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Pre-flop Blind Defense | MED #4 Class 1 | Poker Podcast #110


Sky Matsuhashi

on December 9, 2016

I begin MED #4 on blind play with pre-flop blind defense.  I discuss the most important concepts to understand, and 4 pre-flop blind leaks.

Download and listen to this episode as you follow along below.


Making a Plan (3:45)

Blind Basics (6:25)

In the long run, you’ll be negative in profitability from the blinds.  This is because you’re forced to put money in the pot with a random hand.  And you can’t win or even play them all.

So, what kind of win rate should you shoot for?

  • If you folded every BB, your win rate would be -100bb/100 hands.
  • Folding every SB would make your win rate -50bb/100 hands.
  • Combined, this would make your BB and SB total win rate be -75bb/100 hands.  This is like saying you’re paying 100% of your blinds and it’s going to the other players at the table or the rake.
  • A good rate to target would be -30bb/100 in the blinds combined.  This is a 45bb/100 hands savings, which you can think of as not paying your blinds 60% of the time.

At 100NL, this would equate to a $45 savings in blind loss every 100 hands in the blinds.

If you’re an MTT player, you'll want to shoot for -35bb/100 hands or lower.

You’re in the blinds 22% of the time in FR games, and 34% of the time in 6-max games.  This is double any other single position.  So, because you spend extra time in these unprofitable positions, you’ve got to do whatever you can to minimize your losses here.

In poker, a penny saved is a penny earned, so any improvement you can make in the blinds goes directly to your bottom line.

It's even more important to defend your blinds in MTT's.  There’s an additional 1bb or so in every tourney pot after the antes kick-in, and you've got to fight for this.  Vs a 2.5 bb raise, you need to have 27% equity to defend the BB without the antes in place (and that’s your 1.5bb call divided by the total pot of 5.5bb’s).

With antes in place, that adds a full .9bb’s to fight for.  Now you’re calling 1.5bb’s to win a total pot of 6.4bb’s.  So, 1.5 / 6.4 = 23%.  You need only 23% to make the call.   Just to put that into perspective, you can call a pretty tight opening range of 10% with 72o!  Crazy how those antes make the pot big enough for you to call with such crappy hands.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not saying you should call with 72o just b/c the math is right.  You’ve got to think about how your hand can make money in this spot before you make your pre-flop play.

Pre-flop Blind Defense Ranges and Options (8:35)

Back in episodes 90, 91 and 94 I gave you my suggested pre-flop ranges (there was even a nice Pre-flop Ranges Infographic offered).

But, here are the ranges in the blinds:

pre-flop blind defense ranges

Before Folding

Of course you’re going to fold those crap hands that you never want to play: 82o, J4o and 32o.  Even when these have the requisite equity to over-limp into a 6-way pot, just don’t bother.  You’re just wasting your money on the off-chance you’ll strike the flop hard.

Stay tight especially when calling multi-way pots because you’ve got to hit super hard to make any money.  And even when you do hit, it’s hard to get paid off in multi-way pots.

You also want to fold hands that look pretty, but the spot is just ugly.  Let’s say UTG opened and 4 others called.  You look down to see KTo in the SB.  Do you want to call and go to a 6 or 7-way flop OOP with a hand that’s easily out kicked and beaten even when you flop TP?  No?  Good.

Before Calling

Most Common Situation: Vs an Open Raise

Before calling, we need to assess the situation and determine if we really want to get involved.  You're about to willing go post-flop and likely be OOP.

You want to ask yourself questions like:

