Fixed Limit: The Big Blind
How best to handle our Big Blind (BB) is always tricky, regardless of the format we’re playing, although some games are easier than others. In the case of a No Limit (NL) cash game, for example, the pre-flop raise can be big enough to make folding an easy decision, but in Fixed Limit (FL) the betting cap means that subsequent pot odds are more significant in the BB. Consequently calling with non-premium hands can offer decent value. The trick in making the best of this awkward position is to be on the lookout for opportunities to turn our BB situation around to our advantage.
While I advocate getting used to folding what tend to end up as lost causes, it helps to recognise, for instance, the NL-style Button raisers so that we can try to turn the tables on them by calling and then putting them under pressure on the flop.
Incidentally we often read about ‘defending’ the blinds and so on but, from a psychological perspective, I think it’s preferable to approach this kind of situation, when faced in the BB with a pre-flop raise from the Button (and nobody else left in the hand), to see a call itself as an act of aggression. The point is not to be passive but to assume the initiative. And remember that taking such a stand costs us little.
Let’s say we are in the BB on a €0.20/0.40 short-handed FL table. It’s folded round to the Button, who seems to be have been making more than his fair share of raises, and does so again; the SB folds. The pot now stands at €0.70 (3.5 ‘small bets’), and we need to invest only one more small bet of €0.20 to see the flop. Thus we are getting odds of 3.5/1 to lock horns with the raiser. Notice that our actual starting hand is not a critical factor here, rather the attractive odds and the dynamics of the scenario.
Against this type of player – whose primary aim is to steal the blinds without a fight – we are simply looking for the kind of flop that misses even a generous raising range of starting hands, so something like 2c, 5d, 7h is ideal and ripe for the taking. As far as a Button holding Ac, Ts is concerned, not only is this a useless flop, but of course we could have gone along for a cheap ride with anything. Apart from the fact that our random holding could well have connected here we might anyway have been calling with a better hand than AT.
As long as we have a solid table image we are in a perfect position to take the pot now with a decent sized bet, while there is also the more adventurous option of a check-raise (but remember checking offers a free card). Essentially we are using the psychology of the situation (based on what we have observed about this player thus far, as well as our perceived table image) to transform a random BB pre-flop call into a steal by – in this case – representing mediocre hole cards when the rags flop misses the raiser.
As with many things in life, this kind of play should be used selectively and not habitually, but it is the richness of poker that enables us to maximise profitable situations from the collective employment of such luxuries. As usual, experience helps, so don’t automatically call in the BB, but don’t automatically fold, either.
Good luck at the 32Red Poker tables!