Small Blind Play
Many people play out of the small blind incorrectly because they don't understand the positional disadvantage they'll be playing from post-flop and/or don't understand the math when deciding whether to call or fold.
Too often, players are willing to call raises from late position players out of the small blind with marginal hands like J-10 or A-9 without recognizing the fact that they will be first to act post-flop. The positional disadvantage turns hands that would be playable in position, to ones that are unplayable. Granted, there are times that you can take advantage of a pre-flop raiser who plays weak post-flop, but more often than not you are better off folding or re-raising. We'll talk more about defending the blinds later.
One thing that you should do out of the small blind is raise frequently when it has been folded to you. Calling is usually a mistake in these instances because of the positional disadvantage you will be facing, and more times than not the big blind will fold most hands. This, of course, is dependent on who the player is, but generally speaking raising is the correct course of action.
Calling with any two out of the small blind when you are getting the right price can be a profitable play if utilized correctly. For every 10 times you put in 1/2 a big blind when you are getting 7:1 or better on your money, it only takes winning two times out of ten for this play to be profitable.
For example, if there is 700 in the pot and it is 100 for you to call, if you win one pot by calling, you can lose six of these pots and still make money. This doesn't even account for the times where you win big pots playing any two. The implied odds in these multi-way pots make this play even more valuable. How many times have you been playing in a tournament and seen a player limp in early position with a big pair only to go broke to the small blind who has 9-3 off and flops two pair. If the small blind player had folded for that 1/2 bet, they wouldn't have won that huge pot.
Big Blind Play
Playing out of the big blind is similar to play out of the small blind. The big blind will always be at a positional disadvantage to everyone at the table but the small blind. This doesn't mean you should throw away your hand any time someone raises your big blind. There are times you should defend by raising, which we'll discuss in a minute, or defend by calling.
Let's talk about defending by calling. Because of the positional disadvantage, this can be a tricky play to employ, but against the right type of opponent it can be a very profitable one to use.
What is the right type of player? The smart, aggressive player that raises frequently first to act but doesn't get out of line post-flop is the ideal candidate. To make this play, you would flat call pre-flop and lead out on any flop regardless of what the flop is. As most players know, the flop misses most players and this bet will force the pre-flop raiser to make a decision. If they have a legitimate hand, they will let you know, but most of the time they are going to throw their hand away. The additional benefit from making this play is there will be times you will actually improve your hand and you'll win a big pot from an opponent who does have a big hand.
It's important also to mix up how you utilize this play. If you know your opponent is the type of person to make a continuation bet every time, take a chance occasionally with a check raise. They'll give your hand much more respect because they know you are check raising out of position and that your range of hands is large. Make sure to mix it up and do this with both your strong hands and your bluffs. It's a risky play, but if used correctly it is a profitable one.
Defending The Blinds
The biggest mistake players make when playing out of the blinds is in how they defend their blinds. Although calling and leading out is one possible play, this is not the best way to defend your blinds, just an alternative that you should use from time to time. Without question, the best way to defend your blinds is by re-raising. Because you are out of position and last to act pre-flop, you want to apply maximum pressure to the other players. This helps to not only define their range of hands and take control of the hand post-flop, but it gives you an opportunity to win the pot outright.
The best players to defend against are those that are raising from typical steal positions. Normally, a person raising first to act from the hijack, cutoff, button, or small blind is not raising with a legitimate hand. They are raising in hopes that you will fold your hand and that they will pick up the blinds/antes easily. This is how many poker professionals make their living. They feast on the weak who release time and time again every time their blinds are raised. Be the one feasting, not the one getting eaten alive.
What raise amount is the best one to make when defending? Whatever amount will induce your opponent to fold and one that makes sense for the hand that you are trying to represent. It doesn't make sense to move all in pre-flop if you have 60 big blinds. Your opponent is going to know that you aren't doing this with a big hand and are just trying to induce them to fold and they might look you up with as marginal a hand like A-10. Raise the amount you would raise if you were raising with a big hand. Make the story make sense.
The most important thing to remember when defending is to be aggressive, but to be smart about your aggression. Fold and call when it makes sense to, but if you truly are considering playing a hand out of the blinds, especially in a raised pot, your best course of action will almost always be to raise.
The Main Holdem Strategy Index: The Great Game of Holdem