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Finding Bargains in the Blinds

Blind Play"Even bargains cost money." -- James Cash Penney

Everybody loves a bargain. It's an occasional poker pleasure to get a cheap opportunity, or a free ride. We often will smile inside when nobody raises our bring-in in Stud, or our blind in Holdem. Even more pleasing is when we get these free rides with hands we wouldn't normally want to play, but that have a chance to make a strong hand quickly. For instance, you have the bring-in with a deuce in Stud and four players call. Your hole cards are two threes, and there was a dead three out. Not much of a hand at all, but you get a free ride, and poof, you spear the miracle three on fourth street.

A Holdem example would be you hold A7s in the small blind. A big trouble hand against a few opponents, and high variance in loose multiway pots with lots of action, but for only a partial bet against seven limpers, the hand is a great opportunity.

When dealing with a commercial business like Kmart, we are limited in the types of bargains we can get. We get what we are given. With some businesses we can haggle over price, but usually the best we can do is seek out available bargains. In poker, we should to spend a lot of our time creating bargains. There is a lot of value in getting poker bargains and there are a lot of ways to make these bargains appear. Bargain hunting is a poker skill.

The big blind in Holdem is a pretty darn rotten thing. We have to put this full bet in the pot, without looking at any cards, when we are in poor position. Yuck. No matter how good a player is, or how weak the opposition, we are bound to lose money in the big blind position. Playing $20/40, a terrible player in the big blind will average a loss of quite a bit more than $20, but even the best players aren't likely to ever face a lineup where they can overcome that negative $20 they have to bet in the dark. They can though make their loss-per-big-blind something less than $20. Great players play the blinds well, and lose less when they have the blinds than poor or merely good players do. And money not lost spends just as good as money won.

A person could write a book just on playing out of the blinds, but the focus here is to first understand that we will lose money when we have the blinds, but then to understand that we should do the work to see that we lose less. In other words, the blinds are a lemon, but if we get that lemon at a bargain, it's not so bad.

Some top players actually like playing from the blinds -- they like getting pot odds to get in and play a hand; they like not being able to be put on a hand; they like playing from first position; they like the challenge presented by the situation to outplay their opponents post-flop. I mention this just to make the point that good blind play is a result of good overall play. If you generally play poorly after the flop, you are in big trouble in the blinds. On the other hand, creative, solid players are comfortable with the challenges presented playing out of the blinds.

These players create bargains in the blinds by playing the blinds well. There are some players who go overboard and virtually always call when their big blind is raised. Since their regular opponents know their habit of always calling, this leads to them getting many free, bargain flops. Of course, if you pay through the nose when you call a raise with 94o just so you can get occasional free flops with 75o, that's not a real bargain. However, liberally playing out of the blinds with marginal hands like JTo and 97s will lead to you getting a lot more free bargains with hands like 75o and 94s and similar crapola that you don't want to call raises with, but that can hit a flop very nicely, leading to winning a big pot. Even if that JTo or 97s lose a little bit, the bargains you get by commonly playing these hands should more than compensate.

It'd be nice if we could get poker bargains by just clipping coupons out of the paper, but it's not that easy. Sometimes our opponents hand us bargains on a silver platter. This is good. We like this. It should be part of our strategy to encourage this generosity in our opponents.

See also Battle for the Blinds, Attacking and Defending the Blinds and Posting the Blinds