Playing the big blind is expensive. It costs you 100bb/100 hands and is unfortunately a part of poker that we must all live with. However, there are steps you can take to increase your win rate from the big blind, and being able to do so will give you a significant advantage over your opponents.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what the big blind is and how you should be playing hands in the big blind to maximise your win rate.
What is the Big Blind in Poker?
In poker, the big blind is one of the two forced bets that each player pays once an orbit. The two players seated to the left of the dealer, or button, must post the blinds at the beginning of each hand.
The player to the left of the button posts the small blind, and the player two positions to the left of the button posts the big blind. As the name implies, these minimum bets are placed before the cards are dealt, making them “blind”. These are the only two players who are required to post a blind bet at the start of the hand.
When the hand is over, the button moves one position to the left, and the next two players post the small and big blinds.
Why Does the Big Blind Exist in Poker Games?
Having blinds in play creates action, as players are forced to play more aggressively or get blinded down. If there were no blinds, there would be no incentive to play a hand other than AA, as there is no punishment for folding every other hand.
With blinds in play, players have to pay 1.5bb every 6/9 hands depending on the format, which means they’ll have to pay, on average, 37/55bb before they get dealt aces.
Is the Big Blind a Good Position?
The big blind is not a good position to be in at the poker table. In fact, it could be argued that the big blind is the worst position on the table, as your starting win rate is -100bb/100 hands. Compare this to UTG, which has a starting win rate of 0bb/100 hands, and you can see why being in the big blind is such a disadvantage.
Many people seem to think that being in the big blind is not that bad, as you get a discount to call preflop raises. What those people don’t understand is just how terrible your win rate is from the big blind, and that if you were forced to play the big blind every hand, you’d never be a winning poker player.
While it’s impossible to have a positive win rate playing from the big blind, there are things you can do to increase your win rate above the abysmal -100bb/100.
How Should You Play From The Big Blind?
Playing hands in the big blind is one of the trickiest things to do in poker. You’re getting a great price on a call preflop, so you feel compelled to call a wide range of hands, but you know that if you call a wide range of hands, you’ll leave yourself open to postflop aggression.
It’s a tough balancing act that very few players master, but we’re going to do our best to give you the key elements of playing preflop and postflop from the big blind.
As we mentioned above, playing preflop from the big blind can be tricky, especially when you’re dealt a marginal hand. Let’s take a look at how we should be playing preflop.
Call Less Often vs. Early Position
It’s a mistake that a lot of players make, but just because you’re getting a good price, it doesn’t mean you have to call all kinds of trash! It’s fine to fold hands from the big blind, especially when facing an early position raise.
These are the strongest ranges you’ll face, and you’ll find it hard to realise your equity postflop. Even if you flop marginally well, it’s going to be hard to hold on until the river, and you’ll end up losing significantly more postflop by folding to big turn or river bets.
Hands like weak offsuit Ax, offsuit Kx, Qx, and Jx hands like K8o or J7o should all be folded when facing an early position raise. These hands perform terribly against an early position raise, and realising your equity is going to be close to impossible. Save yourself the money and fold.
3bet Aggressively vs. Late Position
Conversely, if you’re facing a late position raise, you need to ramp up the aggression and 3bet much more often than you’re doing. You may think you’re 3betting enough from the big blind, but chances are you’re not.
Given the fantastic price, many players talk themselves into the passive option. However, this will cost you significantly in the long run, as you’re forcing yourself to play out of position without the betting lead. Most of the time you’re going to have to fold to postflop aggression or find yourself in a tricky turn situation after making a light float on the flop.
Late position openers are going to be attacking your big blind with a loose range, so attack them right back by 3betting aggressively with a wide range of value hands. Add in more pairs, such as 99, 88, and 77, as well as suited broadway hands and even some suited connectors.
You’ll find yourself winning the pot preflop a good portion of the time, and even if you don’t, you have the betting lead going into postflop play.
Navigating postflop play from the big blind can also be tricky, given the wide range of hands that you’ll be calling with. Calling preflop just to check/fold the flop when you miss seems too weak, but check/raising with air into an uncapped range is frightening!
To help you out, we’ve got a couple of helpful tips that should improve your postflop big blind play.
Check-Raise More Often - Far too many players at lower stakes are blindly c-betting their whole range these days, leaving them open to a check/raise bluff. If you have any marginal connection to the flop, and you think your opponent is c-betting too often, throw in a check-raise and barrel on turns that improve your equity. You’ll be shocked how often you win without getting to showdown.
Float With A Wider Range Of Hands - When you have such a wide range going into the flop, you need to make sure you’re not folding too often vs. aggression. If you only continue when you make a pair or a strong draw, you’re going to be folding far too much. You need to float with hands such as gutshots and over cards with backdoor flush draws. These hands have more equity than you think and floating them will protect you from overfolding vs aggression.
Read about: How to Play After A Check Raise Bluff
The big blind is an incredibly tough position to play in both cash games and poker tournaments. You start out with the worst win rate on the table, and you’re forced to play out of position in almost every postflop situation. However, by following the tips we’ve laid out, you should be able to improve your win rate from the big blind, and therefore, your overall win rate in your games.