Losing too much in the blinds is a leak many of us have. Listen to this podcast to discover how to fix this leak and exploit it in others.
In case you missed it, in episode 37 where I answered some listener Q’s about online poker in the US, my podcast format and my SNG opening ranges.
Leak Plugging: Losing Too Much in the Blinds | #38
My mission for today is to teach you how to gauge whether you’re losing too much while playing in the blinds and how you can go about plugging this leak and exploiting it in others.
This leak came via email from Dennis:
Okay, I think my biggest leak is my play in the blinds. I consistently limp/call instead of raising or three betting. Keep up the good work, I’m loving this project of yours. I’m also curious if you are interested in starting a study group? I have no one other than my coach to communicate directly with about poker, and that can be expensive! If you aren’t interested, maybe some of your listeners are?
I’ll answer the easy part first: to create or join a study group with other SPS Podcast listeners, I’d like for you to join the SPS Podcast Facebook Group Page. We don’t have too much going on there yet, but I’d love to see the FB page grow and be a place where poker players like yourself can meet, exchange ideas and develop friendships. So please visit is, join the group and just start posting there to start making poker pals. I will respond to every post, and as it grows others will respond as well.
On to the leak of losing too much in the blinds.
Let’s start this off with a sobering reality: No matter what, you’re going to lose money in the blinds. You’re OOP when you choose to play, and you give up your blinds when you’re forced to throw away a ton of junk hands. Those two things combined make for auto-losing in the blinds in the long-run. Your job is to lose as little as possible.
I would describe this leak as what happens when a player in the blinds defends with very wide and weak ranges. They view the blind as their money, and something worth fighting for even with J4s to a raise from a tight player. Players also get into the habit of 3bet bluffing too much and giving up too easily post-flop b/c they’re OOP. Also, when defending they often don’t consider their opp’s post-flop tendencies or the fact that being the 5th caller in the BB makes it difficult to win as they have to rely on hitting the flop hard as they’re OOP vs multiple opp’s and trying to bluff in this situation is for the most part a terrible idea.
How to spot this leak
There are three ways that I use to spot this leak:
- Looking at your BB/100 hands win rate
Within every poker tracking software there’s a stat for the # of BB’s won or lost per 100 hands. You can view this by position and see what you’re losing in the SB and the BB.
If you fold every BB, your win rate for every 100 hands in the BB would be -100BB’s/100 hands. If you folded every SB, your win rate would be -50BB’s/100 hands. The closer you are to 0, and the further away from these two numbers you are the better your blind play is. Make sure you’re looking at this over a large sample, though. Anybody’s BB win rate could be + in the short term, but always negative over the long term.
There’s not some perfect BB/100 win rate number. Just find what yours is and work on improving it.
I’d love to see your SB win rate at -15BB/100 and your BB win rate at -30BB/100. Over the past 60K hands, I’m at -14BB/100 in the SB and -35BB/100 in the BB. This is like not paying my SB 72% of the time and not paying my BB 65% of the time.
- Viewing the hands you choose to defend with
Hopefully you’ve got a range you play from the blinds and you’re sticking to it. But if not, look at the last few sessions you played and filter hands played (VPIP’ed) by position. Review the hand strength of all hands played in the SB where you called or re-raised, and in the BB where you put in more money to call or re-raised. Do you spot some questionable hands? Are you calling w/T6s and Q3s in spots where it’s very difficult to win with these hands? Are you just flatting instead of 3betting hands like 99-JJ or AQ vs a loose pre-flop raiser likely on a steal?
By looking at the hands you’ve chosen to play and the way in which you chose to play them, you’ll get a sense of whether you’re making mistakes or not.
- Viewing big losing pots in the blinds
While you’ve filtered for hands played in the blinds, sort this by the amount of $ or chips lost in the blinds. Check out the biggest pots from 10bb+. Are there any common characteristics to these hands? Was it specific opp’s you were fighting back against, or not giving up post-flop with draws, or paying off TPWK on every street? Look for patterns to figure out where you’re paying off your opp’s so you can begin to save yourself some valuable bb’s and get closer to 0.
Major steps to fixing this leak (I suggest doing these in order to improve your blind play)
- Know your current BB/100 win rate. This is your benchmark, and now your goal is to simply improve on this number, getting closer to 0. Just being more aware of this number and tracking its decline will give you incentive to improve it.
- View the blinds as dead money, not your money. Don’t get all revengy and feel that you’ve got to defend the blinds against all who would try to steal it. If the situation isn’t good to defend, don’t do it.
