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Tips From the Full Tilt Pros

Big Blind Play in Limit Hold'em by Jennifer Harman

In Limit Hold 'em, the big blind is one of the toughest position to play. You're out of position, and that's never a good thing, but usually, you'll be getting excellent odds to continue with the hand. Against a single opponent who has raised, you'll be getting better than 3 to 1 and, in most hands, you're no more than a 2 to 1 dog. The problem is, you'll often find yourself going into the flop with shaky cards and, at that point, you're sure to face some tough decisions.

Before I talk about some tricky situations that develop in the big blind, I want to note that you can make your life a little easier by folding some hands pre-flop. If you're holding a medium Ace and you're facing an early position raise from a player who you know plays only good cards up front, then fold. It may seem like you're getting a nice price to continue, but in this spot, you're only going to get into trouble. When you miss the flop completely, it's going to be tough to continue and, if you hit an Ace, you may lose a lot to a hand that has you dominated. I'd rather play 6-7 against an early position raise from a tight player than A-7.

There are some hole cards that are just hopeless. If I'm facing a raise from any position and I find something like J-2, T-3, or 9-4. I'm going to surrender the hand.

The really difficult situations arise when you hold a mediocre hand, something like A-8 or pocket 6s, and you face a raise from late position. Many players will raise with just about anything in the cutoff or on the button, so it's tough to know where you stand with these medium strength hands.

What should you do?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. My best advice is to vary your play so as to take advantage of a particular opponent's tendencies. For example, if you hold A-8 in the big blind and face a late-position raise from a player who tends to be a little weak after the flop, you should probably re-raise pre-flop and then follow up with a bet on the flop most of the time. Against this type of player, this kind of action will force a lot of folds.

If the opponent who raises in late position is tricky and very aggressive post flop, I'll often call the pre-flop raise and then check-raise on most flops, whether or not I got a piece of the board. Even if the check-raise doesn't win the pot, this move helps keep a tough, aggressive player off balance.

Of course, you'll need to consider the flop as you move forward in the hand. If you call a pre-flop raise with pocket 6s and see a flop of T-Q-K, there's little point in going to war. Give your opponent credit for some hand that beats yours and look for a better spot. But this doesn't mean that you should be willing to give up on anything less than top pair.

Against a single opponent, I'll play second pair pretty aggressively. Sometimes, I'll lead at the pot with this hand, and sometimes, I'll check-raise with it. Taking this aggressive approach with a shaky hand allows me to play my big hands in the same manner. When my opponents see me check-raise, they won't know if I'm making this play with as little as second pair or as much as a set.

As I said earlier, playing from the big blind in limit poker is tricky. In my opinion, it's one of the toughest spots in all of poker. My best advice is that you should stay alert to your opponent's tendencies and look to mix up your play. If you're on your game, it will be tough for other players to put you on a hand while you'll have a pretty good idea of what they're doing.

Good luck.

Jennifer Harman

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