In my blind defense article I said there’s not much of a point in defending your blinds since they represent such an insignificant amount of money. So why in the world would I advocate going out of your way to steal those insignificant blinds?
Well, because you now have the advantage. It’s like Sun Tzu said in the Art of War, you want to take advantage of opponents when they are weak. Don’t worry about defending a weak position when opponents try to steal your blinds; instead attack your opponents when they are in a weak position and steal their blinds. Don’t worry about playing fair – this is poker.
The advantage is more than just you raising 4BBs on the button in order to win 1.5BB often enough to make a profit. The extra advantages you have are that a) you are in late position if anyone decides to defend and b) you have the advantage that many opponents will play too many hands from out of position and play those hands poorly.
So by stealing the blinds not only are you winning that blind money, you’re also winning the dead money that opponents put in the middle of the pot in their pathetic attempts at saving themselves the blind money you’re stealing. It’s actually quite a funny situation if you think about it and since many poker players don’t get it, it’s a profitable situation as well.
Your inherent position advantage means that (no matter how strong the opponent’s defending hand is) you automatically gain a certain percentage of the extra money an opponent throws into the pot from the blinds. You can just consider this dead money.
This is an odd way of thinking about it, but the fact is your position is an advantage. It’s like I said in the blind defense article – if two players of exactly equal skill were to play each other, the one with the advantage of position would profit over the long run. Your position of advantage is non-negotiable and it means you are benefiting from dead money when people play hands from out of position.
Now don’t get carried away thinking like this. It’s an odd way of thinking and if you were to just play every hand from good position no matter what the opponents did you would lose money. All I’m saying is that your advantage of position is important so use it.
If you try to steal too often, your opponents will start three-betting you more too. A three-bet is something like this: If you raise to 4BBs for the 3rd time on the button and one of the blinds re-pops it up to 12BBs, you have just been three-bet.
When you are on a steal and an opponent three-bets you, just fold the hand. A lot of people at middle and low stakes like to carry their steals too far. They will stick around with weak hands after being three-bet and hope to hit the flop or make a bluff.
The problem with this play is people are putting in a lot of money with inferior hands. It’s kind of a backwards way to play poker. Yes, I know sometimes you want to hit a sneaky hand and break someone, but if you go around paying 12BBs hoping to hit a piece of the flop and folding if you miss….well, you’re going to go broke.
This changes though if you have a solid read and want to stick around with a marginal hand. If the opponent has been three-betting you a lot, there is an opening for you to hang in there (especially with position) and try to steal the hand after the flop.
The problem with this strategy is that it gets expensive quite quickly if you are wrong. That means for it to be profitable to try and steal three-bet pots you need to be successful quite often. This is very difficult to get just right, even for good players.
The safe alternative to trying to play back at light three-bettors is to simply tighten up your raising range against those opponents. If the opponent is three-betting too wide of a range vs. your range of raising hands that means there is an inconsistency in your hand ranges. This inconsistency works in your favor so that means you will profit over time if you play correctly. In poker any time there is an inconsistency in hand ranges one person is getting the best of it and another person is getting the worst of it.
One of the most important and most overlooked aspects of poker is the power of position. That’s why I advocate stealing blinds much more than I recommend trying to fend off steals. Also remember that opponents who try to defend blind steals too often are spreading dead money around the table. Opponents who stick around after three-bets too often are also spreading dead money. If you can play a more solid game from the blinds than these opponents, you will be able to scoop more than your fair share of that dead money.