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Small Blind (SB) Ranges

November 14th, 2016 by LD1977

SB is the worst position on the table because:

  • it guarantees information disadvantage against all other players
  • it offers limited strategic options
  • it lowers EV of both premium and speculative hands

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

Opening ranges

This is the simplest possible situation as far as opening the pot goes, since there is only one player (big blind = BB) remaning. However, we will be out of position if he decides to call the raise.

I advise to never just limp (call the 0.5 bb) into an unopened pot – since BB has a 100% range, even if he just takes a free flop the situation is highly skewed in his favour. The decision is therefore only whether to fold or raise.

It is therefore imperative to have exact BB vs SB data in the HUD (I have it in the HUD itself but it is possible to use a popup):

  • BB folding frequency vs SB RFI (most important!); do not use his generic “fold to steal” stat since it takes into account steals from CO, BTN and SB
  • BB calling and 3-bet frequencies against SB steals
  • BB folding frequency vs cbets

Sizing of open raise is important here since many players call min-raises (2bb) a lot more than 2.5bb raises.

We already have 0.5 bb invested into the pot, so this is the math:

  • if we open with a min-raise, we risk 1.5 bb to win 1.5 bb, so BB has to fold only 50% of the time for the steal to be profitable with any two cards (ATC)
  • 2.5 bb raise needs 57% fold rate to be automatically profitable
  • 3 bb raise needs 63% fold rate to be automatically profitable

I find that 2.5 bb raise works best since most people do not react any differently to 2.5 bb vs 3 bb raises.

We do not actually care about BB’s 3-bet frequency if his folding frequeny is high enough.

Since we automatically profit anyway, we can open wide and:

  • when they call we get a “free” flop (paid by our stealing profits), which is beneficial even out of position
  • when they 3-bet we can just fold our garbage hands without any regret

In ideal situation, when BB is very tight and/or easily folds to cbets, my opening range is basically 100% of hands, or ATC (“any two cards”).

In situations where there is a good chance BB will not 3-bet, it is not automatically profitable to open ATC, I open pretty much the same range as from BTN. The range is explained in the previous article “Late Position Ranges: Part 2 (BTN)”.

SB wide opening range, 45.7% of hands

SB wide opening range, 45.7% of hands.

This range contains 606 combinations, or 45.70% of all possible hands.

This is not excessive, since logically in a heads-up situation a 50% range should be fine and we can justify the slight reduction by positional disadvantage.

It is easy to remember:

  • all pocket pairs
  • all suited cards
  • all unsuited Broadways
  • all unsuited Aces

Facing 3-bets

I have mentioned in other articles that I dislike folding too much to 3-bets and like to fight back with calls and play post flop. The reason for this is that my opening ranges are generally fairly tight and strong.

This is not the case in SB.

Most of the time steal attempts are almost automatically profitable so there is no need to spew with weak hands when BB decides to 3-bet.

It is best to just fold majority of the range, call some of it (no blockers but good flopability) and 4-bet with blockers when the HUD indicates it is profitable (BB 3-bets a lot against SB but stacks off narrowly).

I generally use the HUD to project probable post flop action before I decide to call (it is best if there is a good chance of taking the pot even without hitting the board). As usual we check if the BB player is likely to give up either on the flop (check – fold) or the turn (bet flop and then check – fold turn).

3-bet range

SB is (in a way) the ideal position for 3-betting / squeezing, especially against MP and LP opens.

The reason for this is that 3-betting:

  • does not sacrifice anything in opportunity cost (there is no positional advantage)
  • freezes out the BB from joining the action, because the only good options are folding and cold 4-betting*
  • puts pressure on weak and wide ranges from a player who is perceived to be quite conservative (as explained in previous articles, I do not 3-bet much when I have the positional edge to exploit)

* Bad BB players do often spew money by cold-calling a 3-bet without closing the action and without having position post flop, but these players don’t last long. They spew a lot of money when original raiser shoves or they get coolered post flop when out of position. Since they are so terrible, I advise adding some sizing to the 3-bets when holding premiums to fleece them quicker. They almost invariably set mine, so this actually lowers their EV even further in cases when original raiser calls the 3-bet.

I generally use 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 SB 3-bet range, 15% of hands.

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

If CO / BTN are opening very wide and fold a lot to 3-bets, I add all unsuited Aces (blockers!) into the range and go wild (at least for a while).

It is interesting to note that the part of range with no blockers (A, K, Q) actually 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

I pretty much never call in SB.

The only exception is with a non-dominated nut-chaser such as suited Aces in cases where there are many players already in the pot (hard to get rid of all by 3-betting, which also lowers the probabilty BB will go for it) and it is likely to get paid when it hits (due to coolering lower suited hands). Low risk and potentially good profit makes it a rare exception.

I highly advise against doing this with potentially dominated suited hands (as many people do). Those lose money both when they miss and when they hit and get coolered by bigger flushes. Low to medium pairs are also vulnerable to set – over – set coolers.

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