KC ADVANCED BLIND STEALING STRATEGY
KC Advanced Blind Stealing Strategy
So lately I have been browsing the forum and trying to figure out what I can do to help out the players with losing/break even playing styles. So far, the big thing that I've noticed is that so many people tighten up once the blinds start to increase, and that many of these TAG players seem to just want to cruise into the money praying that they do not bubble. That strategy is great for let's say a satellite where the money/ticket is distributed evenly, but in an MTT we want a big return for our small investment(usually the top 3 places). So my goal in this article is to try and light a fire underneath these scared money TAG players, and start making them realize that chips=power and power=control at the table.
Chips=Power and Power=Control
Most decent TAG MTT players should have a reasonable size stack by the time the blinds reach around 100/200. This is when we really want to start picking our spots and every once and a while take down the 300 pot pre-flop. Now at this point in the MTT we shouldn't be stealing that much since we are still in good shape(good shape being average to over average stack). The whole point again of doing this is to take control of the table and also to slowly build on to your stack gradually enough that it is unnoticable to others what you are trying to do. Also if you are still playing tight at this point then most likely you will pick up a hand here and there and will also make your stack bigger in that way including the occasional steal for the 300. Your tight image at this point should allow you to take the blinds down easily.
This is also where the transition point begins. So many people ask when they should shift gears or when they should start to loosen up, well this is it! The problem is that many people think that changing gears is going from TAG to LAG just like that, but it's not! In order to deceive your opponents you must go from one gear to another, back and foward fading in your new offensive mode unnoticed. You should be opening and closing your range up, and the big thing is to try and do this whithout making a pattern in each position. I say this because many people will change their ranges according to the position that they are playing the hand in, and many opponents will pick up on this. Now I understand that many utilizing this strategy will be playing mid to micro MTTs and usually many of your opponents won't be picking up on this right away, if at all. Which leads me to one of the most crucial things that must happen while attempting to steal blinds
Attention to Detail
I know you have all done this yourself before, and I can gaurantee your oponents are doing it too...what I am talking about is not paying attention to the game completely! Wether it be browsing the internet or playing 5 other games, it is a leak and I can assure you that if you focused on just your table and on exactly what everyone is doing, it will noticeably effect your game in a positive way. This all has a lot to do with your own memory and note taking skills. Now this is not a note taking article or lesson so I shouldn't have to explain how to take notes, but I like to break down my notes into sections for several different reasons. Here is an example that will hopefully help you understand what I am talking about.
Let's say the blinds are 200/400 and you are in the CO(cut off position,right of the dealer). You decide that you are in late position and want to attempt a steal to take down the 600$ pot pre-flop with a hand like 10 9 suited. You raise and the button and small blind fold. The Stacks sizes are: Hero-20,000 and BB-19,000.
The big blind calls, thus ruining your initial plan to take it down pre-flop. This opponent has shown down a wide range of hands and has made most of his money from playing hands like A 5 off suit. The flop comes 10 7 2 (suits do not matter in this hand). He checks and you bet a standard 1/2 to 3/4 bet. He flat calls and the turn is another 2. He checks and you decide to slow down since the BB could have a wide range of hands. The river comes another 2, making you a full house. He bets a small amount just like a value bet, so you decide to get some value for your hand! You raise 3x his bet and he calls showing down K 7 off suit. You win, that's great but now we have a lot of information about how this player reacts to raises pre-flop while in the big blind position. We would break down the notes into 3 different sections(also a color if your software allows you to color coordinate players).
1. This section deals with the overall play of the player. And this will build over playing more hands against this player. Usually this will say if they are loose, aggressive, passive ect. This will allow us to change our style accordingly.
2. I usually use the second section for either 1 of 2 words. Defensive or Passive. These two words explains how they usually react when faced with a raise while they are in the blinds. This is crucial, remember this section is only for how they react when they are in the BLINDS.
-Remember that these players wether passive or not can still wake up with a hand, so don't always rely on these two words. Although it works out nicely like this since a person you mark as usually folding will hardly ever defend against you, so when they raise your raise out of position you know it's time to get out.
3. This has to do with their estimated ranges. You will mainly gather this information from seeing them show down hands against you or others(which is why paying attention at all times is important!). I like to use words, if I can, to explain their ranges to condense my notes. For example a tight player playing only top ten hands AA, KK, QQ ect. I will note in this section as TOP TEN. So making up these type of words can help you when looking at your notes in order to make a quick decision due to not having much time.
On many sites you can color coordinate your oponents as well as take notes. I am playing on Full Tilt at the moment and they have a color spectrum from warm to cool colors(warm being red and cool being blue), with other colors in between. I personally have made up a system in which each color has a meaning. I use most of the warm colors, red, orange, yellow, for loose bad players. I use cool colors for like blue and green for good players. It really doesn't matter how you do it but it can help in making quick decisions once you get used to your system.
-Note Taking Break Down
Now going back to the 10 9 hand we will show exactly how we would take notes on this opponent.
