Blind stealing is a frequently used tactic in a poker game. The benefit of getting away with a little blind theft on occasion is that you are a few dollars richer, what could be more obvious. That being said, there are times when blind stealing makes a great deal of sense and there are times when it accomplishes very little. For instance, there is more value in stealing blinds during the late stages of a multi-table tournament than in the early stages.
Stealing blinds in a cash game is usually of little consequence. The real money is usually made when people are making big mistakes for significant portions of their stacks. It is worth mentioning that if you steal blinds more frequently and more successfully than your opponents, you will see long term profits merely from stealing blinds in a ring game. But because the gains are much more significant in tournament poker where the blinds represent a larger percentage of each players stack, this article will focus on tips for when and how to steal blinds in an MTT or an SNG.
Top 5 Tips for Stealing Blinds
1. Steal Often in Position
If the pot is unopened in front of you, and you are in late position, then you have little to risk by raising and attempting to steal the blinds. Additionally, you might flop a huge hand.
Attempting to steal the blinds whenever you are in late position is a good habit to get into in all forms of poker. Even if your opponent decides to play a pot against you and calls, you are building a pot and you will have the advantage of acting last throughout the hand. Check out our article on preflop tips or check out our top 5 tips for playing position for more information.
2. Be Mindful of your Image
Be mindful of how often you have raised recently and whether or not your opponents might have any reason to want to play a pot against you before you decide to blindsteal. If you have lost a large pot and might be thought to be on tilt, stealing the blinds may be a mistake. If you were caught bluffing in the last few hands then you may want to wait an orbit or two before attempting a blindsteal.
Your image is a huge factor in whether or not you will succeed in stealing the blinds. If you have a tight image you will be much more likely to succeed blind stealing than if you have a loose image.
3. If your Stack is Dwindling, Steal Blinds
In tournament poker, your stack will shrink as the blinds go up. If you fail to win a pot for a while you will quickly notice that your once mighty stack size of over fifty big blinds has dwindled to less than twenty.
If you are approaching the magic number of 10 big blinds then you should be looking for spots to steal the blinds. If you have about 20 big blinds you are in perfect re-stealing range. Look for other medium to smallish sized stacks who look like they may be stealing the blinds and move all-in to re-steal. This can be a tricky play but it is very profitable if executed properly. Practice makes perfect.
If your stack dwindles to 10 or fewer big blinds you should be looking to move all-in and steal the blinds at the first opportunity. Suited broadway cards, pairs, and big aces are preferable for moving all-in, but if you can’t find a good spot then any two cards in late position will do (assuming the pot is unopened in front of you).
4. Steal Often on the Bubble and When the Blinds are Huge
Late in tournaments the average stack size is MUCH smaller (relative to the blinds) than during the early and middle stages. This means that the value of a blind steal goes up significantly.
Many times when a player manages to accumulate a healthy stack approaching the final table they will lock it down and play tight ABC poker. This is exactly the wrong strategy. If you are the big stack you should leverage your big stack for as much of an advantage as you can muster. This doesn’t mean you should go buck wild, but the big stack is one of the few players at the table who can lose a flip with a short stack and still be healthy. Press the advantage!
The same logic applies to the bubble. Look to steal blinds from short and medium-short stacks on the bubble. They are especially vulnerable to busting and more likely than larger stacks (and super short stacks) to fold.
5. Look for the Passive Big Blind
If you spot a player who is consistently failing to defend his big blind, pounce! This player is essentially free money and whichever player decides to attack the passive big blind stands to profit.
If someone else notices that this player isn’t defending his big blind and begins to contest the pots, react accordingly. If you have position on the aggressive player then you should play back at him frequently. If he has position on you then you may have to concede the passive blinds to him, depending of course on how he chooses to contest the pots and how often.