Defending the Blinds
You will find at times other players continuously raising in order to steal the money that has been put in to the blinds. In a tournament, the blinds are increased on a regular basis and there are many players early on who use this blind stealing technique. Many times these blind stealing attempts are made without the person holding a quality hand. If you are in the blind position and this happens to you, you need to be able to determine the range of the hand the stealer might be holding.
Determining the time to defend the blind
If you are intent on becoming a winning poker player it is important to remember at all times not to allow your ego to get in the way of your decisions. There will always be an opponent trying to take advantage of the situation such as stealing the blinds; you cannot take these situations personally. As you are, so are other people trying to make money in a cash game or tournament and this is just one of those methods in which they tried to do so. You are not a target, you just happen to be the person who posted the blinds this round. Keep a level head and approach this decision as you would with any other by trying to analyze the play.
At the same time, be aware of your table image. Are you the guy who looks like someone who folds against a steal all the time, or the guy who always defends against steals?
Next it is important to recognize that not every raise is an attempt at stealing the blinds. You need to analyze the different players and understand who is likely to post a raise without having cards to back up the play. You will usually find the players looking to steal blinds in mid-to late position. In addition, you must also consider the blinds to be large enough to make it worthwhile for a raise in the attempt to steal them. This process is most common in tournament play. As the blinds increase in the later rounds, it can be very lucrative to put in a raise in late position when everyone else at the table has checked in front of you. But once again, keep in mind that not every raise is an attempt to steal.
If you are playing in a tournament and you are at the point where the blinds have increased substantially and you are sitting on the big blind, it is quite likely at some point the person on the button will raise. The person in the small blind now folds and the decision comes to you. Let's assume the raiser has a healthy stack and you need to decide first if this is an attempt to steal. You decide yes, and now you need only look at your cards. From the different lists available, you need to decide which category your cards are falling into, do you have a strong, mediocre or weak hand.
In making this determination if you establish you have a weak hand do not let pride take over, this becomes a no-brainer and you should fold. You do not want to give away chips and there is nothing wrong with simply folding your cards at this point in waiting for a better opportunity to win these chips back.
If the hand you are holding falls more in the mediocre range you may want to call the bet, but you need to bear in mind that after the flop, you will be the first to act. Even if you check in this position, you are likely to be faced with a continuation bet so you are right back where you started pre-flop. I hope that this shows you that simply calling an attempt to steal the blinds with a mediocre hand is not the right play. Your other two choices, fold or possibly re-raise are the best to consider in this situation. Having some knowledge about how your opponent has played this in the past will be useful to you. If you have seen your opponent raise and then fold against the re-raise, this would be the time to do so if in fact you believe it is an attempt to steal the blinds. If you are not certain of your play, there is no shame in folding.
If in fact you are holding strong cards the decision here becomes fairly easy. In the event you are faced with a raise pre-flop, it is almost always in your best interest to re-raise. By placing this bet, you are better able to understand the strength of your opponent’s hand. If your opponent has strong cards also, they will most likely call or perhaps raise once again. If the opponent calls the re-raise, it will usually indicate your opponent is playing cards, which are mediocre, and a further raise would indicate a strong hand. In the later situation, it is still best only to call the additional re-raise.
Taking this one step further in defending your blinds will help. If you happen to be short stacked with strong cards and you have already made the decisions to raise or call a secondary raise, it may be advantageous to push all in after the flop. This action will indicate your opponent that the flop produced cards to make your hand, and depending upon the current strength of their hand, they only have two additional cards to make it better. This is definitely a much stronger play in pushing your chips all in pre-flop. You are now acting from a position of strength, which could very well intimidate your opponent into folding or in the event you are called you should still have fairly good odds of winning the pot. This strategy works best when only faced with one opponent. Being short stacked and going all in post flop with more than one opponent will rarely work, because one of your opponents will most likely have enough reason to call.
To reiterate this winning strategy when trying to defend your blinds it is important primarily to remember to check your ego at the door. You are never going to win hands or tournaments if you are just trying to show others you are not going to be pushed around. When trying to show others you have the nuts to play, it is always best to have the nuts in your hand.