Not a single poker player looks forward to being in the small blind. It’s a position offering little benefits.
But whether you like it or not, it’s coming round every orbit, and if you can master your small blind strategy, you can at least make it a profitable position.
In the Apestyles Bundle for BBZ, poker legend and BBZ coach Jon “apestyles” Van Fleet runs through how you should approach the small blind from different stack sizes when it folds around to you.
Heed his advice below, then check out the entire Apestyles Bundle for more than 10 hours of timeless value.
10 Big Blinds – First In
When action folds to us in the small blind and we have only ten big blinds in our stack, solvers show us that we should play a polarized limping range. “What that means is that we’re limping the very top of the range, shoving the middle, and limping the [bottom],” apestyles explains.
You’ll notice that there’s no non-all-in raising range at this stack depth. This is because apestyles didn’t include this possibility in the charts as he doesn’t believe there is any non-all-in raising at 10 bigs.
However, one thing you can do differently to this chart is to shove wider, depending on your opponent in the big blind. “If you wanted to adjust to the field here, I would recommend shoving wider and even limping wider as people don’t raise enough,” says apestyles.
15 Big Blinds – First In
While we see more yellow (limping) at 15 bigs than we do at 10, you’ll also notice a new colour on the chart: gold, which is a non-all-in raise.
For most hands, this non-all-in raise will only occasionally be mixed into our strategy. “Nothing except for pocket aces and 10-9 suited really likes it,” says apestyles, referring to the fact that these combos are always non-all-in raising.
Our shoving range at 15 bigs is made up of ace-x, king-x, Q-J-offsuit, low pairs, and the c shape of pink that you see curving from the top right to the bottom right of the chart. The middle of the c shape consists of 9-7, 10-7, J-7, Q-6-suited, etc.
20 Big Blinds – First In
As we get deeper stacked you can see the shoving range fades out, becoming only ace-x and a few combos of king-x. The non-all-in raising range gets pretty large here.
“We’re limp-shoving the middle, raising pocket jacks plus, limp-shoving ace-queen and ace-king, and the pure limps are hands like king-x-suited,” says apestyles. “We generally prefer to limp call with these hands. Other pure limps are at the absolute bottom [of the range].”
He also notes that our bluff raising range comes from high cards with a four or five, then two cards above a seven. If you look at the right-hand side of the chart, you’ll see we should be bluff-raising more with 10-x-suited and 9-x-suited combos than we should with combos that have straight possibilities, like 5-4-suited and 3-4-suited.
“I call it a bluff-raising because it’s raise-folding,” says apestyles.
30 Big Blinds – First In
Now that we’re even deeper, the only hands that shove are A-9-off, pocket threes,
Our non-all-in raise range consists of combos with blockers (two offsuit cards above a seven) and suited hands that can make straights or have a high card.
“It changes a little here,” says apestyles. “We want a little more playability with our raising range with 30 big blinds.”
We’re now pure raising with our big pairs, which is in contrast with what we’ll see as we get deeper. This may be because of the smaller raise size in these sims and also the fact that we limp shove and rarely have a non-all-in raise.
60 Big Blinds – First In
“We now begin to limp with big pairs,” says apestyles. “We’re raising linear overall, but more from [the ace-x-suited, suited broadway and high suited connector section].”
We also limp-raise a lot more at this deeper stack depth.
So, what have we learned for the small blind first-in?
“We started off limping polarized, then we started raising, then we started limping again,” says apestyles. “But overall we were raising linear. The shapes of these ranges change. Make sure to get these ideas in your head.”
In the Blind vs Blind section of the Apestyles Bundle, Jon “apestyles” Van Fleet proceeds to cover how the big blind should respond to this small blind strategy, and how the small blind should play after limping and getting raised.