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StrategyFixed Limit

Pre-flop: Blind steals - How to Adjust to Your Opponents

Video: Click here


In this article
  • How to adjust your BU open-raising range
  • How to adjust your SB open-raising range
  • When you can open-limp

The blinds are the reason for the action in Texas Hold'em. Without blinds, every player could wait for AA and there wouldn't be a game. The blinds are the only motivation to even put money into the pot before the flop - they are the primary target of an open raise.

Initially, every open-raise is an attack on the money that's already in the pot (the blinds). That's why the definition of an open-raise from the cut-off or the button came to be known as blind steal.

You can see in the Open-Raising Chart (ORC) that the hand range for an open-raise increases dramatically from the CO to the SB. While you only raise 25% of your starting hands from the CO, you raise 38% from the BU and even 60% from the SB.

The fundamental principle for an open-raise is that you have positive expected value against all hands behind you (assuming they are random). Your EV depends on your equity against the hands behind you, on your position, and on the playability of your hand. The combination of these factors determines whether a hand has positive equity up to the showdown. In principle, a hand listed in the ORC will always have an equity edge against the hands behind you.

Not every hand in the ORC has an EQ edge against any random hand, though. Starting with the BU, and especially for the SB, you will find hands in the ORC which don't really have an EQ edge against every random hand. Take T4s (for the SB) and put it into the Equilator. You will see:

Equity Win Split Lose
Player 1: 46.530% 44.204% 4.653% 51.143% T4s
Player 2: 53.470% 51.143% 4.653% 44.204% Random

T4s only has 46.5% equity against a random hand. Why do you raise (even risking a 3-bet) out of position with a hand that's not even a favorite against a random range? The reason is that you've already invested your small blind, which you would otherwise give up without a fight. Additionally, the opponent could fold his big blind even before the flop and you would win the pot without contest. The fold equity generated by a raise thus justifies raising with a hand with no EQ edge. Even if the EV is slightly negative on average, an open-raise can make sense if its EV is higher than the EV of a fold.

In this article, we primarily want to concern ourselves with four questions about open-raises:

  • How do you adjust your open-raising range when you generate no fold equity from the blinds?
  • How do you adjust your open-raising range when you have a very aggressive SB behind you?
  • How do you adjust your open-raising range when you generate above average fold equity from the blinds?
  • When can you limp from the SB?

How do you adjust your range?

In a nutshell, you adjust your range accordingly:

  • No fold equity -> raise tighter, consider an open-limp against loose-passive opponents from the SB
  • A lot of fold equity -> raise looser
  • Very aggressive blinds = high 3-bet risk -> raise tighter
  • loose-passive BB -> open-limp with certain hands

These directives require you to know how high your fold equity is and how likely a player in a blind position will 3-bet . But how do you know exactly how much fold equity you generate with your steal raise? Or how high the risk of a 3-bet is? As usual, you can't look into your opponents' heads, but there are a couple of indications to help estimate your fold equity.


A good indication for assessing your fold equity is the Elephant/PokerTracker value 'Fold Big Blind to Steal'. This value tells you how often the opponent folds his big blind to a steal-raise (open-raise from the CO or the BU). For more information about this value, take a look at this article: Short-handed Stats – Recommendations for Small Stakes Hold'em

Most TAGs have a value between 45-55% here. Even though this value doesn't explicitly indicate how often the opponent folds to a raise in a specific situation, you can make the following assumptions:

  • If the opponent has a low Fold BB to Steal value (<40%), you have less fold equity than is assumed according to the ORC
  • If the opponent folds a lot more (>60%), you have better chances for a fold than assumed

Pay attention, though, as this value only starts being somewhat relevant at a sample size of 1000 hands.


You often won't have the necessary sample size to be able to make significant determinations from the Fold BB to Steal value. There are other possibilities for estimating the fold behavior of the blinds though.

The opponent is a fish: The VP$IP is already significant after a relatively small number of hands. If the opponent, for instance, has a VP$IP of 65% after 100 hands, you can assume that he will hardly fold any hand in the BB for a SB.

The opponent is a rock: The opposite is true here. If someone, for example, only has a VP$IP of 18% on a 6-max table, you can usually give yourself higher fold equity for your steal raise.


Imagine you raised AA from the button and the BB calls. You bet through all the streets, win the hand on a 99862 board and the opponent shows you 63o. If he is willing to defend with a hand like 63o, you can assume he will call any steal and that your fold equity is 0.


The 3-bet risk can be deducted from the pre-flop raise value (PFR). If an opponent has a really high PFR (>25%), you can assume that he will 3-bet from the SB against BU raises more often than a TAG. The pre-flop matrix in the heads-up display of the PokerStrategy Elephant can even explicitly show you how often an opponent 3-bet from which position.

It should now be clear which information you should take into consideration for your steal raise. Let's move on and take a look at how to integrate this knowledge into your pre-flop play.


That's not the entire article...

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Comments (2)

#1 datsmahname, 04 Jun 11 17:08

"If you're up against opponents that don't fold any hand in the blind war, or even like to 3-bet you, you can quickly end up with a broken nose if you open-raise too loosely from the SB."

Must be a local expression? Can't say I've ever been slugged in the face for stealing the blinds :D

#2 kavboj84, 31 Aug 12 17:31

LOL dont take it literally its just a metaphor.