Concept of the Week #4: Blind Stealing
Blind stealing is a topic very close to my heart, being the LAGtard nitbox that I am… so here’s my advice on blind steals. I’m going to focus on stealing rather than defending and restealing, since I play pretty terribly from the blinds, but I also think that (especially for new players), working on stealing is going to be much easier and much more profitable than blind defence.
So what is blind stealing?
Blind stealing is making a preflop raise (usually from late position), in an unopened pot, to attempt to win the blinds. Hold’em Manager calculates this stat based on CO, BTN and SB raises in unopened pots, although you can still steal from other positions, depending on table dynamics.
Why should I steal blinds?
It’s only 1.5BBs, why should I get involved? Because 1.5BBs is a LOT OF ****ING MONEY!!!
For performing a single blind steal, you can win 1.5BBs (a successful steal equates to 75PTBB/100 which is a silly amount). Of course it won’t work every time (nor should you steal at every single opportunity), but even when the blinds defend, you still get to play a pot postflop with:
– Position (this is huge) – Initiative
– Postflop value
So you can often take down an even bigger pot on the flop with a cbet (more on that later).
Stealing adds a TON to your bottom line.
Know your blinds
It helps a lot to know who the blinds are. Useful things to know (most of these should be pretty obvious) are:
– 3bet% (in particular, 3bet% from the blinds or 3bet% facing a steal)
– Fold to cbet%
– Additional history
VPIP tells us how loose the blinds are in general. This should be our main indicator of whether we can profitably steal in a given situation.
Obviously if the blinds are really loose, we can’t expect our steal to take it down as often preflop. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t steal from loose players: we steal with a different range which we can play very profitably, in position, postflop. Instead of bluffing or semi-bluffing with our steal, we are actually value-raising.
On the other hand if we have two nits in the blinds we can steal with a huge range.
3bet% tells us how often we’re going to get… 3bet (duh). If either of the blinds tend to resteal a lot, it’s probably time to tighten up your stealing range. That’s the easiest way to adjust to this – however, you can also adjust by 4betting light, or by widening your value 4betting range (intending to call a shove ofc, please don’t turn value hands into bluffs intending to 4b/f) if they are aggro enough to bluff shove over your 4bet. But at micros, this normally isn’t a huge consideration.
I ought to say something on that note, about “stealing” with a huge hand. Suppose we are on the button with AA, and we have a fairly aggro reg in the SB, who 3bets 8% facing a steal, over a decent sample. We have a bit of history, and he’s 3bet our steals a few times. We’ve 4bet his resteal with A4s once, and he snap-folded. So now we raise and he 3bets. What should we do?
Well, 4betting is bad. I know a lot of you are stuck in auto- 4bet-get-it-in mode, but this is a spot where we should be flatting. His 3bet range here is really wide, and he’s not prone to shoving over 4bets. Of course he’s getting it in with QQ+ and AK here, but 4betting is also folding out a ton of worse hands which we want to keep in the pot. We have position and can play the hand much more profitably postflop than preflop. We can induce huge mistakes postflop, whereas by 4betting preflop we allow him to play much closer to optimally. Range manipulation ftw. Here’s an example to illustrate:
Poker Stars $0.25/$0.50 No Limit Hold’em – 8 players
The Official 2+2 Hand Converter Powered By DeucesCracked. com
Hero (CO): $49.75
Squeezer was a reg called xxricecookaxx (fwiw it was very satisfying to stack him since he owns my soul and has a baby avatar ) and SB was a fish who we want to keep in the pot. Even without the fish it’s probably a good idea to flat here.
Fold to cbet% tells us how often we can steal and cbet flop when we get called. This is especially useful against loose players. Suppose there’s an 89/0 fish in the blinds, who shuts down a ton postflop when he misses, and has a ftcb of 79%. We have XX. Even though he’s incredibly loose preflop, he’s c/f’ing so often postflop that this is a profitable steal spot. We can fire out a 1/2 pot (or even less) cbet and take down a decent sized pot on the flop.
Similarly there are some regs who flat almost exclusively with PPs when facing a steal, and they’re going to setmine (against your huge range, which isn’t paying them off anyway) and fold 80% of flops when they brick. Steal away.
Like I mentioned, against weak-tight (or weak-loose) players your cbet doesn’t have to be huge. Depending on board texture and opponent you can make your cbet as little as 1/3 to 1/2 pot.
Additional history is so situational that I can’t really go into much detail about it. However, I will say that some regs do exceedingly stupid things when in BB vs BTN or BvB situations. I’ve seen a lot of this (as Goldseraph calls it) “reg spite syndrome” at 50NL, and you should adjust accordingly. If you’ve seen that someone is going to be making moves more often postflop and getting it in lighter, you should be willing to either tighten up your steal ranges or to get it in lighter postflop to counteract their wider ranges. Figure out when they’re spewing and take advantage.
Know your button
Obviously this only applies if you’re in the CO (or HJ), but you need to consider the people to act behind you. This is pretty similar to the last section, except arguably more important, since they have position on you.
There are also some people who are serial 3betters/squeezers in position. They are going to pick up on the fact that your range is so much wider in steal positions, and they will 3bet yo ass. If you sit down at a table and see greg on your left and you don’t have a hot Asian girl as your avatar, there are probably better tables to sit at.
