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Big Blind (BB) Ranges

December 4th, 2016 by LD1977

BB differs from SB in several very important ways:

  1. Calling usually closes the action, so BB can choose whether to fold, call or 3-bet (more strategic options available)
  2. Price of calling raises is lower compared to size of pot (since SB contributes certain value). This heavily impacts strategic picture in some situations (more on this below).
  3. Price of 3-betting / squeezing is slightly lower and if SB folded that adds guaranteed value (dead money) to the pot. In similar situations SB can never be sure if BB will fold, call or cold 4-bet / shove.
  4. Small amount of time (SB vs BB scenarios) BB actually has post flop positional advantage

However, similar drawbacks to SB are present:

  • information disadvantage against all other players except SB
  • somewhat limited strategic options (but better than in SB)
  • lower EV of both premium and speculative hands

Play in BB is heavily based on HUD and notes, which serve to compensate for the inherent positional weakness.

Opening ranges

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing in BB. Someone already voluntarily put money in the pot if we are in turn to act.

However, sometimes people limp into the pot and BB has the option to raise. In EP, MP and LP this is usually called isolation raise. I did not cover them specifically earlier because limps do not occur that often, and even if they do, our opening ranges serve just fine for isolation raises.

In BB, this is positionally somewhat similar to EP scenarios. The difference is that, since limpers already invested into the pot, it is justified to use only the best parts of our EP range and make the raise quite large.

Example of conservative BB isolation range, 7% of hands.

Example of conservative BB isolation range, 7% of hands.

This is just an example of one possible isolation range, but here I am inclined to be much more flexible than with standard opening ranges. Basically limp – fold stats of limpers and their flop strategy (fold % to cbets) are more important factors to consider that just strength of our hand.

Lot of players advise adding 1 bb per limper to a normal raise, but since we are going to be OOP and limpers already invested a bb (= they are less likely to fold) I would add another 0.5 -1 bb on top (especially if I have a premium hand). It is not like fish are known to appreciate subtlety in bet sizings, so by making it larger we reduce profitability of their speculative hands (usually suited hands and small to medium pocket pairs). If they are willing to pay a lot to see the flop but immediately fold if they don’t hit it hard (this, surprisingly, happens often enough), so much the better!

I do advise caution before doing this with non-premium hands against completely unknown opponents, since loose passive limpers sometimes do tend to be sticky and we cant really expect to do much with hands like KJs / QJs. Trying to make passive limpers fold their KQo if they hit anything is called “spewing” for a reason. With these weaker suited Broadways I would be inclined to just take the free flop unless the HUD suggests limper(s) will fold to a raise or the cbet.

Facing (limp) 3-bets

This is a special case when a limper wakes up with a 3-bet or even a shove*.

Most often this is a sign of aggro fish with a medium pair (88-JJ), some kind of suited AT-AQ or offsuit AK, while sometimes it can be a premium hand (usually either AK or AA). It is almost never QQ – KK because people fear flops with overcards and are much less likely to slowplay these hands.

*I think the “logic” behind this action is that they wanted to see a cheap flop, but facing an isolation raise they now dislike the price but hate to fold, so what is left is to shove and pray. They usually know that they have around 30% equity with Ax suited and hope they are flipping their pairs vs AK / AQ type of hand.

With weaker parts or our range, I would generally fold suited Broadways (including AQs) / call suited connectors and pocket pairs if the price is right. This is already covered in “Early Position Ranges” article.

I advise 4-betting (and stacking off) or outright shoving all premium hands (AK / QQ+). There is no need for subtlety at this point. If we run into AA, such is life (+ since we would 3-bet and stack off this range anyway, we don’t really lose anything). We make a note and move on.

3-bet range

BB has a much better situation that SB as far as strategic decisions go (calling is a valid option), but in fact it is still not trivial and I see regular players with poor BB strategy due to excessive or (more often) insufficient aggression.

I do use a very similar 3-betting strategy in BB as in SB, but unlike in SB I am more likely to call parts of those ranges if HUD suggests it.

