How to Play Optimally Out of Position in the Big Blind

How to Play Optimally Out of Position in the Big Blind
This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Ryan Lewis.

One of the first concepts a poker player learns when beginning their poker journey is the power of position. The game becomes much easier when you have position on your opponents.

This is because when you are the last to act on every street you have more control over how you want the hand to play out. You can opt to bet, call, check, raise or fold after your opponents have made their moves.

When played correctly the power of position allows you to both maximize your profits and minimize your losses.

This is in contrast to playing out of position where we are at an information disadvantage. We have to act first which allows the player in position to respond accordingly.

A common scenario when we will be out of position post flop is when we decide to call a pre flop raise from the big blind.


Why is playing out of position in poker so hard?


When playing out of position we are at an information disadvantage because we are the first to act post flop on every street.

To demonstrate this consider two basic examples shown below.


Playing out of position example #1


We flop a set in a single raised heads up pot.

For example we have 55 and the flop comes:

A57

Let's assume that the big blind does not donk bet.

When we are in position and our opponent checks to us we can make a simple bet, which directly grows the pot and allows us to maximize our profits (assuming our bet is called or raised) when we hit a strong hand.

Let's assume villain calls our bet on the flop.

Compare this to out of position. When we flop a set in the big blind and check to the pre flop raiser there is no guarantee they will bet. They can opt to check behind, keeping the pot small and take a free card on the turn.

In the first scenario we get to maximize our profits when we hit a strong hand by betting and allowing our opponent to call or raise. In the second example our opponent checks behind and keeps the pot small.

Two instances where we hit the same hand strength but the pot is significantly smaller out of position when we reach the turn card.

It is more difficult to maximize our profits out of position.


Playing out of position example #2


We flop top pair in a single raised heads up pot.

For example we have A9 and the flop comes:

983

Again we will assume the big blind does not donk bet. Lets also assume we will lose both pots.

When we are in position as the pre flop raiser we can opt to check back the flop if it looks scary. We can then comfortably call down the turn and river against most bet sizes when villain leads out.

Compare the same scenario, however we are now out of position in the big blind and villain decides to triple barrel us. We are now forced to play a much larger pot with a marginal holding. Suppose we call down villains triple barrel and lose.

In the first scenario we only lose two streets of value being in position. The second scenario we lose three streets of value being out of position.

It is more difficult to minimize our losses out of position.

If we could only play the entire game from in position then poker would become an easy game and insanely profitable. We could easily maximize our profits whilst also keeping the pot small when we know there is a good chance we are beat.

The game however is not so easy. There will be countless times when we are forced to play out of position because we have been dealt two decent cards that are worth playing.

The most common scenario where we will be out of position post flop is when we call a pre flop raise out of position from the big blind.

Being at an information disadvantage will not allow us to completely control the pot - this makes it more difficult to both maximize our profits and minimize our losses.

There are however some general guidelines to follow when out of position that you can apply at the poker tables in order to achieve both. I’ll outline some tips below based on when you call a pre flop raise.


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Tips on playing out of position from the big blind


Calling a pre flop raise from the big blind happens regularly and in today's games (especially 6 max cash and tournaments) you should be defending your big blind quite wide.

It is not practical to simply fold your blind 100% of the time in order to wait until we have position. Our win rate would take a massive hit and we would become too exploitable - villain (our opponent) can make instant profit versus us by raising any two cards.

Understand it is completely normal to lose money from the big blind in the long run. If we were to fold our big blind 100% of the time we would lose 100BB/100 hands.

Our primary goal should not be to profit from this position, rather to lose much less than this. If you are losing less than 50BB/100 hands you are on the right track, and if you are losing less than 30BB/100 then you are playing very well.

When we decide to call a pre flop raise understand we are saying to our opponents that we do not have a premium hand - if we did we would elect to 3bet.

Of course we can opt to get tricky and slow play some strong hands, but in general by calling we are heading to the flop at a range disadvantage.

In order to minimize our losses and maximize our gains it is essential that you develop a solid defending plan for when you come against continuation bets.

