The First Two Cards: Live Blinds.

Playing your first two cards out of the blinds is very different from the other positions because you will have terrible position for the next three rounds. But this is somewhat compensated for by the fact that you have to call only a partial raise. The net result is that you play rather tight in some situations, but quite loose in others. Many players lose money from the blind positions. They frequently overestimate the value of their hand in comparison to the partial bet that they are required to make to continue playing. Even though you can play looser in some situations, you still must play pretty tight if the pot has been raised and the raiser is not in a steal position.


Unraised Pot With Callers.

You should usually raise only with extremely good hands. Remember, one of the reasons to raise in late position is to help you to take control of the pot. This is much harder to do when you are first to act on the flop.


You hold:

and one or two aggressive players have called from an early position. Your best play usually (but not always) is to just call and (perhaps) to try for a check-raise later. You don’t have to hit your hand to make check-raising the correct play. You just need to be fairly sure that the flop did not help anyone else.

Flops like:


Since these were early-position players, you probably have the best hand. You can check-raise.

However, if you hold AK and are called by only one or two players from late positions, then you usually should raise. Because of their positions – and implied weakness when they just call you cannot rule out any flop from hitting them. However, a raise is now the best play, since it is likely that your hand is far superior.

It also is sometimes correct to raise when several people have called and you hold a hand like JTs, Ax or a small pair. Keep in mind that this play is not as strong from the blind position as it is in late position because you will be unlikely to get a free card if you check. However, if the flop does come as you would like, your raise may entice some players to stay with hands that they should fold if they knew what you held.

Raised Pot.

The pot has been called on your left, and someone now raises on your right. In this case, you should call only with your better hands. This is because you can be reraised on your left.

Still, if many players are in the pot, you should play more hands, especially hands that have the potential to make big hands, such as straight and flush draws. This would include hands like: A7s or 98. (Normally you would only play these hands if the raiser were on your left).

Don’t call raises with a hand like: 54. If this hand was suited then the call would be okay. But for these calls to be profitable, you usually need at least two ways to win. If your cards were higher, usually nine-eight or better, then you might be able to win if you flop a draw, miss it, but make a pair after the flop. Thus a call would now be correct since it is much easier to win the pot with something like a pair of nines than a pair of fives. To call with a small unsuited connecting hand you need to be against weak players who will not extract the maximum from you when you flop a draw, but who will frequently pay off if you make something.

When the pot is raised in early position, one hand that demands special attention is KJ. The reason for this is that a hand such as KJ can easily make a second-best hand that you will have to pay off all the way. Again, this is one of those situations where knowing your opponent can be a crucial factor in determining the correct decision. Similar with AJ, A10, and K10.

To call with a small pair you usually only need two players in. Thus 33 would be playable against an early position raiser and a caller. This should assure you the implied odds that are necessary in case you flop a set.

Reraise with AA or KK when you are in either blind. But, don’t automatically reraise with AK or QQ.

One situation where big-blind play changes drastically occurs when you are against a possible steal-raise – that is, a raise from a late position by a player who you think would attempt to pick up the blinds with a weak hand. Remember, against a legitimate raise, you still need a fairly good hand to call. In fact, a good guideline is to play essentially the same hands that you normally would cold call a raise or reraise with if you were in a late position. But a steal-raise is a different matter. Now you are forced to play more hands. How many more hands depends on the skill of your opponent. The worse he plays the more you play. Against weak opponents who won’t make good use of their positional advantage on the flop, you can call in the big blind with hands as weak as those in Group 8. However, it still might be best to throw some of the smaller non-suited connectors away. You should reraise about 1/4 of the time, usually with your best hands. If someone calls in between you and your opponent, or if your opponent plays well, then you must tighten up some. But you still can play a lot of hands, perhaps Groups 1-6.

When its only you and small blind, and he raises. You normally need to make sure that you call enough so that the player in the little blind does not show an automatic profit. (Remember, this will be the case if you fold as little as 30% of the time.) On the other hand, if you know that this player has high raising standards, you should fold your weaker hands. How To Play Short Handed.


Many of these same comments also apply to the little blind. However, when you call a raise from the little blind, not only do you have to put a larger fraction of a bet into the pot, but also a player remains to act behind you.

One situation where correct little-blind play differs from big-blind play is against a possible steal-raise.

Now if you are going to play (usually with a hand in Groups 1-6), you should almost always reraise. The purpose of this reraise is to drive the big blind out of the pot. However, if someone else has already called the raise, then this play is usually incorrect without an excellent hand because you now know that at least one of your opponents is likely to have a legitimate hand. In addition, you should, as usual, consider how well your opponent plays.

Remember, the better he plays, the higher quality hand you need to make this type of play.

There are other spots where little-blind play differs from big-blind play.

  1. Pot is not raised and it will cost you only a fraction of a bet to play. If the fraction to enter the pot is half a bet, then you (the player in the little blind) should still be somewhat selective of the hands you play, though you should play loose.


Hands like any two suited cards, or if the pot is short-handed, a hand that contains an ace, are all probably right to call with. But hands like 86 should still be thrown away. However, if it costs only 1/3 of a bet to enter the pot – every hand should be played. (Exception is when the big blind is a frequent raiser). Why waste even 1/3 of a bet, since you have to fold if he raises.

2. If no one has raised, the pot is short-handed, you are in the small blind, and the big blind is apt to call your raise, you should only raise with your best hands. This generally means Group 1-2. On the other hand, if the big blind will fold a lot you should now raise with many more hands. This would include the Group 3 hands and those Group 4 hands made up of high ranking cards. If you making this play with a marginal hand do not forget to consider your opposition. You should be less inclined to make this play against the better players.

If no one has raised, the pot is multiway, and you are in the small blind, only raise with the hands that are either very strong or some hands that play well multiway. Remember, when you make this raise you are putting a lot of money in the pot out of position.

3. When everyone has thrown away their hands. The question now is whether to fold, call the big blind, or raise the big blind. Remember, that for all four betting rounds, you will be at a positional disadvantage to the big blind. However, if the big blind throws away too many hands in this situation you should frequently raise.


You hold:

Here you should frequently just call. However, if the big blind folds a lot, or folds too much on the flop, you should always raise.

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