Blind on Blind

Blind on Blind

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

By Paul Zimbler

Day 1 in a multi-day tournament should be treated with care; a little bit like warming up before sports event. There are many different things to consider and many approaches to take, but the main aim of the day is to survive. If you are in, you can win.

No one has ever won a multi-day tournament in a day and no one ever will, but many have fallen. You need to have gears and understand the structure before you go crazy.

The blinds are an important part of poker and blind on blind situations should be handled with care. Personally, I’m not a big fan of playing many pots from the small blind, and when it’s a battle between the small blind and big blind, you’ll often see the hand played in an unusual way.
It’s massively important to understand what kind of player you are facing when blind on blind. What state of mind is he in? Is he running good, in the gambling mood or on tilt?

In the UKIPT Nottingham, there were approximately 1,000 runners for the £500 buy in, with £100,000 for the winner. The starting stack was 15,000 chips. It was Level 3 and the blinds were 75/150.

The button was a tight player, which is perhaps the reason I frequently found myself in the small blind with only the big blind left in the pot.
We had some history and he had made the comment that he felt he wasn’t ever going to get a walk. I shrugged and said I was happy to surrender my small blind. I think I had raised his big blind once and showed a pair. Once he raised me on the flop and I showed him I had flopped a pair and mucked my hand.

The average stack was still around 15,500 and we both had about 16,000. Again, everyone folded and I looked down at A-A. I decided to make it 425. He looked at me and raised to 1,750.

As you can imagine, I was delighted and now had to decide quickly how to play the hand. Was he trying to make a stand or did he actually have a hand? I looked at him and nodded. He looked serious and I took the view that he actually had a hand. I asked the dealer to take the 425s into the middle so it looked like I was weighing up the value. I decided I would go for the over bet re-raise.

Why the over-raise, which runs the risk he might fold, rather than a flat to try to get all the chips later?

Well, if he had a hand, then I thought he may go for the shove or at least see a flop, and, since I was out of position, I could show weakness on any flop and get him to hang himself. This is something I would only suggest you do with A-A or K-K, as there is still too much play involved this early to play a big pot blind on blind, out of position.

I wanted it to look like I was carelessly grabbing some chips, but it was all carefully planned, of course, and made my re-raise 4,200. What does this look like to him and what options would this leave him?

It may look like a steal, which means he would have to shove or he would have to call off a third of his chips in position to try to take me off the pot on the flop, turn or river.

As I believed he was strong, I thought he might call and hope for a safe flop if he had a hand like T-T, J-J or Q-Q, and if he had A-K he might shove.

As soon as my chips were in the pot, he moved all in very quickly and of course I beat him in the pot. He showed A-Q. Not only was I amazed to see this hand but also liked his comment: “Damn, I thought you were at it!”

Let’s reflect on this for a second. If I was “at it” do you think I would put in a third of my stack in, only to fold, and what if I had a hand? What could I have had and what shape was he in to be playing an all in pot for 32k pre flop with A-Q in level 3?

The flop was K-K-Q and a queen hit the turn, leaving me feeling a little sick, with only 650 chips left in one of the biggest comps in the UK.
He apologised and I said, “Don’t be sorry, you did everything I wanted you to.” Poker can be a cruel game but I was happy to have the all in pot. I’m not able to control the cards but I’m happy to play the odds.

But I want to focus on his hand, not mine. How should you play the A-Q in position. Well, again, this depends on the player in the small blind, but, in the early stages of a big three-day comp, I might decide to raise and see where I was, but this must be done with an idea of how you want to play the hand on later streets.

A lot of people might see it as weakness to flat call his raise, but I don’t. Do you want to play a big pot here? Pot control is key in competitions and by raising you are creating a pot that may get too big for your hand.

You can also raise and if you are re-raised choose to fold. There is no shame in folding. You were raising for information and you got it. So many players raise for information, get their answer and still proceed to get the chips in. Why?

If you call with a hand like A-Q after this much action you are committing far too many of your chips to see a flop and, even if an ace or a queen comes, you are still unsure as to whether you’re winning.
The one major factor you have in this hand is that you’re in position, so why not use this and play with your strengths?

This way, by flat-calling the initial raise, you can play poker and see the flop, and the bet sizing will be appropriate to see the turn, or even see all five cards, depending how your opponent plays his hand out of position. You’d be able to see a flop and pass to a bet on if didn’t connect, or you can even make a play for the pot if your opponent checks to you, or raise him on the flop if he bets.

Think about your hands before you play them and don’t fall into the trap where you think everyone’s “at it” all the time. It’s about survival and risk reward.

Come to the BLUFF/TIPS seminar to learn more about playing multi day tournaments, pot control and situational plays. More information is available at

Tags: Paul Zimbler