Texas Hold ‘Em: Playing From The Small Blind

A friend of mine once summed up how to play from the small blind with just one word: “don’t,” and it’s easy to understand why: the math says that the small blind is, overall, a losing position and even the best players in the world find it difficult to make money when playing from it. It’s the first to act in every round after every flop and being out of position means that opponents get to see how you act and react to it. You’re giving away information on the strength of your hand for free, in other words.

When playing in the small blind, you should work to try to reduce the amount of money lost overall so that you have more money to play with when you’re in the other seats at the table. I’ve gone entire games where I’ve never played a single hand from the small blind, basically using that position in place of an ante and including the cost in my bankroll management. That said, if the hand selection is sterling, then it’s possible to profit from the blind if you’re careful.

The most common small blind strategy that new players fall for is that they’ve already put money in the pot, so what’s a little extra to see the flop. While having some of your blind in the pot does improve your pot odds to call, the extra half-bet that you have to call to see the flop can be, in a single word, dangerous. Losing a half a bet on the flop is not where the small blind costs players, and thinking of it that way is shortsighted. It’s the hands where you put more money in the pot than necessary to see if you can really play — that’s where you really lose money.

You should never feel pot-committed just because you paid your blind. Period.

Even hands that are playable in other positions: Ks7h, for example, are untenable from the small blind because you simply don’t know how other players are going to act. If players bet and raise after the blind, you need to make sure you have at the very minimum a decent pair, with occasional high suited connectors, and in either case, I’d tighten both of these qualifiers up to a ridiculous degree.

The small blind, in a word, stinks, and unless I’m holding a pair of face cards or suited face card connectors, I fold. It’s saved me a lot of grief and more than a little bit of money over the years.