There are many different strategies and theories in No-Limit Hold’em tournaments, but one I do not always agree with is the concept of Defending your Blinds.
Just because I have posted the BB doesn’t make me feel obligated to turn into an ATC – any two cards – player for that hand. There’s a saying in the stock market, “Don’t throw away good money after bad.” Translation: if you buy a stock and it goes into the tank, don’t buy more of it to try to catch it on the rebound and recoup your initial loss. If the stock is a loser, cut your losses and look elsewhere for profit.
I believe the same applies to poker. When I get bad cards in the big blind and there is a raise pre-flop, I am not going to automatically throw in more chips hoping that somehow my J-6 will catch a miracle flop. In other words, don’t throw away good chips just because you have posted the big blind. The way I look at it, once I have posted the blind, those chips are no longer mine, they belong to the pot.
Setting the Tone Early
Early in a tournament, when blinds are smaller and there are no antes, it makes a little more sense to defend your blinds to small raises. Defending your BBs aggressively early in a tourney could pay dividends down the road by discouraging players from trying to steal your blinds in the latter stages, when the blinds are hefty and antes add even more chips into the pot.
The risk to that is assuming the players you are defending against early are still in the tournament (and still at your table) in the latter stages. In larger MTTs, that is not always the case, so you may waste a lot of chips establishing a table image that you will have to re-establish later.
Position is Important
There are several factors to consider if you are going to defend your blinds when you have cards you normally would not play. You must pay attention to the position of the person making the raise. If a person in early position makes a strong raise, it may be a better indication that they have something worth playing. If that happens to me when I am either the small or big blind and I don’t have something that I would normally play, I have no problem with laying down and letting the blind go. If there are two raises, or a raise and another caller before it gets to you, the odds are even worse for you to win.
If the initial raise is by the cutoff, button or small blind, then you may have reason to believe that they are attempting to steal the blinds, and defending your blinds in those situations is not uncalled for. But again, it depends on the size of the raise relative to your stack size, how deep you are in the tournament, the raiser’s tendencies, etc.
I really believe in those instances, the proper course of action would be to re-raise preflop. If you really feel there is a good chance your opponent is just trying to steal your blind, then four-betting a small pre-flop raise could be enough to scare them off the hand. One way to look at this is you are just getting your post-flop continuation bet out of the way BEFORE the flop. Unless you are the big blind in a blind vs. blind confrontation, you are going to be first to act any way after the flop, so you may as well take advantage of the one time you have position on your opponent.
It could also be a cheaper way to find out if your opponent really does have a strong hand. If they fire right back with another raise, then you will probably get an idea that they are not bluffing. If they just call, then you have taken a step to establish that you have a strong hand, and following up with a C-bet could enable you to take down a good-sized pot from a person who was attempting to steal your blind.
If there is only a min-raise at play and your stack is fairly large, or if it is early in a tournament and you are not risking a lot of your stack, defending your blinds makes a little more sense. But if you are going to have to risk more than a third of your stack to play weak cards out of position, then I believe folding is the better option.