Playing from the Big Blind Post Flop Strategy

published on 02/20/07 at 5:37 am

PokerPlasm.comThe Big Blind position is one that gives even seasoned players a bit of trouble. Many players will find themselves in a pot as a result of several limpers while they are holding a poor hand. Or, perhaps, they called a small pre-flop raise with a mediocre hand as they were getting ample odds to do so. Best case scenario? They fired out a raise from the big blind to isolate or even take the pot down right there and then, and were called.

Regardless of how you found yourself in the hand the bottom line now is you are in the hand post flop in a very disadvantageous position. As such we need to explore our options, but before we can do that we need to qualify who we are in the pot with and what their impression of us is thus far. This may sound familiar to our regular readers as I will rarely submit a strategy piece for publication that does not include the following questions:

  1. Your table image
  2. Your opponents table image
  3. What hand could they have put you on
  4. What possible hand might they be on.

Assuming you have answered these questions, we can now move on to our post flop strategy.

Example 1
50/100 NL Hold’em. Two individuals limped, the SB called and you check. This is the perfect situation for you to see a flop with a weak or marginal mediocre hand. You got 3:1 on your BB without any further investment in the hand required at this time, thus, you are free rolling at this point. You are playing :Jh :9s.

The flop is: :Qh :Th :3s.

Not a bad flop for your hand. Most people would be tempted to bet out here to see where they stand in the hand. This would also be my “standard” advice airing on the side of aggression. The only problem here is that if you do bet out, your hand cannot sustain a re-raise and, most likely, if facing a re-raise, you will not be getting ample odds to make the call with an open ended straight draw. So, try to take the free card and simply check. With this flop, if I was holding K-J I would be tempted to bet out as I could consider a King as additional outs that may win the hand. Also, if my hand was suited and I was drawing to the flush as well as the straight, I would certainly bet out with 15 outs to come, as I would be able to call a reasonable re-raise. You check, the first player to acts bets our 500. The Button calls as do you.

The Turn is the :Kh.

You have now hit your straight. The only problem is that a heart flush is on the board and AJ beats you with a higher straight. You place out a bet of 900, which is immediately called by the first player to act. The button folds.

The river is a meaningless :4c.

You have invested enough money in this hand and it is extremely unlikely you are ahead. You check, the other player bets 1900, you fold. He shows you :Ah :3h, the nut flush.

Example 2
50/100 NL Hold’em. A solid player from mid position raised 4x the BB and the Button called as did you. Once again, you got 3:1+ odds to make the call. You are playing :As :Ts. Even though you got good odds to make the call, with a raise and a call ahead of you this may be a dangerous hand, nonetheless, you called.

The flop is: :Ah :Ks :3s.

Not a bad flop under the circumstances. Even though you hit your Ace, you may very well be out kicked. You may even be up against top two or a set against these two players. This would be a good time to put out a feeler bet (about 1/2 – 3/4 the pot) to see where you stand. If you are able to get to the turn without being re-raised or calling a raise with while getting about 4:1 odds, you may be in good shape to continue with the hope of improving your hand. You bet out 900, which is called by both players.

The turn is a :Js.

Great card for you for two reasons; you made the nut flush and it could have helped one if not both of your opponents hands. You choose to check the hand. The player from mid position bets out 1700, the button folds, you call.

The river is a :Td.

You bet out 2800 and are immediately called. The other player had been playing :Ad :Qs and just made Broadway. You take down a very nice pot.

Example 3
50/100 NL Hold’em. One player from mid position limps as does the button. The SB calls, you raise 5x the BB. The player from mid position calls as does the Button. The SB folds. You are holding :Qh :Qd. A great starting hand, but with two callers and being out of position you really need the flop to go your way.

The flop is: :Jh :Td :4s.

Great flop for you, or at least, so it appears. The two players that called you are solid players. They both have strong hands otherwise would not have continued with the hand. We can possibly rule out AA’s or KK’s as they, most likely would have re-raised with those hands in an attempt to isolate. You could be facing hands like J-J, 10-10, AK suited. So even though this flop appears harmless it could have very well have hit your opponents. This would be the appropriate time to find out and a continuation bet in this type of scenario is a must. We cannot check, as they will immediately fire at the pot, and their action will tell us nothing. You place out a pot sized bet. The first player folds, the second player raises you all in. Unless you have a stone cold read on the player on the Button that he is making a move, consider this the appropriate time to fold. Even though you have an over pair to the board it is still just one pair, and if you are behind in the hand, with only two outs, you are a significant underdog. So, stop marrying losing hands post flop no matter how good they looked pre-flop. I know that at the surface it appears to be a tough lay down. It is however, routine for a skilled player that has a good read on the table.

So as you can see, playing from the Big Blind requires a great deal of maneuvering and adjustment. A player has to be able to rely on his poker instincts and skills, especially when in this disadvantageous position. Many players find themselves caught up in the fact that they have already made an investment in the hand preflop as a result of being on the Big Blind and, thus, have some responsibility to continue on in the hand. You may even have heard some pros comment that they have “their children out there”, referring to the chips they wagered on the Big Blind. This has no relevance and is of no consequence.

Where this mindset may differ is in a tournament setting whereby it is common practice to try to pick up the blinds and antes every so often as part of an overall tournament strategy. If you find yourself in this situation whereby a specific individual is constantly raising your Big Blind, air on the side of aggression and fire back. However, be prepared to continue with the hand post flop otherwise your pre-flop aggression will have little to no effect as the tournament goes on.

In a recent WPT event at the Borgata, half way through day one, I found myself on the Big Blind with pocket kings. As the action worked its way around the table seven players limped in before it got back to me. With a hand like pocket Kings it is critical that one attempts to isolate and eliminate such hands as A-x from the mix, so I placed out a bet on 1 1/2 time the pot. The action folded around to the Button who thought about it for a minute a made the call. The two of us went to the flop.

The Flop was :Td :8h :3s.

I decided to check the flop as it appeared harmless enough. My opponent made a pot sized bet and I immediately move over the top All-In. As he contemplated I started to think about what read he could have possibly made on my actions pre-flop. He either put me on a monster, or assumed I was making a move from the Big Blind. As soon as he called my All-In bet and exposed a K-10 off-suite, it became obvious that he misread the hand.

The Turn was a :Th and the river a :Qc and I was out.

During the last 90 minutes of play I had played extremely tight. I had been involved in four hands showing down the nuts each time. Had the player on the button been paying attention he would have realized that I would not be making a move from such a disadvantageous position with seven players yet to act. I am not disappointed with the hand, as I was a significant favorite going to the turn and had my opponent completely dominated. In poker all we can hope for is to make good decisions. The cards will fall where they may.

John “The Greek” Leontakianakos is a professional poker player with 27 years of experience. He is currently in the process of publishing a book on poker and runs his own website called JohnTheGreekPoker.

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