Advanced Strategy: Stealing the Blinds and Button, Raising, and Isolating
Stealing the Blinds
Stealing the blinds or attempting to steal the blinds is when a player in late position, often the button, is the first one to enter the pot and raises with the hope of the blinds folding to the raise. For this to work, you must study your opponents and know how they play. Some players will defend their blinds by always calling a raise. Obviously you can't steal their blind if this is the way they play.
Stealing the blinds happens much more in no-limit Hold'em than in limit Hold'em because you can make a large enough raise in no-limit to often drive the blinds out of the hand. Unless the blinds are extremely tight, I don't recommend trying to steal blinds very often without a solid hand. Moreover, since many players attempt to steal blinds from the button, most players don't respect a raise from this position and will call with marginal hands. For this reason, experienced players like to try a steal occasionally from one seat to the right of the button.
Stealing the Button
As previously discussed, being last to act is a great advantage in Hold'em. Stealing the button is when a player in middle to late position enters the pot with a raise hoping to force the players between him/her and the blinds to fold. Once again, observe your opponents in order to have an idea if this can work. By this time you may be tired of reading that you must study your opponents. Nonetheless, to be a top-level poker player it is a skill you must continually develop.
There are only two reasons to raise in Hold'em: You raise to build the pot, or you raise to reduce the field against you by forcing opponents to fold. A good example of raising to reduce the field is when many players see the flop and you hit the second or third best pair with a chance to draw to a better hand. For example: You hold K-J and the flop is Q-J-3.
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You have a middle pair with a flush draw and a
straight draw, and a good chance of winning the pot.
A situation in which you are raising to build the pot is when you believe you have the best hand and a player bets into you, you call, a player behind you raises, and the first player calls. You can raise in this position, and most of the time both opponents will call your raise because they have invested two bets.
Isolating an Opponent
One reason to reduce the field with a raise is to isolate an opponent. By raising at a particular time, you may get everyone to fold with the exception of one opponent. The ideal opportunity to do this is when an opponent raises the big blind before anyone calls and you are the next person to act. Your reraise will often force everyone else to fold, thus isolating the initial raiser. This creates three advantages for you: You have position; you are playing heads-up; and you have shown strength. Do this if you have a strong hand and/or you feel you can outplay your opponent after the flop.
In the next section, we will cover one of the most exciting aspects of poker -- bluffing your opponents.
For more information about Texas Hold 'Em Poker and other variations, try the following links:
- To see all of our articles on poker rules and advice, go to our main article on How To Play Poker.
- Some Poker Basics are essential before you sit down at the card table.
- For a more complicated version of hold 'em, learn How to Play Omaha Poker.
- Get to know the previous "most popular game in poker", in How to Play 7-Card Stud Poker.