AK and so on it is important that you lay off the gas pedal and just call more often with hands like JTs, A9s, 44 and so on.

In other words, less 3Bet bluffs overall and more flat-calling with a wider range especially as you become more skilled at my next point.


3. Fight for More Pots from the Blinds After the Flop


The real key to losing less from the blinds these days though all happens after the flop. This is truly where the magic happens. You simply have to start learning how to take more pots away from them in order to cut your losses from these seats.

One of the biggest reasons why many people lose too much from the blinds is because they call with a hand like ATs, don't catch a pair or a decent draw on the flop, and so they just go ahead and check/fold.

This is losing poker because you are going to miss the flop completely with this hand about 2 out of 3 times. Therefore, if you are just going to check/fold the flop 2/3 of the time, you would have probably saved yourself some money by simply folding preflop.

Ok cool, so how do we actually start fighting for more pots after the flop and taking it down? Well, there are a variety of ways to do this.

You can:
  • Check/call the flop and lead the turn
  • Check/call the flop, check/call the turn and lead the river
  • Check/raise the flop and lead the turn
  • Check/call the flop and check/raise the turn
  • Donk bet the flop and lead the turn

I think you get the idea. There are countless ways to start fighting for more pots after the flop from the blinds.


How do you know which line to take though? 

Well, this often depends on the opponent and your specific reads on them and/or available HUD stats (more on this in the example hands below).


What hands should you be fighting for the pot with?

This is a question that is a lot easier to answer.

As I discuss at length in my new book The Micro Stakes Playbook, this is all about learning how to analyze your hidden equity in hands.

In other words, just because you didn't hit a pair or a decent draw with your AT doesn't mean you should just give up!

Here are two flops for example where you have plenty of hidden equity with this hand and therefore you should be fighting for the pot:
  • 38K♧
  • 997♧

On the first board you have both backdoor straight and flush draws to the nuts along with a strong overcard. The king is also an easy card for you to represent.

On the second board you have a backdoor straight draw and two strong overcards on a board that is very unlikely to have hit your opponent. Keep in mind as well that another 7 will counterfeit all of his small pocket pairs.

This is what I mean by finding your hidden equity in hands. And these are the types of situations where I am not going to be folding but fighting for the pot instead.

Let's look at a few example hands.


Example Hand #1


NL5 - 6max

You have JT in the small blind

TAGfish player raises from the button

You call

The big blind folds


Flop:

379

You check

TAGfish player CBets

What should you do?


This is the perfect example of a spot where I will be continuing in the hand no matter what. We have a backdoor flush draw, a gutshot to the nut straight and two overcards.

Check/folding here would be frankly criminal. Criminal to your poker win-rate that is!

So how should we play the hand though? Well, like I said before it depends heavily on the opponent that I am up against.

If my reads or my HUD data tells me that this is the kind of guy who folds to a check/raise on the flop a lot, then I might just check/raise him a lot here.

However, if this is a more typical TAGfish player at the micros who likes to bet the flop a lot and give up on the turn unimproved, then I will just check/call and take it away in some manner later on. Leading the turn, river or both streets for instance.


Example Hand #2


NL2 - Full Ring

You have A9 in the big blind

Nit player raises from the button

The small blind folds

You call


Flop:

24T

You check

Nit player CBets

What should you do?


Once again this is a hand where I am not going to just give up because it appears that we don't have much on the flop. Actually, we do have plenty.

We have a backdoor wheel straight draw, the backdoor nut flush draw and a strong overcard.

My standard line of attack here will once again depend on the opponent in question. Versus a Nit at the micros I will often check/call and fire the turn or river.

However sometimes I will mix in a lead on the flop, a check/raise on the flop or even a check/call flop and check/raise the turn line. The latter puts incredible pressure on him to have a hand in order to continue.

You get the idea though. We aren't just laying down and dying every time it appears that we missed the flop. That is losing poker after all.

Instead, when we have some sort of reasonable equity we will be looking at a variety of different ways to take the pot away from our opponent.

This is poker in the trenches. These are the little battles where often nobody really has much and the guy who wants it more will win the pot.

This is also a major reason why some people win big in this game and most people are around breakeven or lose in the end.


Final Thoughts


Playing from the blinds sucks. There is no way to try and sugarcoat this. You are going to lose money from these two positions guaranteed and there is absolutely no strategy on earth that can fix that.

However, there are several ways to lose less and that in itself is a major victory.

If you are brand new to poker and you are playing at the very lowest stakes either online or live, then I would recommend keeping your range from the blinds pretty tight. Try to only play mostly strong hands like big pairs, middle pairs, strong aces and broadways for now.

But as you develop and move up the stakes it is important that you also start playing many more speculative hands like suited connectors, suited aces and small pairs.

You should mix in a few light 3Bets especially against the weaker regs at the micros who tend to give up too easily either before or after the flop. But versus the stronger thinking regs at higher stakes you also need to just call plenty of the time as well and play some poker.

Make sure that you are fighting for pots when you have any sort of hidden equity by taking lines that put the pressure back on your opponent and which exploit their specific weaknesses as well.

If you want to learn more about my strategy at these limits and find out how I created some of the highest winrates ever recorded at the micros, make sure you grab a copy of my free ebook.

You can download it right here.

Let me know in the comments below what kind of strategy you use from the blinds.

Lastly, if you found this article helpful, do me a quick favor and give it a "Like" or a "Tweet" below. Thanks!

How to Stop Losing So Much From the Blinds

8 comments:

  1. Great article Nathan! Losing too much from the blinds has definitely been a trouble spot for me.

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  2. limping small blind, flop a lower straight against someone limped as well, got coolered. Lesson = never limp in sb

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    Replies
    1. Hehe Moan, unfortunately we can't always control the way the flop comes down, coolers will happen. However, I do agree that most of the time at the lower stakes, you should be raising or folding from the SB.

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    2. what do you think of 3betting oop vs IP (esp btn) with AT, or K5ss. Do you think good reg is less likely to 4b us himself oop.

      AT, or K5 which one would u recommend 3b? i have tough times selecting offsuit hand to 3b as well because most of the time if get called it wouldn't flop well, what to do if we get called by our cbet on 3bet pot thats the main question.

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    3. Hey Moan,

      Totally depends on the opponent. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

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  3. I need to start reading your articles more Nathan. I've been wondering what all these micro regs were up to calling flop and leading turn OOP on dry boards, now I know... they've been reading this! It's all good, I have a cunning plan... 😏

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    Replies
    1. Haha, didn't mean to mess up your games HN :P Hope you are crushing!

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