In general, especially against LP opens, 3-betting / squeezing a decent balanced range is a better EV choice that calling a lot and playing OOP without initiative (especially against several people). The reason for this is reversed implied odds (ROI) for many speculative hands that are not nut – chasers (suited connectors, non-Ace suited Broadways).

Calling does have its place but first instinct should always be to consider 3-betting.

I generally like to 3-bet the balanced f) range from “Middle Position Ranges” article, which contains 15% of hands with very good equity, blockers and flopability. Flopability is important against players who call 3-bets in position.

Balanced BB 3-bet range, 15% of hands.

Balanced BB 3-bet range, 15% of hands.

This is the same range I use in SB, which may not be theoretically ideal (SB should have a larger 3-bet range than BB), but my extremely conservative approach to 3-betting when in position allows for wide 3-betting ranges from the blinds.

It is very important to check original raiser’s positional fold to 3-bet stats, if he does not fold much (and does not fold to flop cbets enough), then it is better to fold or call suited Broadways / connectors.

As in the last article (“SB Ranges”), the logic behing defense vs. steals is the same:

If CO / BTN are opening very wide and fold a lot to 3-bets, I add all unsuited Aces (blockers!) into the range as pure bluffs (automatic fold against 4-bets and not much bluffing post flop).

I would like to emphasize again that the part of range with no blockers (A, K, Q) has a slightly higher chance to take the pot away with a continuation bet. The reason for this is that AA / KK / AA / AK / AQ are so prominent in our perceived range that it is very hard for an unimproved pocket pair (that setmined and missed) or a suited connector that hit a weak pair to call on the flop in one of those overcards show up.

On the other hard, flops that do not have those high cards actually do hit those hands. However, we need to care not to overplay our own middling hands in this situation since our fold equity will be fairly low.

Calling range

If a 3-bet against MP / LP open is not the best option for any reason (usually poor fold equity), I do consider a call with hands that have good enough equity against opponents’ ranges. Since this is highly flexible and individual, it is hard to give a fixed-in-stone range here.

Here is an example of range of hands that I generally use:

BB calling range out of position, 18% of hands.

BB calling range out of position, 18% of hands.

This range contains 240 hands, or 18.1% of all possible starting hands.

It has 50.15% equity against a CO opening range I mentioned in “CO Ranges” article. Obviously it does even better against a BTN range, how well exactly depends on the size of that range.

It is of course possible to add more unsuited Broadways instead of suited gappers, but I find that hidden straights that gappers make tend to score well enough in practice. I just find them better than weak bluff catchers (+ much easier to play correctly).

Before calling, I generally check on raiser’s post flop habits, especially reaction to donk bets and flop check-raises. I will cover this is more depth in future hand analysis articles, but I find it important to think a bit ahead before calling. Since they have positional advantage, it is hard to count on purely extracting thin value as a path to profitability.

There is one situation which is unique to BB, and that is against a SB open raise.

It is the only situation where a caller has all the advantages:

  • known price of calling (no possibility of squeezes)
  • guaranteed heads-up situation
  • fairly well known (or at least possible to estimate) and weak range of the opponent

Additionally, against known opponents we have the luxury of knowing their post flop habits.

What I am trying to say here is, this is where we can go back to the usual strategy of calling in position and outplaying people post flop. The difference is that out range here is very wide.

For example, against a player that opens a 45% range in SB (the one mentioned in the “SB ranges” article), I would use a 51% range (and feel good about it):

BB calling range against a wide SB open, 51% of hands.

BB calling range against a wide SB open, 51% of hands.

This is actually quite fine, considering the positional advantage.

Obviously, against a smaller SB range we get more free money (that 0.5 bb he gives up), so we can also reduce our calling range accordingly and still come out ahead. Giving so many range examples would just inflate the article, so I will leave it to the readers. It is a very interesting exercise.

This concludes the Ranges series of articles.

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One Response to “Big Blind (BB) Ranges”

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