written by: John
For one reason or another, many poker players undervalue the importance of stealing blinds. It could be that they're afraid of being played back at or simply feel that the 1.5 big blind reward doesn't outweigh the risk it takes to earn it.
Regardless, these players are leaving a ton of money on the table. It is possible for players to earn well up to 25% or even 50% of their total win rate just from stealing the blinds alone. This makes stealing the blinds a very profitable move to make.
How is Stealing the Blinds so Profitable?
Stealing blinds are profitable because in most cases they are given up without a fight. The players in the blinds are the only two players left between you and the pot, and they're not dealt good enough cards often enough to play back at you, much less play you out of position. This means you can add 1.5 big blinds to your stack a large majority of the time that you try.
Now, 1.5 big blinds don't seem like much. But let's put this into perspective.
Every time you steal the blinds, you earn 1.5 big blinds. This by itself pays for the blinds that you have to pay each orbit. So, essentially it's like breaking even which is a solid foundation for making a profit.
Also, if you were to start stealing from the cut-off every orbit, you'd make an additional 1.5 big blinds. This would be pure profit since your steals from the button make up for the money you have to pay whilst in the blinds.
So for example, in a $.50/$1 NLHE ring game, you'd make $3 an orbit. $1.50 would pay for your blinds and the other $1.50 would be profit. After 10 orbits, or about 45 to 75 minutes of play, you'd make $15. This would be without even having to play a hand or make a difficult decision. An hourly rate of $15 isn't bad for hardly having to do anything.
Obviously, you won't be able to steal the blinds once, let alone twice every orbit. It's just not possible. Sometimes the blinds will wake up with a hand, or someone in front of you raised which will force you to fold. Just realize that stealing the blinds, even as much as 30% of the time, will heavily minimize the losses you take yourself. This will enable you to work on profiting much faster.
Another Benefit of Stealing the Blinds
Aside from making an immediate profit, the benefit of stealing the blinds will also net you a long-term profit as well.
This will come from the action you receive due to the image you will likely give yourself from stealing the blinds. If you didn't steal the blinds and were rather quiet otherwise, no one would give you the time of day when you opened the pot holding a premium hand. This is because it would be transparent as to what type of hand you were holding since you are perceived as a nit.
But stealing the blinds will change this. Since you will be perceived to be rather active or loose, the chances of you getting action while holding a premium hand will likely increase, thus increasing your chances to make a large profit. Your opponents may feel as if you are just playing another hand or just trying to steal the blinds again, but little do they know you actually have a solid hand this time around.
Opponents & Hands
Like any other aspect of poker, it's always good to consider other variables such as your opponents, the hands you're playing and how much to bet when looking to steal the blinds. These factors will play a large role in how often you steal and how profitable you will be when doing so.
The ideal opponents to steal from are tight, preferably outright nits. These players will fold everything in the blinds other than the absolute premiums such as a pair of tens or higher, AQ and AK. Depending on the player, smaller pocket pairs may be included as well.
Since this range of hands is so small, you can open up your stealing range and steal with virtually any two cards. You could steal with all of your broadways, pairs, suited connectors and suited 1 and 2 gapers. If your opponents are absolute rocks, say, with stats of 8 vpip and 7 pfr, you could even steal with absolute garbage like 93 off suit. The profit you make in the long-run more than makes up for the times you have to fold when you're played back at.
Now, on the other hand, if you have looser players in the blinds, you'll want to do the complete opposite. You will want to steal with a much tighter range of hands since you'll be 3-betted or flatted more often. This means that you will want hands that are playable and of high value such as pairs, AK, AQ and most of your broadways. That way, even if you're played back at, you still have a hand that has showdown value.
Loose and/or aggressive players will also give you the opportunity to slow play many of your hands since your hand range will be much narrower than theirs will be. This could result in huge pots being shoved your way.
When stealing the blinds, the phrase, "less is more" is truly important in terms of your bet sizing. The reason being, is that the less you can risk to win "x" amount of dollars, the better. You will win more for such a minimal risk and will lose less when played back at. This is idea in any situation that takes money to make money.
With that said, I'll generally raise anywhere from 2.5 times to 3 times the big blind when I'm on the button. In a $.50/$1 game, this would be about $2.50 or $3. I keep this the same, no matter what hand I'm holding. If I have 78s, I raise to $2.50. If I have AA, I raise to $2.50. This will keep your opponents in the dark as to what hand you hold making it more likely to get your bigger hands paid off when you are on the button. All hands will simply look like a steal attempt.
Another important note to keep in mind is that if you do have to raise more than this while on the button, it should be for value instead of a steal. Most players who are aware of their position will fold out everything but solid hands in the blinds to a 2.5x raise. Bad players won't, so you'll have to have a tighter hand range. So you'll want to go for value as opposed to a steal.
Stealing the Blinds in Poker
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stealing the blinds in poker. There are many other things to think about and consider such as stack sizes, dealing with 3 betting and considering how to play on the flop in case your steal attempt fails.
But at the very least, I hope you can see how easy and profitable blind stealing can be. It's just an easy way to minimize the losses that you take from paying the blinds yourself, not to mention an easy profit at extremely tight tables.