1. LOOSE/passive - in the above example it notes that he has made most of his chips from playing a wide range of hands, so we will mark him as a loose player. Usually these are the types we do not want to steal against, we are just giving an example here. Also in the hand you can see that he did hit mid pair but didn't bet like crazy so we will mark him down as passive, for now.(remember notes can change at any time depending on how they switch their game up!)
2. DEFENSIVE - this one is obvious. He is already a loose player and has made a loose call out of position with K 7. He is definetly defending his blind.
3. WIDE RANGE - This can be helpful but not always, a wide range dosn't necessarily help you on a read since he could have anything but it could prevent you from making a bet or stealing from a loose player later on in the tournament.
Color- This player would obviously be a warm color like red or orange showing that he is loose and plays many hands.
As you can see your notes are condensed and easy to read. Remember that this is what will help you the majority of the time when making the decision to steal, and is a huge part in building a stack for later in the mtt!
Position and Stealing
To make this easier I will brake down each position, or sections of positions. I will try to explain when it is best in each position but this is like many things in poker and that it will usually "depend" on exactly how the hand is being played out, and there are millions of scenerios that I could not cover. At least without getting carpel tunnel. This is where your gut and reads also come into play, using up all the information that you have on each single player and the table as a whole. Honestly you can steal from any position at anytime with any hand, it just depends on the reads of the blinds or players left to act and the type of image you have yourself.
SB (small blind): The small blind is a position where I am mainly looking to steal the BB's chips. If there are any limpers or raises i am mucking right away. Stealing here is based off the notes and tendancies of the BB you are constantly up against. Hopefully you have taken notes and have been studying everyone.
BB (big blind): You will hardly ever steal in this position, you are always last to act PF, but if you try to steal limpers chips and they call then you are in horrible playing position and have no idea if they have a monster or a hand like a pair. I usually say defend against the SB or Button and show no mercy. It only takes one time of standing up and defending your big blind to show others that you don't just get out of the way, so be aggressive and secure your BB for in the future. This position is more about defending rather than being offensive and stealing.
UTG(under the gun): This can be a vauluable position for stealing against the right people. Remember in these MTTs many are not even paying attention to wether you are UTG or not. Some don;t even think that far ahead in their thought process while playing or are just not that good. Against good players a UTG raise is a sign of strength, since usually people will not raise in such a bad position unless they have a really good hand. Therfor it can be effective for stealing since many will see it as just that!
MP 1-4 (middle position): I try and stay away from these position as far as stealing goes, it's just a bad spot to be in if you end up getting called. There are too many ways for people to raise since there are many in front and behind you to act. Although remember to make a rare steal every now and then so that many do not see that you only raise in MP with your good hands.
CO (cut-off): I look at the CO just as I do the Button. It's a great position to take the blinds but can be looked at as an obvious steal so be cautious of making a pattern here and on the button, since most of the times the blinds will catch on and become annoyed.
Button: This is the most common place to steal for just about anyone since you have position and have an advantage once the flop comes, if it goes to the flop. Again depending on the reads that you have on the blinds make your timed raises accordingly, but make sure you always apply pressure on those blinds even if they defend, show them that you are not going to stop, which will show even more pwer and control.
KEY POINT-----> Remember that you are just not always going to have to "steal" while playing. You will get good hands and hit eventually so that is just an added bonus and will hide the fact that you are not always stealing. It's a beautiful thing since it will always have your opponents guessing.
The Effects of Taking Control
Now that we know why we steal, and how we go about setting ourselves up to make a steal, we will talk about taking control as the blinds go up. Now eventually many will start to see that you are being aggressive and are taking down small pots here and there, it's obvious, and that's ok! But we need to realize that some may try to be the hero and defend against your offensive attacks.-----KEY POINT---->Although this also can be good since when we do wake up with a good hand it looks like a steal and we will get looked up by a weaker hand!
If you've been doing your job so far and stealing against noted players and in according positions then you should have a good grasp on the table and many should already be backing out of your way. This leads me to a theory that I have developed over time while developing my strategy for stealing in mid to late stages of MTTs. It is called the "Syphon Effect". I got the name from thinking about how a syphon,used for gasoline, works. Once the syphon gets enough pressure built up inside the tube it eventually doesn't need you to pump anymore in order to get more gas, it starts to pump automaticly. Therefore just like in poker when you start to show a presense of only good hands and aggression, most of the time many will fold to you while you are in the blinds, therfor insuring that you will hardly ever have to defend your blinds in a bad position. Eventually this will become an automatic thing and I have seen it before where the button will fold to me constantly and I will maintain my stack size since I am not constantly losing chips from the blinds going up.
This is why taking control is so helpful. You get these benefits that come along with the power!
Remember, stealing is crucial and in my opinion is the only way to succesfully go deep in MTTs consitently. Also rember that poker is a game that cannot be taught completely, a lot of what happens at the table depends on your own skill, experience, and gut feelings/reads. This is just a small article with a few key points, there is so much more to it.
In my next article I will talk about the Bubble and the Final Table, pertaining to stealing at both!