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ArticlesPreflop StrategyCalling from the blinds vs a steal.
Calling from the blinds vs a steal.
Written by: Hoodlincs · Date Added: 26 Feb, 2011 · Number of views: 5317
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There has always been a consistent method of teaching which advises micro and small-stakes players to play very tight from the blinds and for the most part either 3bet or fold vs a steal. The reason for this is that by avoiding calling preflop, you should in theory stop yourself being put in tough post flop situations where you don't know what to do, and inevitably end up making mistakes which cost you money.
However, generally this results in making 3bets with hands where it would make a lot more sense to just call preflop, and additionally it results in you making folds with hands that should be more than good enough to call with. Furthermore, it results in you missing out on a ton of post flop opportunities that are presented to you, by the fact that your opponent has a very wide range and is likely c betting too much. By playing more hands, you can win more pots and increase your win-rate as i try to demonstrate link.

Of course, this means you will need to improve your post flop ability because you will be put into situations that you aren't used to, but this is NOT reason to keep folding, its a reason to try and get better. The more hands you can play profitably, the easier it will be to build and maintain a good winrate because you have to win less per hand to make your money.

OK fine, so why exactly should I call preflop?

Vs most players at nl100 and below you should be calling preflop (not just from the blinds) with a pretty wide range, especially when they open in late position and therefore have a wider range than usual. This is because most people learn to play NLHE by automatically continuation betting almost all flops in a heads up pot after they have raised preflop. Additionally, they have learnt that generally at smaller stakes its not a great idea to try and multi-barrel your opponents once they check-call the flop especially boards like A84 or K92 because the board cant really get any scarier and opponents are not likely to fold top pair. Therefore, what ends up happening is that usually opponents will fire a c-bet and then play very straight forwardly on the turn or river after their c-bet is either called or raised. This allows you a lot of opportunities to either bluff effectively, make thin value bets, or call down and win at showdown.

When playing out of position specifically, calling means that a couple of cool things can happen when you see a lot of flops vs people who have a wide opening ranges and are continuation betting a lot:

1)you can check-raise your draws or air and force your opponent to fold a ton of the time purely because they just have total air-ball and the pot is getting quite big. A lot of the time even when someone thinks you might be bluffing, if they have absolutely nothing they wont do anything about it.

2)You can check-call with some marginal showdown value and expect to be able to see showdowns quite often particularly on A or K high boards which get both continuation bet the most, and multi-barreled the least.

What hands should I look to call with from the blinds then?

Basically you are looking for hands which have both good equity vs your opponents range, and have good playability post flop. Good playability refers to how easy the hand is to play post flop.
For example, a hand with good playability is something like 22 – you either flop a set and can be comfortable putting a lot of money in with your hand regardless of what villain does, or you flop absolutely nothing and can comfortably fold if villain shows any aggression at all. I think 22 is a clear call from the blinds vs most cutoff and button opens, both for the reason that it is super easy to play post flop and for the fact that usually you have 40 to 1 stack odds or something crazy. OK, its unlikely you stack them when you hit, but with an 8 to 1 chance of flopping a set, you only have to stack him more than 1 time in 5 and you can check-fold every other flop to show profit.

Ironically, a lot of people advocate folding these types of hands because they feel they do not get paid off often enough when they hit. The fact that you so rarely need to stack him means that if you can't stack him one time in five when you check raise the flop and barrel off, you should clearly just be calling with any two cards, check-raising an absolute ton of flops and firing turn + river to make him fold!

Contrast that to 67s and you will find there's a ton of flops where vs most opening ranges you have live cards, or gut-shots, or weak flush draws/ straight draws etc, and find yourself in a situation where you don't have enough equity be able to check-raise and stack off but you have too much equity to check-fold. Therefore you are in a situation where you can consider check-raising as a bluff but then if you get re-raised you will have to fold a lot of equity. Alternatively you can check-call but this will put you in a lot of strange spots purely because you are check-calling with 7 high.