  • Am I getting myself in a terrible spot?
  • Is this a profitable opportunity to make money?
  • Are we going to face difficult decisions?
  • Will our opponents make it tough to extract value, or maybe tough to bluff from OOP?
Vs EP Raises
  • We shouldn't call very often because EP openers have very strong ranges in general.  We're also likely to face lots of cbets from them. Calling OOP vs strong ranges is not a bread and butter situation.  This is key, ask yourself every time before you call OOP, “Am I getting myself into a terrible spot?”  We all know the 3 advantages; Card/Position/Skill.  Giving up any one is bad, and willingly calling OOP is doing just that.  So, you’d better have a good reason to do so.
  • Our calling range should be pretty small, hence the 9% range I recommend. We can call pp’s for set-mining as long as we’ve got 20x stacks behind.  Think about how likely you’ll get value out of the opp if you do catch your set.
  • We can also lose a lot when we call with hands with reverse implied odds.  These are hands that often win small pots (like A9o and KTo) but have the potential to lose big pots.
Vs Steals
  • You want to make most of your calls in the blinds vs aggressive stealers. These guys are getting in there with very wide ranges that you can get some value from, but they do have position on you.  So, your hand range should be generally stronger when OOP vs aggro players.
  • Broadways like AJ and KQ and KJ can get lots of value from the stealer’s wide range
  • You could consider calling even bigger hands like AK and AQ and big pp’s like TT+. These hands are much better than their opening range, so going post-flop can be very profitable.  Just make sure to play solid post-flop poker to get the most out of these hands.
  • It’s generally okay to play fit or fold on the flop when you’re OOP and calling a steal. You called for good reason pre-flop, but maybe the flop didn’t help you out.  Don’t throw good money at it.
  • When you hit the flop really strong and face a cbet, you generally don’t want to check-raise.  Check-raises look really strong to most players and gives them the opportunity to ditch their extremely wide bluff cbetting range.  Either lead out or check-call then get aggressive on the turn.
First to Act in the Small Blind
  • You don't want to open limp in the SB when it’s folded around to you. Most of the time the BB will come in for a raise because of your weak OOP limp, so just don’t do it.  Raise First In or Fold, don’t just call.
  • If you’re raising, make sure you know if it’s for value or a bluff. Knowing this will allow you to plan your response in case the BB 3bets you.
  • If you’re stealing, then it’s great if the BB is a nitty player or folds a lot to steals. Think about why you’re about to raise, and look for indications that your raise will achieve the desired results
  • Before opening, look at the Fold v Steal and Fold BB to SB Steal stats.  Your 3bb open steal has to work 63% of the time (2.5/4).
  • Look at their 3b vs Steal stat as well.
  • Post-flop play stats are important. If they fold a lot post-flop, this might sway you to steal pre-flop a little more often.
  • Remember, you’re possibly going post-flop OOP. Is this a good spot to risk that non-bread and butter situation occurring?  If you're not willing to go post-flop, don't open
  • Sizing: adjust based on opponent. 3x is my standard, but if you know they call 3bb’s a lot, then size it bigger to 3.5-4x.
  • If this BB is giving you particular trouble, then you should be changing tables. If it’s tough vs him in blind confrontations, it’ll be tough in CO v BTN, etc.

Every play in poker

Multi-way Limped Pots
  • The more people in the pot, the tighter you should be.
  • Think about the hand you’re dealt and what position you’ll be in post-flop and ask yourself, “How the heck can I make money here?”  If it’s worthy of a raise or a call for whatever reason, go ahead and make it.
  • I use a 7% range in the SB when I raise over limpers, but I use this judiciously based on the number and types of limpers. I want to stay out of trouble, so I’m looking to build the pot with stronger hands vs players that I’m comfortable playing OOP with.
  • You can raise a little more frequently vs one limper over many. You can consider it an isolation raise and take advantage of any post-flop weaknesses.
  • Sometimes your SB raises get called by the BB, or even 3bet. Plan for both of these before you make your play. If you’re surprised and don’t know how to react to an opp’s 3bet, then you didn’t give your raise enough thought in the first place.
  • If you hit the flop hard, bet strong to limit the players that see the turn and to charge those draws.
  • Consider the players who remain in the hand.  Open limpers are definitely not good players so you should try to extract the max value from them.  If you made a large flop bet and they called, keep up the large bets on the turn and river and hopefully this limpy station will pay you off.

Before Raising (24:30)

Value 3bets:
  • When value 3betting, we’ve got to be reasonably sure they’re continuing with worse by either calling or 4betting.
  • My standard 3bet sizing from the blinds, whether for value or as a bluff, is a bit over 3x. So I’ll often be making it 10 or 11bb’s.   You can adjust your sizing to try and gain some light 4betting from your opp’s.  If they’re LAGgy and are capable of re-restealing, then you might want to size it smaller to induce the 4bet.  You can then 5bet or time down and call to lull them into thinking you’ve got JJ-TT or AK.
  • If you’re not sure if your JJ or AK is a value hand against an opponent, then you can just flat instead and play post-flop with a great hand. Just be sensible and capable of ditching the hand if necessary.
  • Before you make any 3bet, you should be doing so for value or as a bluff, and you should know exactly what you’ll do vs a 4bet. If you get 4bet and find you don't know how to respond, then you didn’t give the 3bet enough thought.
  • It’s alright to call with KK+ especially if you think the opp won’t continue with worse. If they’ll fold all worse pairs and Ax hands to your 3bet, then don’t make the 3bet.  Call and go post-flop with your super strong hand.
Bluff Resteals:
  • When bluffing, our goal is to win the pot then and there. We don’t want calls.
  • Some of their stats really help:
    • High Attempt to Steal Stat (30%+)
    • High Fold vs Resteal (over 75% is killer)
    • High Fold vs 3bet After Raising (70%+)
  • Steer away from attacking good players from OOP.
  • Plan ahead for which openers to exploit from the blinds. If they're likely to fold, then your cards don’t matter as much.  Blockers are always good as they make it more likely they’ll fold.  But, if they fold a ton, like 80%+, then you can resteal with ATC.  If their fold % is lower, your hole cards and blockers are more important.
  • Sizing should be 3x-4x, somewhere in that range. Like I said before, 10-11bb’s is my common 3bet sizing.
  • Go with hands that are either big bluffs or just below your calling range. JTs is great for calling, so maybe pop it with J9s or J8s.

