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Poker Tournament - Blind Stealing Strategy

Poker tournaments are often not epic confrontations between two premium hands in the later rounds when it all is decided. They are generally 60/40 or closer confrontations, which ultimately decide the outcome.

With 10x the Big Blind or less, you have options. You could raise the minimum with steal hands, but I think this is weak. For one, you are inviting people to come over the top with many hands if you frequently steal this way. If you are the type to minimum raise with your premium hands as well, then you are also risking being busted by people who take advantage of the good price you have offered and see a flop from the blinds.

Minimum raising with big blinds and a 10 x big blind stack generally means you will steal blinds at a less frequent rate, but also risk less to do so. It also provides the chance for opponents to outplay you on the flop which you will miss more than not. Frankly, I don't minimum raise because it always seems to put me in difficult situations. I know that difficult doesn't necessarily mean bad, but I prefer to avoid these kinds of spots.

So if you don't minimum raise, you are going to be raising 2.5-3 x big blind with 10 x big blind stack. Now the problem arises here. You must raise 2.5-3 x bb with all your hands, right? If you raise 2.5-3 x bb when you are stealing, and do anything differently when you have a premium hand, then I think we could agree that this makes no sense. You must keep your opponents off balance.

If you raise 2.5-3 x bb with a stealing hand, and someone goes over the top for your stack, you are going to fold getting 13:7, or roughly 2:1 odds. Most stealing hands, on average, are worth this price.

The bottom line is this: If you steal enough using the 10 x BB rule you will have a higher rate of success than using any other method. More often than not you will be doing enough work to keep your stack growing, or to at least keep it where it is. When you do get called, it won't always be by aces or kings, and it will often be a coinflip situation. One better than raising to 3 x bb and then folding to a reraise.

The issue becomes a lot more clear with 8 x BB. It should all be pushing and folding. I suppose 10 x bb is an arbitrary amount, and I would agree that maybe 9.5 is a better mark. I really do not think raising less than all-in and folding is going to be a more +EV move than raising all-in to begin with.

So now we have this 'rule'. The real trick is deciding what to push, and what to not push. When you have 11xBB, you can afford to fold marginal hands like K8s from the CO, but if you had 6 x bb, this fold would be a crime. So obviously as you lose your stack relative to the blinds, you get more desperate.

So that at 11-14xBB you can afford to fold marginal hands (instead of opening for 3xBB), and at 8-10xBB you get more desperate, and at 6-8xBB you get even more desperate, etc.

At 5-6 x bb you should be the most desperate. What exactly this range of hands is, depends. But for the most part, this should be the height of your looseness. Why? Because you have folding equity, but not for long. When the blinds go up, or when you get blinded, or when both happen, you are sure to lose almost all of your folding equity, and you have no chance to survive and build a stack without showdown. If you have less than this, say, 1.5-3xBB, your folding equity is almost gone. You shouldn't be desperate now because you wont be able to make anyone fold with trash hands. So now you should be fairly selective, and worse case scenario just go down with any random two from the big blind.

Curt Feather is a professional poker player and poker writer. Visit one of his poker websites and read more of his informative poker articles. http://www.nlfreeroll.com , and http://small-stake.blogspot.com .

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