- Actively choose who you’re playing against when you click call or raise in the blinds. When you’re first to act, you can’t choose who plays against you. But when there’s an open and you decide to call or 3bet, you’re doing so out of position and purposefully against this player. Know who you’re up against and what their post-flop tendencies are. You’re choosing to call this guy or 3bet him pre, but before doing so know what to expect on most flops. If his cbet is 80%, you know he’s firing on the flop almost every time you check. If you’ve got value, you can c/c then donk the turn. If you’ve got a draw just c/c if the price is right, or c/r as a semi-bluff. If he’s super flop honest, great, just check and if he checks-behind, fire every turn. There are lots of ways to exploit your opp’s post-flop tendencies from the blinds.
- Create your own calling and 3betting ranges from the blinds before you hit the tables next. If you need some help in doing this, podcast #22 where I discussed ranges in regards to Ed Miller’s book ‘The Course’ might help you out. I also suggest hitting my ‘Poker Ranges Creation’ article. And if this is the first time ever making a calling and 3betting range, once created don’t vary it at all during your session. You’ll be tempted to against certain opp’s or when you see that lovely Q8s that’s just outside of the calling range you established, but just don’t do it (at least for now). Stick with your ranges and assess the hands you played and folded after your session. Was that KTs a good hand to play? Would T8s work better against your most common openers? Are there hands you folded that you would like to have called and should you consider adding these to your ranges. Once you get familiar with these ranges you created, then you can start making on-the-fly adjustments as you play based on the situation.
- My own standard calling range in the blinds is any 22-99 (with good implied odds for set mining), all suited broadways and sc down to 98s. I’ll also call AQo/AKo
- My standard 3betting range is TT+, AQs/AKs. I also have a 3bet bluffing hand or two that I always throw in. Right now it’s A6s and A5s.
- If I’m opening the SB I’ll never OL, but I’ll open the entire calling and 3betting range just mentioned against most opp’s. I might widen it for super foldy guys, and tighten it against stations who call anything.
- Now, of course all of this varies by opp and their post-flop stats. I’ll expand or contract these ranges as I see fit, but I’m more than happy sticky 100% to these ranges.
- I already mentioned going through and filtering for hands played in the blinds, but it would be a good idea to do this for one hour per day for the upcoming week. Look for the hand strength you chose, the opp’s you chose to play against, how likely you were to make money in each situation, and any mistakes made. One hour per day focus will make you a much better blind player.
- Play FOCUS Sessions where you’re intent on working on your blind game. Test your re-raises and calling ranges, test pre-flop resteal spots, test your post-flop play when HU and multi-way, and record game tape to review later. There are so many different plays you can test when defending your blinds. I won’t go into any of them here, but here’s a list you can Google to learn more (someday I’ll create a podcast on each of these plays):
- Light Three-Bet
- OOP Floating the Flop
- Donk Betting and barrel bluffing
- Semi-Bluff w/equity
- The Stop and Go
- The Squeeze Play
- The Check-Raise
How to exploit the leak in others
There are some guys that are just too tight in the blinds. Target these guys with lots of raises pre with hands that have some potential like suited cards and connectors. Don’t go overboard and steal with the good old 92o.
The perfect players to target in the blinds are those that call wide and fold to most flop and turn cbets. The kinds I’m talking about are the ones that call from the blinds 30% of the time or more, and fold to cbet is like 70%+. These guys play weak ranges which can’t stand up to a lot of pressure post-flop. Target them with cbets and if they fight back you can easily ditch the hand. Folding is a way to exploit their uncharacteristic aggression. If a guy folds a lot, but is suddenly calling and raising then you know he’s strong and you can fold now and not pay him off any more $$$.
If you’re up against an aggressive c/r in the blinds, you need to put them on a range and assess whether the flop hit them. If they’re defending your steal with say 150 different hands, and only 20 of those hands have a good reason to c/r, that’s only like 13% of hands. If he’s c/r like 25% of the time, then it’s likely he’s just trying to push you off. You can call or rr as you see fit to fight his aggression. Plus, against this guy you can cbet for value, call his raise, and b/c you’re IP you won’t let a street go by without a big bet going in.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Figure out your BB win rate in both blind positions and work on improving this for one week by hitting each of the 6 steps above. Choose your cards, opponents and situations carefully when you choose to defend, and test out the different plays I mention. I’d love to hear what your BB/100 win rate was before and after your weak of focused study and play.