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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

COTW #4: Blind Stealing

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 post-flop with:
- Position (this is huge)
- Initiative
- Post-flop value

So you can often take down an even bigger pot on the flop with a c-bet (more on that later).
Stealing adds a TON to your bottom line.

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 aggressive regular 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 re-steal 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 post-flop than pre-flop. We can induce huge mistakes post-flop, whereas by 4betting pre-flop 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

Hero (CO): $49.75
BTN: $35.10
SB: $28.15
BB: $72.90

UTG: $50.60
UTG+1: $78.75
MP1: $50.00
MP2: $28.45

Pre Flop: ($0.75) Hero is CO with Kh Ks
4 folds, Hero raises to $1.50, 1 fold, SB calls $1.25, BB raises to $8, Hero calls $6.50, SB calls $6.50

Flop: ($24.00) 3s 3d Qd (3 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets $16.50, SB raises to $20.15 all in, BB raises to $36.65, Hero raises to $41.75 all in, BB calls $5.10

Turn: ($127.65) 4s (3 players - 2 are all in)

River: ($127.65) 9s (3 players - 2 are all in)

Final Pot: $127.65
Hero shows Kh Ks (two pair, Kings and Threes)
SB mucks Qs Jd
BB shows Ah Qh (two pair, Queens and Threes)
Hero wins $43.20
Hero wins $81.45
(Rake: $3.00)

Additional history is so situational that I can't really go into much detail about it. However, I will say that some regulars 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 post-flop and getting it in lighter, you should be willing to either tighten up your steal ranges or to get it in lighter post-flop to counteract their wider ranges. Figure out when they're spewing and take advantage.

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 post-flop, 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 post-flop. 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 post-flop, 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 kind of 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.

Bet sizing
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 post-flop 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.

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 post-flop. A smaller raise size accomplishes this.

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).

Stack sizes
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 short stack, or open lots of high-card hands like Q9o if they're loose. Then flop TP and get it in. Profit!

By HappyPixel

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