Playing out of the Small Blind is probably the hardest thing to do at the poker table. For a start, you’re always out of position. And you obviously have to put money into the middle without even seeing your cards. This often makes you feel obliged to play weaker hands, so it’s very easy to bleed chips. In this guide to playing from the Small Blind, we’ll offer up our top tips to improve your game.

A large stack of red poker chips sits between two smaller piles of blue and white chips.
Playing from the Small Blind is extremely tricky. Here’s how to minimise your losses.

What Is the Small Blind?

In a game of Texas Hold’em, two players are forced to pay chips into the pot without seeing their cards. This is in order to generate action, ensuring there’s always something to play for in every pot. Whoever is immediate to the left of the button pays the smaller of the two forced bets. This is called the Small Blind. The player to the left of the Small Blind will have to fork out a larger amount, known as the Big Blind.

Tips for Playing From the Small Blind

Okay. Now that you know what we mean by the Small Blind, let’s crack on with our top tips on how to play from that position.

The Small Blind Is Not the Big Blind

First up, it’s important to understand that not all blinds are created equally. Just because you have some money invested in the pot already, it’s not an excuse to call every raise. You should defend your Big Blind far more often than your Small Blind.

There are so many problems with calling a preflop raise from the Small Blind. First off, your action doesn’t close off the betting. So you’re always vulnerable to a squeeze from the Big Blind behind you. When you do take a flop, you’re out of position on every street, so you’re more likely to make mistakes and give up chips.

Finally, you’re not likely to make it to the river and so your hand won’t realize its equity very often. It’s better to just give the blind up most of the time, so as not to be drawn into any bloody battles.

3-bet or fold

This doesn’t really apply to tournaments, where chips are at more of a premium. In cash games, however, if you are happy to call a raise, you should be looking to 3-bet instead. For the reasons mentioned in the above point, you don’t want to be calling too often from the Small Blind. But if your hand really is worth continuing with, then it should be worth a raise rather than a call.

Firstly, raising reduces the chance of the Big Blind squeezing behind you, as well as thinning out the field generally. At post-flop, the initiative lies with you. This negates some of the positional disadvantages since, on the flop, the action is usually checked to the preflop aggressor.  

Steal Blinds

If the preflop action folds to you, you must look to pick up the blinds as often as you can. This rings true anyway, whether on the button or in the cut-off. But if it folds around to you in the Small Blind, you only have one other player to get through. Raise with an extremely wide range to try and get that dead money.

Less experienced players tend to fold too often in that spot, so you may get a steal through more often than you might expect. Look to raise with as many as 50% of your starting hands.

Adapt to the Big Blind

Having just said that you should look to steal often, don’t forget to pay attention to each player at the table. If the Big Blind is one of those skillful, tricky players, then obviously you need to adapt accordingly.

Always be mindful of who is sitting in the Big Blind. If you’re up against a tight player who is a complete nit, you won’t need to worry. In fact, you can probably raise with more than 50% of your hands in that spot. However, if it’s a maniac who loves a 4-bet, you’ll need to tighten up your raising range.

Don’t be the first to bet the flop

It’s almost taken for granted in modern poker that players will check to whoever showed the preflop aggression. So when someone randomly stabs on the flop out of position having called a preflop raise, it just looks odd.

Even if everyone limped preflop, whoever open-limped must have a stronger hand than those coming afterward, in theory. After all, when the pot is bigger and there are fewer players to act behind you, it’s easier to justify getting involved.

This line doesn’t make any sense and observant players will pick you off. Therefore, don’t just stab at a pot on the flop when first to act. Even if you connected with the board, you’re better off checking to protect the other hands in your range.


So to quickly recap, here are our top five tips for playing from the Small Blind:

  • The Small Blind is not the same as the Big Blind, so don’t defend them the same way
  • 3-bet or fold (in cash games) – no preflop calling
  • Don’t pass up the chance to steal when it folds around to you
  • Adapt to the Big Blind
  • Don’t be the first to bet the flop

Now that you have learned our tips on this, why not sign up for a free account with Natural8 and practice the arts of defending your chips from the Small Blind?