Playing from the Blinds in Tournaments Part 2 by John Cernuto

As I discussed last week, there are many factors that come into determining how you play from the blinds in tournaments, including your opponent’s position at the table. Of course, that’s not the only factor to take into consideration.

Throughout a tournament, everyone develops a table image that impacts how people play against them. Depending on your opponent’s style of play − and how your opponent perceives you − you might be able to play back at someone who is trying to steal your blinds from late position. As mentioned earlier, this is especially useful later in tournaments when the blinds are much bigger and antes come into play.

You always have the option of re-stealing at anytime in a tournament, but this isn’t a move you should make without some careful consideration. For example, if you’re worried about your opponent calling your re-steal attempt, I recommend not even attempting this play unless you’re holding a hand no worse than A-9. Preferably, you’re looking for something even stronger.

If, on the other hand, you think your opponent will fold to your re-raise, the cards in your hand shouldn’t affect your decision to make this play one way or the other. I’m not suggesting that you re-raise blind, but rather, that you shouldn’t let a weak hand deter you from playing back at an opponent you’re sure is going fold under pressure. If I know my opponent is going to fold if I re-raise, but I look down at 7-2, I might second guess myself and not make the move.

This concept may be a little difficult to pull off when you are playing online, so try to employ the "ATC Rule." If you have a good handle on the situation and a strong read on your opponent, then Any Two Cards will do the trick. Make sure that you don’t try this too frequently because the success of a re-steal partially depends on your table image. If another player sees you making this move frequently, they might be willing to gamble with a hand they would normally let go.

For example, if there’s a kamikaze out there who just keeps firing away, I’m going to wait until I have position on them to pick them off. These types of players are too willing to gamble to make re-stealing a profitable play for me. There’s nothing worse than making a move with Q-4 and being called by Q-J. You should primarily be looking to re-steal against a relatively tight player who knows how to release a hand.

Sometimes, calling from the blinds can be a better option than re-raising. Again, the decision comes back to the criteria of your opponent’s position, playing style, and perception of you. In a recent tournament, I had a very aggressive player who not only raised a lot of pots, but continued to fire away at every street. When I was in the big blind, he made his standard raise and I looked down at pocket Kings. I chose to just flat-call because I knew I could get at least one more bet out of him. In fact, I check-called him all the way to the river because I knew he was hyper-aggressive and would read my flat calls as a sign of weakness rather than strength.

Remember, you have three options when you’re in the blinds and your default option should be to fold. However, players who win tournaments do so because they made the right moves at the right times. If you decide to either re-steal or flat-call from the blinds, it should be based on your opponent’s position and playing style. If you can learn to read these situations correctly, both your chip stack and your tournament success will grow.

John Cernuto