Knowing how to play the blinds in Texas Holdem poker is one of the most crucial aspects of the game. You need to know how and when to attack an opponents blinds and equally importantly, how and when to defend your own.
The blinds are compulsory contributions made to each hand by two players. Each player takes it in turn to pay the “small blind” and the “big blind” and the blinds move around the table just ahead of the dealer button.
In poker tournaments the level of the blinds increases at preset intervals and this is what makes Texas Holdem such an active game. There is no room for players who decide to sit back and watch the world go by, they need to stay involved all the time or they will eventually lose all of their chips to the blinds. This is known in the game as getting “blinded out”.
In no-limit ring games and fixed limit poker it is a bit different as far as the blinds are concerned, they stay at the same level throughout the game.
In the early stages of a poker tournament the blinds are set at a very low level relative to the number of chips you start the game with. Typically, you would start a tournament with 1000 or 1500 chips and the blinds set at only 10 and 20. This means that your chip stack is 50 or 75 times the blinds, making it unnecessary to either attack or defend the blinds aggressively in the early stages.
As the blinds increase however throughout the tournament, the importance of attacking and defending them increases with it. Say for example you have doubled your initial chip count from 1000 to 2000. If the blinds have gone up to 50 and 100 you are starting to look a bit vulnerable. Your stack is now only ten times the big blind.
A good attacking strategy for stealing blinds is to raise in late position. This works better the higher the blinds are, as fewer players are inclined to call with mediocre hands. If you are in the dealer position you can often find a hand being folded all the way round to you when the blinds are at a higher level. You should raise the bet in this position, especially if you sense any weakness in the players who are in the small blind and big blind positions.
Similarly you should only try and defend your blinds if they are too significant a part of your chips to just let go. Calling a raise with a weak hand against two or more opponents, just because you have money invested in the blinds, is a very poor strategy. In that circumstance either re-raise the pot significantly to eliminate all or nearly all of your opponents, or just fold and live to fight another day.
The fewer the number of opponents in the game the more important blinds become as they come round more often. If there are only four players in the game for example, you will be paying either a small or big blind one hand in every two. This makes your blinds strategy very important.
With low numbers of players you must defend your blinds aggressively, as well as attack your opponents blinds. This is when it is vital to have some sort of read on your rivals and if you sense weakness at all you must move in and steal their blinds by raising.