Here are some general tips I recommend for playing on the flop:


Check calling one pair hands


As a general rule we can opt to check call these holdings. If villain bets over ¾ pot we can defend tighter. Conversely if villain bets less than half pot we can defend wider.

We can also think in terms of streets of value when opting to decide how often to call, assuming our one pair hand does not improve on the turn and river.

How to Play Optimally Out of Position in the Big Blind

Top pair: At least two streets of value, possibly 3 depending on board texture.

Middle pair: At least one street of value, possibly 2 depending on board texture and kicker strength.

Bottom pair: Usually one street of value if you have backdoor flush/straight potential. Consider folding the flop if facing a big pot size bet.

Pocket pairs between the top card and middle card: Two streets of value.

Underpairs: Fold.

Learning how to play your one pair hands correctly out of position is extremely important to your success at the poker tables.

This is why Daniel Negreanu for example discusses this concept in detail in his MasterClass.


Check raising our premium hands and draws


For our premium hands we will select anything that is two pair (using both your hole cards) or better.

For our bluffs we can choose a variety of draws such as nut flush draws, open ended straight draws and gutshots with a flush or backdoor flush draw.

All other front door flush and straight draws can be check called at least one street and then reassess on the turn.

I recommend for beginners to fold naked backdoor flush draws and also low end straight draws that are not drawing to the nuts.

The more experienced you are, feel free to check raise combo draws, however for beginning players I would just advise a check call.

By incorporating a check raise into our game we can make it very tough for the in position player to mindlessly continuation bet against us.

Try not to go overboard as you can easily check raise too many bluffs without realizing. A good rule of thumb is to have twice as many bluffs to value if check raising on the flop.


Should you donk bet?


I would advise against donk betting in heads up pots at the microstakes. It simply does not make sense from a range perspective to start incorporating it into your game.

If you have a strong hand you should check raise instead. This is something that is discussed in much more detail in The Micro Stakes Playbook.

That's not to say that you should never donk bet. It is still theoretically correct to donk bet on some board textures that favour the big blind.

However in order to incorporate it successfully you would need to balance it correctly, and also consult a solver, which is too advanced and unnecessary for microstakes games.

I would advise checking your entire range from the big blind in heads up pots. This makes you more difficult to play against as you keep the in position player in the dark about what your next move is.


Final thoughts


Playing out of position is tough! By being out of position post flop we are at a severe information disadvantage.

To play well consistently you need to incorporate a lot of check calling with your marginal hands, and check raising your premium hands and draws.

This allows you to keep the pot small with marginal holdings and also to grow the pot when you have a premium one.

Remember it is completely normal to lose money from the big blind in the long run. Your main goal when playing from the big blind is not to win money, but to minimize how much you lose.

Make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet to learn my strategy for crushing small stakes poker games from every single position at the table.

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Ryan specializes in 6max cash small stakes online poker. He focuses on playing a fundamentally strong tight and aggressive strategy. He particularly enjoys the statistics and game theory side of the game. You can follow him on Twitter right here.

How to Play Optimally Out of Position in the Big Blind

5 comments:

  1. Thank you, great as always. Question, I went to my database after reading this I'm -13BB/100 from the BB and -55BB/SB in NL2. That should look switched around? shouldn't my loss be bigger from the BB than the SB? It is only 9000 hands so do I just not have a good enough sample to even consider that stat?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Filter for the biggest pots where you lost from the SB, and plug the leak/s you find. Also tighten up from that position. You're guaranteed to play oop postflop after all.

      Delete
    2. Yes your sample size is too small to make any conclusions.
      Try play 50 000 hands in total, or for more accuracy 100 000.

      Delete
  2. How are you going to lose 100bb per 100 hands if you fold 100% of the big blind , you are not playing the big blind every hand ,its like 1 out of 6 hands for 6 max .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you fold your big blind you lose 1bb. Do this 100 times and you lose 100bb. This is just filtered for hands in the big blind, other positions are not taken into account.

      Delete