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Small Blind in Poker: A Key Element of the Game Explained

Jordan C

Jul 12, 2023

Small Blind in Poker

There are two blind positions in Texas Hold’em. One is called the Big Blind, and the other is the Small Blind. Just like the big blind, paying the small blind is an expensive thing to do in poker. Not only are you guaranteed to be out of position, but you’re forced to play 0.5bb for the privilege! It’s no wonder so many people don’t like playing from the small blind.

If this sounds like you; don’t panic! We’re here to help you understand the small blind and give you some tips to help you play it more effectively.

What is the Small Blind in Poker Games?

The small blind is one of the two forced bets that each player pays once per orbit. The two players to the left of the button must post these blinds before the cards are dealt.

The player to the direct left of the dealer is the player who posts the small blind, and the player to the left of the small blind must post the big blind. These bets must be placed before any hole cards are dealt, hence why they’re called “blinds”.

Once the hand has finished, the button will move to the player who was previously the small blind, and the two players to their left will post the small and big blinds.

Why Does the Small Blind Exist?

If no one likes playing from the small blind, you may be wondering why it exists at all. Well, having blinds in play creates action at the table, as they offer an incentive to play hands. If you played in a game with no blinds, there would be no punishment for sitting and waiting for aces. However, if you don’t play any hands when there are blinds in play, your stack will quickly be whittled down to dust.

Is the Small Blind a Good Position?

Some beginner players like playing from the small blind as it gives them a discount on calling preflop raises. After all, you’ve already got half a big blind in there, what’s a couple more to see a flop? This is a dangerous mindset to be in; it’s not considered an advantage to have to post chips without seeing your hand!

You have to post a minimum bet of 0.5bb every time you’re in the small blind, which means your base win rate if you folded every hand would be -50bb/100 hands. Compare this to almost any other position at the table, where your base win rate is 0bb/100 hands, and you can see just how bad things are.

The discount you’re getting from calling in the small blind is not as good as the big blind, and you’re not closing the action so there’s a chance you could be squeezed out by the big blind. Plus, you’re also guaranteed to be out of position postflop, putting you at even more of a disadvantage! 

While you should never expect to have a positive win rate in the small blind, there are ways of increasing your win rate above the dismal -50bb/100 hand baseline.

How Should You Play From The Small Blind?

Along with the big blind, many people believe that playing hands from the small blind is one of the trickiest things to do. Some players are tempted by the discount that the small blind offers, whereas others overfold because they don’t want to be out of position postflop - it’s a minefield!

However, we’re here to give you some helpful tips that should see that small blind win rate increase.

Preflop

Playing preflop from the small blind is tricky, but there are steps you can take to simplify your strategy and increase your win rate.

Don’t Call In Cash Games

Calling from the small blind in a cash game is a fast way to lose a lot of money. There are a number of factors that make it particularly bad in cash games compared to tournaments, so let’s take a look at what those are.

  • Reduced Discount - You’re not getting that much of a discount so you have to pay basically the whole raise amount. This means you’re not getting a very good price on a call, so you have to win the hand more often to be profitable.

  • OOP Postflop - You’re guaranteed to be out of position postflop without the betting lead, making it harder to win the hand.

  • Rake - Any pot you win will be raked, decreasing the amount you win when you finally do win a hand, making calling an even worse value proposition. This is heightened at lower stakes, where the rake is significantly higher.

In poker tournaments, there are often antes in play, which means that the player from the small blind is getting a better price on their call than a player in a cash game. Plus, rake is not a factor in tournaments, so it will have no impact on a small blind win rate. 

Due to these factors, many players decide to play a 3bet or fold strategy from the small blind to increase their chances of winning when they do play a hand.

3bet Aggressively

If you decide to adopt a 3bet or fold strategy from the small blind, you must 3bet aggressively. You cannot afford to play tight and bleed chips; you need to fight back often and put your opponents under pressure.

However, this doesn’t mean you should be 3betting every position with a super wide range of hands; you still need to play smart. This means you should be 3betting a tighter range against early position opens and a wider range against late position opens.

Late position opens are going to be your main target - players in these positions will raise a wide range of hands, so 3betting them aggressively is going to result in a lot of pots won preflop. Even if you don’t win preflop, you’ll have the betting lead going into the postflop betting streets, giving you a great chance to win the hand.

Read: 3-Bet in Poker: What and How to Use It? 

Postflop

Another advantage to using a 3bet or fold strategy is that it puts you in a more powerful position postflop. If you call preflop, you’re putting yourself in a position where you’re forced to check/fold the majority of the time, which is not good for your win rate!

Here are a couple of tips that will help you with your postflop play when using a 3bet or fold strategy.

  • Follow Through With Aggression - Just because your preflop 3bet didn’t work, it doesn’t mean that you should just give up and surrender the pot. You’re going to have the perceived range advantage on most boards, so use that to your advantage by keeping up your aggression postflop. You’ll find yourself winning a lot of hands with a postflop c-bet, so make sure you follow through with your aggression on the flop.

  • Know Which Boards To Slow Down On - However, that doesn’t mean you should just c-bet every board indiscriminately. You should learn to recognise which boards are better for your opponent’s perceived range and which boards are better for your range. On the boards that are better for your opponent, there’s nothing wrong with slowing down, as a c-bet will likely be met with resistance. A bet saved is a bet earned, after all!

Summary

Playing hands from the small blind is one of the hardest things to do in poker. You’re fighting an uphill battle from the start, and you’re guaranteed to be out of position postflop, making it even harder to win any hand you play. However, with our helpful tips, you should be able to make better decisions when playing from the small blind and hopefully increase your win rate!