A GUIDE TO THE 25-50 BLIND LEVEL PART 1: BASIC PLAY

This is the first of a four part series on how to play in the 25-50 level of Heads Up Sit N‟ Gos. In the first article you will learn some of the differences that separate the 25-50 level from the earlier blind levels.

For clarity‟s sake, these articles will mainly apply to situations you face in the 25-50 level, regardless of the stack sizes in other levels of play.

For example, there is one key difference between being 25bb deep in the 25-50 level and being 25bb deep in the 10-20 level: How your opponent is going to play. Most opponents are going to play very differently in these two cases even though they should play nearly identical in both. For this main reason I want to focus on situations that come up in the 25-50 level.

When identifying the basic differences between this level and previous levels, you will notice the effective stack sizes are generally 15-30 big blinds at the start of the 25-50 level. At the earlier levels you are usually deeper stacked and have more room to “maneuver” with bets and raises. At the 50-100 level most of your play is going to be shove or fold preflop with a little bit of exception. But in the 25-50 level of play you‟re often stuck in between. This often puts additional pressure on players and makes a lot of decisions unclear in their mind.

Another thing you should realize is that a mistake in this level is very costly. In the earlier levels of play you can make a mistake or two and lose 10-15% of your stack in doing so. In the 25-50 level you‟ll regularly see players lose 25-50% or more of their chips on one bad play here. Fortunately, if you pay attention to these articles and work hard to improve your game, your opponents will be making many more costly errors than you.

Let‟s take a look at preflop raising. A common mistake players make is committing too many chips into the pot preflop. As the blinds go up and the ratio to your stack sizes goes down, position starts to matter less. Common raise sizing when 20-30bb deep should be 2-2.5x the big blind, or 100-125 chips in this level. Under special circumstances a 3x raise may apply, but this is rare and unnecessary to go over in this article.

You will notice many players raising to 150-200 chips during this level with stack sizes of any amount. We will learn why this is usually bad and how to exploit it in the third article.

Now that you‟ve got a handle on preflop raise sizes, we can talk about the difference in preflop hand values. In the 25-50 level a lot of hands that were valuable to raise in previous levels will go down in value. Hands like suited connectors (56s, 78s) go down in value as the stack to blind ratio goes down. These are speculative hands and the main advantage of these speculative hands is the implied odds that you have with them. Your implied odds go down as the blind-stack ratio becomes smaller, meaning hands that make top pair are going to be going up in value while lower-card hands that need to make flushes, straights and two pair hands are going to go down in value.

So does this mean you should fold hands like 67s on the button when effective stacks are 20-25bb? Not necessarily. You have to be careful on overplaying them and committing too many chips to the pot in certain situations. We‟ll get into when you should minraise, limp and fold this type of hand in the next article.

We‟ve covered some of the preflop differences in this level, so let‟s get into some postflop play.

In one word, you postflop play in the 25-50 level should be “aggressive.”

As a whole, you want to be stabbing out at a lot of pots against most players in this level. Players generally respond to aggression by being very over aggressive in this level or by playing very weak. You should be able to identify which kind of player you are playing very early on in this level. Article 2 will go into greater detail about how to adjust accordingly to this.

Continuation-bets should rise in frequency, but not necessarily value. If anything, you can sometimes continuation bet as low as half pot in this level. This, of course, is player dependent. A 150 cbet into a 250 chip pot is probably the standard, or a 125 into a 200 pot.

You‟re also going to want to turn down your two barrel bluffing percentage. As the pot builds from preflop to the flop and then the turn, players will feel more pot committed when calling a street. The more bets they call the more of their stack is in the pot, therefore they will end up calling with a wider range of hands. There are still spots to bluff/semi-bluff, but it is generally harder and less frequent in this level.

Since we‟ve gone over the main facets of preflop and postflop play, let‟s put it all together and go over a couple of basic hand examples.

Reads on villain: Villain rarely folds preflop OOP. He will reraise his big hands preflop and raises a lot of limps. He has become more aggressive post flop as the game has gone on.

Hero (2100 chips)
Villain (900 chips)
Hero is in the small blind with (Kd7s)

K7o is a pretty strong hand 18 big blinds deep. Villain is calling a lot OOP and will reraise us with most, if not all of his premium hands preflop. Add in the fact that he raises limps aggressively and this hand is a clear raise preflop.

Hero raises to 100 chips. Villain calls. Flop Kh8d4d (Pot is 200)

Villain checks, Hero bets 125 chips, Villain raises to 800 and is all in.

Villain has been very aggressive postflop. If the effective stacks were deeper it would probably be incorrect to move forward in this hand because villain would be less aggressive, meaning the range of hands he would be raising would include more Kx hands that have us dominated and more two pair or three of a

kind hands. In this situation villain has shown more aggression as the stacks have become shallower compared to the blinds and the board has a clear flush draw out there. Villain may think his 8 is good here or may even be raising with some sort of gutshot straight draw. In this case we will call and feel confident that we are ahead of villain‟s range.

Hero calls 675 chips. Villain flips over 9d7d. Hero‟s pair holds and he wins the game.

This hand demonstrates the problem of calling OOP with too wide a range of hands when the blinds to stack-ratio is small. The hand also shows the difference in strength of hands in “short” stack to blind areas compared to situations in which we are deeper stacked.

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Reads: Villain has been pretty loose and aggressive in the early part of the match. He has seemed to slow down lately but is still raising often preflop. Hero has been card dead most of the game and has won very few pots. The pots hero has won have been medium-large sized pots.

Hero (1200 chips)
Villain (1800 chips)
Hero is in the BB with 5s2c.
Villain calls 50 chips. Hero checks. Flop KdTh4s

Here the flop has completely missed us. There are few draws on the board, a possible straight draw, but no flush draws. Villain has been raising often preflop so a lot of Kx and some Tx hands are not in his range. QJ is not likely in his range either. A lead bet here is good and should take down the pot very often.

Hero bets 70 chips. Villain folds.

If Villain had called here, we would give up on our hand and check/fold the turn and river almost all of the time. If villain had raised we would certainly fold.

The two hands above and the concepts described before them should give you a good idea of the key differences between the 25-50 play and the earlier levels of the game. The difference in starting hand values, preflop raises and controlled aggression are important to becoming a winning 25-50 player.

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