Similarly you should be one of those annoying 3betters yourself, and own lots of people stealing and isoing from the CO and HJ when you have the button. In position = In power.
What should I steal with?
Late position play is such a personal preference thing, and so situational, that I’m not going to construct exact ranges for you. If you are uncomfortable stealing with 95s, or if you suck direly postflop, then don’t steal with it, that’s fine. However, I will give some general guidelines:
– Play really loose from the BTN. Abuse it. Play loose from the CO. Play tighter from the HJ. Hijack is getting towards middle position, and having two players to act behind you makes stealing a lot trickier.
– Pick hands that play well postflop. This includes suited connectors, suited gappers, pocket pairs, suited broadways, strong offsuit broadways, suited aces… basically if something is s00ted you can’t go too far wrong. If you’re uncomfortable playing offsuit aces like A2o-A9o I suggest you avoid them. Personally I still steal with them.
– Against tight players, open up your steal range. Personally I steal with ATC against a lot of players. But stealing with 40% of hands from the button against tight blinds is still pretty respectable. Just see how much you can get away with (you’d be surprised). People just don’t adjust anywhere near as much as you would expect. Ball till you fall.
– Against loose players, particularly ones who don’t like folding postflop, I’d avoid hands which have little top pair/middle pair potential, such as 75s. Because you’re going to be seeing a lot more showdowns, you’re going to be relying on equity and playability rather than fold equity. Weight your range towards hands that can flop decently with a high frequency. Against loose-aggressive blinds, you should tighten up your steal range (or just leave the table). However, against a loose-passive fish, you can play hands like K8o and Q9o profitably, since you will flop top or middle pair pretty often, and you can get a couple of streets of value out of them. Domination just isn’t as much of an issue against someone who is playing 60% of their hands.
Also, against these kinda players, if you do happen to flop a decent (but not strong) draw, you can also check back the flop a lot and take a free card. 4 cards for the price of 3.
So… here is something which for me is a big factor in blind stealing. When you steal a lot, it’s a good idea to make your bet sizing a bit smaller. It gives you a better price on your steals. Split’s probably done this already in his bet sizing post, but let’s quickly run through the math behind this:
Assuming our hand has zero postflop value (which it doesn’t, of course):
– If we open to 4BB, we risk 4 to win 1.5, so we need our steal to work 73% of the time.
– If we open to 3.5BB, we risk 3.5 to win 1.5, so we need our steal to work 70% of the time.
– If we open to 3BB, we risk 3 to win 1.5, so we need our steal to work 67% of the time.
– If we open to 2.5BB, we risk 2.5 to win 1.5, so we need our steal to work 63% of the time.
– If we open to 2BB, we risk 2 to win 1.5, so we need our steal to work 57% of the time.
Personally, my steal from the BTN is a minraise. HappyPixel, you big donkey!
But it only has to work 57% of the time to make it profitable in its own right, and that’s ignoring postflop value, which is huge (since we have equity, position and initiative). And my steal success rate has only dropped by a small amount from when I used to make it 3BB (less than the 10% needed to make minraising less profitable).
Another reason for making our steals smaller is that we have position. So we want the SPR (stack-to-pot ratio) to be higher, since we can leverage our position more effectively postflop. A smaller raise size accomplishes this.
OK, so you may think minraising is gross, and I agree it’s not for everyone. But if you’re making it 4x from all positions, I strongly recommend that you try opening to 3x from late position. It makes a big difference in the long run.
Also, a quick note about exploitative bet sizing: against unknowns and unobservant fish, you can open larger with your better hands, since they don’t know or don’t care what your standard late position open is. Flex your bet sizing (to reassert your dominance).
Stealing from the blinds
You can steal from the SB when it’s folded to you. However, you should generally do so with a tighter range since you are out of position. But with only one player left to act, you can still steal with a pretty wide range (ATC if they are a nit).
And if someone open-limps the SB when you’re in the BB, that is your blind. Collect it. Their range is really weak, so just make a decent-sized raise and take it down. If that fails, you still have all the postflop advantages I’ve already mentioned.
You can also “steal” limps… I won’t go into that, but there are some interesting articles on that here:
– In position: here (by Dan Bitel)
– From the blinds: here (by MT2R)
Pay attention to stack sizes. If you’re deep with one of the blinds, you can steal liberally (especially with suited cards). You have higher implied odds and it’s a nightmare for your opponent to play OOP while deep.
Versus shorter players, you can tighten up if they’re a push-or- fold shortstack, or open lots of high-card kinda hands like Q9o if they’re loose. Then flop TP and get it in. Profit! Also, against shortstacks you can make smaller steals, or if you’re in the blinds vs a shortstack you can just do this:
Poker Stars $0.25/$0.50 No Limit Hold’em – 8 players
The Official 2+2 Hand Converter Powered By DeucesCracked. com
Hero (BB): $58.35
UTG: $52.05 UTG+1: $10.00 MP1: $50.00 MP2: $10.85 CO: $69.25 BTN: $50.95 SB: $4.85
That’s just about everything I can think of about blind stealing, so if anyone has something to add, please comment!
Happy stealing and in before tl;dr. Oh, and stay off Digger’s blinds, ldo.