If they never fold, don't bluff!

Pre-flop Leaks in the Blinds (30:40)

Leak 1: SB Open-limping Too Often

Under Actions and Opportunities Pre-flop, filter for Posted SB and Limped First In

  • If your BB/100 win rate is an ugly negative number, then you’ve got a problem. Go through the hands and look at the various strengths.  Sort them by amount won or lost as well.  Review the hands that stick out to you and figure out what you’re doing wrong.  Remember, you should be raising instead of open-liming in the SB.

Now, switch up this filter for Posted SB and Raised First In

  • For me, under the first filter of Limped First In, my win rate was +9bb/100 hands. But, my win rate when raising first in in the SB is a whopping +119bb/100 hands.
  • Check out your own results, you should be a winning player when raising first in because you’re making good choices and going for value or bluffing correctly.

Leak 2: Set-mining Too Often

Under Actions and Opportunities Pre-flop, filter for Posted SB and BB as well as Any Call, and under Hand Values select all pp’s

  • This will tell you how you do when calling pre-flop in the blinds with any pp
  • If it’s negative, you’re prolly calling in bad spots while trying to set mine, or you won’t give up post-flop with your pair because you’re an unbelieving calling station. Go through your biggest losing hands and figure out what’s up here.  Remember the 20x rule for set-mining: there should be 20 times the bet size you’re calling in the stacks behind.

Leak 3: Poor 2betting

Under Actions and Opportunities Pre-flop, filter for Posted SB and BB; also filter for Any 2bet

  • This will tell you how you do when making a 2bet raise from the blinds.
  • If it’s negative over a decent sample, you’re doing something wrong. Look at the hand strengths you’re choosing to 2bet with.  Also, review your biggest losing pots as well.  Try to figure out the hands and spots that you’re 2betting that you just shouldn’t be, and then resolve to not repeat those mistakes.

Leak 4: Poor 3betting

Under Actions and Opportunities Pre-flop, filter for Posted SB and BB; also filter for Any 3bet

  • This will tell you how you do when making a 3bet raise from the blinds.
  • If it’s negative, you’ve got to figure this out! Why are you losing when 3betting in the blinds?  Most of your blind 3bets should be for value.  Are you choosing bad hands?  Are you 3betting then folding to 5bets?  Figure this out before you continue to lose these important pots that you’re the one building.

Now, switch this up and choose 100% of hands in the Hand Values area, but then remove all QQ+.

  • What’s your profitability now?  You might have even gone from a + win rate to negative now.  You’ve taken out all the for sure value hands, and your left with bluffs, semi-bluffs and iffy value hands like TT, JJ and AK with this filter.  If your win rate is now negative, then you’re choosing terrible resteal bluff spots.  Figure out what you’re doing and get to work on fixing this.

I hope you enjoyed this blind defense episode.  If you want more blind defense for tournament specific play, check out this article.

Challenge (36:25)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Run those leak finding filters just mentioned.  This is your chance to find your blind leaks, which if you’ve got them, are really bringing down your profits.  Find ‘em and fix ‘em.  And, if you’re not using pre-made ranges in the blinds, whether mine, your own, or someone else’s, what the heck are you waiting for?  Ranges will do so much to correct poor pre-flop blind play.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Up Next…

In podcast #111, I'll dish up another Q&A were I'll answer 3 listener Q’s about my changing viewpoint on the 4-2 Rule, making unsure value raises on the flop and dealing with oversized bets.

Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.


Sky Matsuhashi

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