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Blind Stealing

Vince Vaughn ,a poker player

Blind Stealing is one of the buzzwords of modern texas holdem poker. The definition of blind stealing is that if you are in late position, either on the cutoff or button, and are first to act, you raise preflop, hoping to take the pot immediately.

The name blind stealing stems from the fact that the pot only contains the two blinds and the move could be carried out with any two cards, including weak hands or garbage, hence stealing.

This move symbolizes the importance of position in hold'em poker. The thief has positional advantage and both the small & big blind know that unless they have a strong hand, they are under the threat of future betting all the way to the river.

ABC of Blind Stealing in Texas Hold'em

Poker tracking software such as Poker Tracker and Holdem Manager provide a statistic called "steal attempt percent", which says how often you attempt to steal the blinds when you have the opportunity to do so.

In a blind versus blind situation, the small blind may also attempt to "steal" but this is a different scenario without the positional advantage and it belongs to a different article. Blind stealing can contribute up to 30% of a holdem player's win rate if done properly. We provide some guidance below.

Blind stealing is based on fold equity. As we increase our steal attempt percent, we have to play weaker and weaker hands. The good news is that because there are only 2 or 3 players left behind us, the chance are low that they have a premium hand, obviously much lower than if we were UTG.

For example, the odds that none of them have some specific hands are as follows:
- monster hand {JJ+,AK}: 91.3% chance with three players left to act, 94.1% with two,
- very good hand {88+,AJ+,KQ}: 77.9% chance with three players left to act, 84.6% with two,
- marginal hand {22+,AX,J+,XYs}: 16% chance with three players left to act, 29.5% with two.

Remember that when you attemp tp steal the blinds, your preferred result is an immediate fold. If you raise by 4 bb in order to collect the 1.5 bb pot, you need your opponent(s) to fold on average 4/5.5=73% of the time in order to break even.

If they call, you should almost always make a continuation bet, between 2/3 and 100% of the pot. With a 2/3 pot continuation bet, you need them to fold 40% of the time at the flop in order to break even.

This shows that blind stealing works best with TAG-NITS who only call with strong or very strong hands. The looser your opponents, the riskier this strategy is, as you will have to play beyond the flop more often. Moderate your blind stealing attempts if you have a few calling stations behind you.

The most difficult part of blind stealing in texas holdem is when the action has not yet ended by the turn. You still have the advantage of position, but if your opponent starts to show sign of aggression, you should give up the hand. Blind stealing is a small pot strategy, do not commit your entire stack.

Generally speaking, in the absence of aggression, you should second-barrel, especially when a scary card appears at the turn. Do not slow play your monsters. If you have KK on a flop K77♠, do your usual continuation bets. If you get called by an unbeliever with JJ who ends up giving you his entire stack, you will get much more respect in the future when you hold garbage.

The way to counteract a player who is too aggressive with stealing your blinds is to do some blind restealing.

In the toughest rooms such as PokerStars and Full Tilt, the regular sharks have made it an art to steal the blinds as much as possible, up to frequencies of 30-40%.

In less travelled rooms such as Carbon Poker, players are less aware of this strategy and you can use it to exert pressure and instill fear with an aggressive image.


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