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Blind vs Blind strategy: isolating limps with weak hands

Blind vs Blind strategy: isolating limps with weak hands

There are countless spots in No Limit Hold’em which force us to don our white coats and head into the lab, from the basics (facing continuation bets on flops) to the more complex (3-betting from the small blind).

But no spot comes up more frequently than playing blind vs blind.

“I think this is the bread and butter of [No Limit Hold’em],” says Jordan “BigBluffZinc” Drummond (a.k.a. BBZ). “People ask me ‘why don’t you spend time on under the gun vs under the gun +1?’ Because that’s not worth any money.”

BBZ does a ton of work on his blind vs blind game and it shows when you watch him play on Twitch. Regardless of his hand, he knows how to handle the situation. If you haven’t put much work into your own blind vs blind game, however, these spots are incredibly tricky.

Let’s say you’re in the big blind and the action folds to the small blind. They limp and you look down at a trash hand like 92 or 83.

You’d probably check, right? Then give up to a stab on the flop when you miss?

If so, read on.

Isolating with the hardest hands to play

“I’m going to specifically isolate with the hardest hands in my range to play,” BBZ explains in one of the 29 videos featured in his awesome BBZ Bundle.

This is because it’s hard for you to hit anything on the flop with a junk hand. You can’t hit straight draws. You can’t hit flush draws [even on monotone boards your draws can’t be great]. So you either hit the flop with a pair or you don’t.

Therefore, you’re very likely to have to fold to a stab when the small blind leads out. “Often even if you call the flop, you’re going to have to fold on the turn versus barrels,” says BBZ.

If the small blind checks the flop after you’ve checked back preflop, you can simply check back again. (“The EV of your entire checking range is going to be pretty good, it doesn’t matter what hand it is,” says BBZ).

But if you opted to raise with your weakest hands instead of checking preflop, the EV of your hand suddenly increases drastically.

Let’s go through the scenarios when they limp and you isolate with a preflop raise:

They fold. You win.

This is the ideal outcome. You’ve picked up their big blind and the antes without needing to see any more cards.

They call and check the flop. You continuation bet. They fold.

This is also a great outcome. “On average if they limp, call, check, they’ll probably fold to a c-bet, although that’s not really how the math is supposed to work!” says BBZ.

They call and check the flop. You continuation bet. They call.

“On average, check-raising frequencies aren’t as high as they’re supposed to be,” says BBZ. “If they call, you get to either barrel the turn or check back, so the EV of this really low subset of hands has been converted to a pretty high EV subset of hands by attacking with it preflop.

“That’s why we do it.”


Explained: Blind vs Blind Play

BBZ walks through his thought processes in examining the difficulties of blind vs blind strategies.


Tough strategy to counter

If you frequently isolate small blind limps with raises from the big blind, the small blind player may figure the best way to counter your strategy is to start re-raising.

But this is actually a really tough counter strategy for them to implement, as BBZ explains.

“The problem [with re-raising from the small blind] is that the big blind’s range is really polarized [when they isolate]. They could have pocket Aces. They could have 72-offsuit. That’s not a range you want to raise in to. That’s a range you want to call in to.”

This means you should also be isolating limps with your strongest hands too. It might be tempting to occasionally trap with your pocket aces, but building a pot is how you make money. And what better time to build a big pot than when you have a monster in an unlikely position.

The small blind is also out of position, so that lends itself to aggressive preflop strategies, in this case raising instead of calling. Sure, they’re going to limp occasionally with strong hands then come over the top. But when your range is polarized, that doesn’t really matter.

You snap with your strongest hands. You throw the trash in the bin. They’ve made it easy for you.

Just don’t make it easy for them.

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