In our previous article, we talked about how to defend your Big Blind when sitting on a short stack. But one area that we didn’t touch upon was the difference between poker tournaments and cash games. So here is part two of our guide to defending the Big Blind, where we’ll address that exact topic.

It’s important to adjust your Big Blind defense strategy whenever you switch between cash and tournament games

Tournament Strategy Is Different

Poker strategy is almost always situational. There are very few “one size fits all” approaches that could be applied across the board. More often than not, the answer to a poker problem is “it depends”. 

Our last post shared advice on how to effectively defend your Big Blind when short-stacked. But tournament strategy is different from that of a cash game. You can’t usually rebuy in a tournament, for instance, which often leads to tighter styles. Further, there are no antes in a cash game, the blinds don’t increase, and you’re never thinking about ICM considerations.

Big Blind Defense in Cash Games

When playing cash games, two key criteria come into play, which will encourage you to tighten up. These are rake and antes.

In a poker tournament, there is obviously no rake. But in a cash game, you’ll have to surrender a percentage of the pot whenever you see a flop. Further, players are generally a little tighter overall in tournaments, with large pre-flop raises less common. 

Both of these factors result in smaller pots, so your pot odds for defending the Big Blind don’t look so hot. As such, you should adjust your calling range accordingly. 

Similarly, you won’t normally see antes in a standard cash game. If it’s just the two blinds up for grabs, that means a pot of 1.5x BB to begin with. Again, you’ll need to factor that into your calling range, which will usually result in fewer hands. 

You may actually want to push your post-flop continuation bet range harder by 3-betting pre-flop. Why? Because you’ll avoid paying rake if you don’t take a flop!

Big Blind Defense in Tournaments

The main difference with defending the BB in a poker tournament is the inclusion of antes. As we already mentioned, you don’t usually see them in a cash game. But as a tournament progresses, antes can add an additional Big Blind to the pot. 

Then consider the fact that players tend to use smaller raises in tournaments. It’s obvious that you’ll get good pot odds more often than in cash games, so you can defend that BB wider.

Another interesting aspect of poker tournaments is the different stack sizes in play. You’ll see much more variation than in a cash game, meaning that ranges must be a lot more dynamic. For instance, a player with a short stack can push all-in with a much wider range than someone sitting on an average stack. Naturally, the chip leaders can bully the rest by raising wider too.

Top Tips For Defending the Big Blind

Having addressed the differences between poker tournaments and cash games, it’s time to reveal our tips for defending your big blind.

In Tournaments

  1. Pick up the antes. There’s no getting away from the importance of antes in tournaments. They might seem like a minor price to pay, but they affect pot odds and add up over time. You must fight to pick them up and that means defending the BB with a wider range.
  2. You can call when short. There’s no need to panic and move into “all-in or fold” mode if you’re short-stacked when defending. It can be okay to call with 4 or 5 Big Blinds, as we mentioned in our last article. Don’t shove if the hand is too weak.
  3. Be ready to shove. That being said, if your hand is the type that does well when shoving, don’t be afraid to move all-in. Equity realisation is important and shoving can help achieve it.

In Cash Games

  1. Exploit the Small Blind. If it folds around to the blinds, the SB is more likely to try and pick you off. With just one player to act, there’s a big motivation to try and steal the pot. However, you’ll have the position post-flop and you know their range is very wide. Your odds will be good, having 1BB already in the pot. Therefore, you can defend with a pretty wide range in that spot.
  2. Consider your opponent carefully. Playing in regular cash games gives you a chance to get familiar with the opposition. If you know who you’re up against, you can adjust your strategy more effectively. For instance, if you know the Button is a maniac, you can defend your Big Blind much more widely.
  3. Think about the sizing. In cash games, you’ll experience much more variation in pre-flop bet sizing. Your pot odds will change much more than when playing in a tournament, so you should be prepared to adjust your defending range accordingly. 

Now that you know how to defend your Big Blind when you are short-stacked and how to adjust your Big Blind defense strategies accordingly, it’s time to put that into practice.

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