What I'm trying to get across is that hands like 22 are much easier to play post flop than suited connectors like 67s. You can also see that hands like AT have fine playability too, not only because they are a favorite in terms of preflop equity, but also because they either hit flops really hard (when u flop an ace or a 10 u have great equity vs his range) or totally miss them. Furthermore, all the other broadway hands are great to call with since 1) the boards they hit get c bet a lot, 2) when you check-raise low flops as a bluff you usually have 6 outs, and 3) you dominate a lot of their preflop opening range and therefore very often get to the flop with the best hand.

"If that's true then it sounds like I should call a lot - I need to 3bet light sometimes otherwise I am way too polarised to just strong hands. What hands should I 3bet with as a bluff?"

Well, I don't want to turn this into a major essay so you can see more about 3betting light here, however in general what I would say is that you should be looking to 3bet different ranges vs different players.

This article, as are most of my articles unless specified, is intended to focus on playing vs your generic 20/18 type regular who is on a bunch of tables and grinding a medium winrate.

those type of players do not flat 3bets very light in general so you do not want to be 3betting them with weak broadway hands - KJ/QT etc because you end up getting called by just about every better hand but folding out every worse hand.

I hate advocating a strategy to 3betting as I think you should just 3bet light based on how tight your image is, but vs the aforementioned player type you want to 3bet a polarised range vs them - the very best hands, and the best hands you cant call with. As I hopefully explained earlier, that will be hands like suited connectors which don't play very well when you flat call preflop because of how unplayable they are.

That changes when you 3bet them though because suddenly you have the initiative and can win the pot more easily with a continuation bet when you both miss. Additionally you can win the pot because you flop a lot of equity on so many boards and can therefore turn or river a huge hand.

I talk about more player types and what hands to 3bet in the link posted when I first mentioned what hands to 3bet with, so definitaly check that out if you want to read more.

Thanks for reading and please leave any comments as I will answer all questions as best I can :)

Comments (15)
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in theory you should be capable of bluffing yes, but a lot of players only play off their hud's and if they see you have a decent check-raise% then they will use that to judge how often they call you down. so frequently you can check-raise light on the flop a lot but then only barrel off your sets and you will get called down a decent amount by overpairs.
Pete C 8 Apr, 2011
Free Member
I thought about it some more after and although the cutoff ( if u excuse the pun :) ) is ~22b made me initially think I could call much lighter OOP but I thought and as you rightly say to actually make monies and it +EV
"you would need to be winning a river bet too unless you check-raise the flop and then win an extra turn bet " which is an either/or big bet Villain can call. What I'm trying to get at is we can't gain like a few bbs more.

So even though its ~22bb 0EV (excl. bluffing) it's a (binary)jump to go into +EV land as villain needs to call a sizeable bet. So mathematically our call pre is sensitive to whether villain will call this sizeable bet.

So we can call pre and use it to for example to balance our range but to actually make it +EV we need to(or throw in a few bluffs e.t.c) play vs an opponent that will likely call the sizeable 3rd bet.

Sorry if rambling a bit, tried to reword it for the benefit of others. Mathematically easy to explain :)
Hi Pete, thanks. you are correct that you need to win 22.5bb when you hit assuming you check-fold every other flop yes. most people will raise 3bb pre, bet 4-5bb on the flop and then bet 10-12bb on the turn, so you would need to be winning a river bet too unless you check-raise the flop and then win an extra turn bet after doing so.
Pete C 1 Apr, 2011
Free Member
nice article, made me think about few things.

If u call 100bb eff, with 22 HU (assuming u c/f every flop u miss ) then you lose 3bb 88% time -> need to win 22.5bb or ~1/5 stack every time you hit. This is ~ a pfr+cbet+ turn bet you need to win or have I done the maths wrong :)
Mark Donkey 26 Feb, 2011
Free Member
very nice article
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