Playing the Blinds in MTTs

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How to Play from the Blinds in MTTs

Even the most experienced tournament players will mis-play the blinds either by calling opening-raises too loosely or just not defending them enough.  In reality you can both win way more pots and save alot of your chips by adopting the correct strategy playing from the blinds. In my opinion it’s a more important feature in MTT strategy than people give it credit for.  

The trick to playing blinds properly is to understand that alot of the time you can turn what many consider to be”out of position” into a positional advantage. Most tournament players misplay the blinds particularly in the mid-stages and limp with trash hands like rag aces or J8 just for the hell of it.  This is wrong and below I’ll outline why, along my own expert tips on playing the blinds profitably in tournaments.

Playing from Small Blind

For the most part calling from small blind is negative EV.  The positional disadvantage of SB makes alot of hands unplayable.  Before the flop you’re either forced to re-raise an opponent (something you should frequently be doing) or fold to their raise.  Calling isn’t good enough because you’ll almost always be behind.  Ofcourse you may be able to take advantage of weak post-flop players, but most of the time this won’t happen.  The biggest problem for tournament players on the blinds, especially BB, is that they see calling raises often great pot-odds (calling 600 for a 2,000 pot with J9 on the face of it seems great).  However you need to appreciate you’ll always put yourself in a horrible position, with your finger delicately hovering over the check/fold button.  It’s impossible to outplay multiple opponents acting first.  Realistically the only hands you should be calling with from BB are AA and KK (for deception), and AJ AQ and AK.

If the table folds round to you on the SB, you should be raising 3-4BB frequently.  BB is unlikely to call depending on his style, so it’s positive EV and important for winning chips.

Calling from Small Blind in Tournaments

There will be times when calling from small blind is OK.  Implied odds are very important especially in multi-way pots.  Statistically for every 10 times you put in a small blind when you are getting 7-to-1 or better on your money, it only takes winning two times in ten to make this profitable.  Calling from SB with any two cards is OK when there are multiple players in the pot. If you hit two-pair or better you’ll probably make money.

Playing from the Big Blind

This is similar to playing from small blinds because you will always be playing out of position post-flop.  A tactic used by profesionals is to call an opening-raise from BB and lead out (aka stop and go poker).  This works best when there are just a few opponents or less in the pot.  In all other cases you can rely on implied odds to call and then fold to any raise.

A trick to turn positional disadvantage of BB is to call against smart agressive players who tighten up post-flop.  Using stop and go tactics where you call pre-flop and cbet the flop, you can severely reduce your opponent’s calling range and pot equity (assuming he missed).  This requires more caution than a standard pre-flop push,  but it’s more profitable against when against loose pre-flop players you have a read on. 

Mid-Stage Tournament Stop and Go Scenario: A player in late position with AJ0 (10,000 chips) raises the pot to 2,000 (blinds 200/500 + 25 antes) whilst we’re in BB holding pair of eights (10,000 chips also).  If we have a good range on our opponent (KQo+,AJo,+77+) we could overbet shove here.  He’s getting favourable odds of more than 2:1 to call (we’re still 52% favourite against high cards).  However a big problem with shoving here is that we’re only getting called by hands that beat us, and only folding hands that have worse showdown value.  By flat-calling instead of shoving however, we can decide to shove on the flop and force him off hands like AJ.  The advantage of this play is it makes us look stronger (as if we’ve calculated our shove by hitting something decent on the flop).  Any overcard gives us better fold equity against mid-high pocket pairs shoving here, and any marginal call he makes will give us better odds (because the odds for him to improve his hand is cut down to 2 cards rather than 5).

When to Call from BB

To make the play above, you would flat call preflop and lead out post-flop regardless of the community cards.  With a 60% chance of missing most opponents will throw away hands and will re-buff only if they hit something.  The additional advantages of this play are the implied odds from improving your hand on the flop.

Defending The Blinds

The biggest mistake players make is not knowing how to defend the blinds properly.  The best way to defend blinds without question is re-raising.  Because you’re out of position you want to put the maximum pressure on the other players.  This is most effective against those who regularly raise from stealing positions, as these players from the cutoff points, button or hijack position are usually raising without legimitimate hands.

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