One type of situation has troubled me when I've faced various versions of it. In the later stages of tournaments where the blinds are significant, I find myself wondering what to do when it comes down to a blind vs. blind situation. I know there are a number of variables, so answers can involve how those variables effect the decision.

I'm particularly interested in playing out of the SB with marginal holdings. This position is odd because it offers the initiative to steal the blinds but is OOP for the rest of the hand. I've often found myself raising preflop with a marginal hand and then not knowing how to proceed once called. I suppose I'm thinking mostly of situations where both of us have relatively small M's, as these hands aren't as interesting if both players have large stacks.

Of course this depends on the type of player, and that knowledge might answer the question. So for this question let us assume that we know little to nothing about the player (tough to read or one of us just moved to the table).

3 Answers 3


Against an unknown opponent, stack sizes dominate the decision for me. If we have a big stack and he has an average-to-medium-but-not-short stack, then I'll raise a lot until he shuts me down. Similarly, if we both have medium stacks, I'll probably still raise a fair amount - if we cover him by a fair margin, this frequency goes up.

If either one of us has a short stack, I won't give him opportunities to resteal with marginal hands - I'll either tighten up or I'll commit enough chips that he knows I'm not going away (60%+ of his stack, or just shoving). Obviously, as our stack becomes low enough that we have to get desperate for chips, shoving becomes the most likely option.

The other consideration I will make (and here it's primarily when we both have relatively comfortable stacks, with me not covering him by very much, if at all) is to establish a history. In these situations, I may fold a number of hands that I would otherwise play, just to make him recognize that I am not stealing from him very often (an image which I later use to my advantage when stealing becomes more important). Obviously, this requires having some sort of reason to think that our opponent is paying enough attention for this to matter.


In the book The Raisers Edge they once said to ask yourself what you want to acomplish with your bet/raise. And also you have to think about what will happen if you get called/reraised. If you just raise to try to steal the pot and then if you get called are going to be lost. Just fold it before.

If you don't know anything about your opponent just assume he is a NIT. If he calls your raise he probably has a decent hand. So then you can either bet the flop if you somehow connect or try to control the size of the pot by checking and betting on the turn if he checks back (delayed c-bet).

I personaly try not to get fancy until I see a few hands from this player just to try to gauge him a bit (is he aware of stacksizes/position/scare cards etc)

Bottom line - if you have no idea about the player and are likely to have no idea what to do if your raise gets called try to see the flop (either completing the small blind or checking the big blind) and reevaluete later. If you have some kind of read on him then try to make profit out of them. If you are shortstacked there isn't much room anyway because if your raise gets called there won't be much fold equity on later streets. Try to play cards that connect well and hope for the best :)

  • any option for folding or are you always just going to try to see a flop? I think that is probably -ev but small to big is a situation that I spend a lot of time thinking about and I am nowhere comfortable with it.
    – hmmmm
    Apr 28, 2013 at 19:27

The obvious problem is OOP.

Blind versus blind is not common.

A problem is you have to raise kind of big to give them bad odds. If you just raise to 2.5 BB they are getting 3.5 : 1. In position they can call a lot.

If you raise it up to take away odds it gets expense. 8 bb is still laying 2 : 1 odds.

Try raising small and even playing your made hands small to see how many lay downs you get.

If they raise you back you can better afford to call if you have a decent hand. Even need to 3 bet it some times.

You can better afford to lead out the flop. You can lead the flop 4 BB and still be out the same amount. They are going to miss the flop over 1/2 the time. If you are playing like top 40% then a lot of boards are in your range.

Even if you smash the board then just lead out for like 40% of the pot - don't bet it different than if you miss. You are hoping for a raise. If they just call consider just checking the turn hoping for as bluff. This lets you check some of your misses for pot control.

If it goes check check on the turn and you missed then bluff the river like 1/3. Bet the river if you have a strong hand that you think can get called by a weaker hand.

I would not bluff pre flop with air. If you are playing top 30% to 40% you are going to be playing a lot. Where you gamble is betting the flop when you don't hit unless it is a really bad board for you and could be in BB range.

I recommend play for pot control. You are not likely to stack someone OOP. What you are trying to do is just pay for the blinds.

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