When to Complete in the Small Blind

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The small blind is a tricky position to play. You're in for a half bet and are almost always getting favorable odds.

The problem is that you're also out of position. Do the pros outweigh the cons? Or is the half-price small blind just another money pit?

Limpers Ahoy

The small blind is a double-edged sword - you get in for half of the regular bet, but you're also guaranteed to play the rest of the hand out of position.

Many players believe pot odds overcome that positional disadvantage and choose to complete any two cards they're dealt.

Coincidentally, these are the same players who bleed money when their hand flops weak and yet take it to showdown anyway.

Pot odds are a gift and a curse - gamblers love to take bets when the odds are in their favor, but calling with too wide a range from the small blind can be a substantial leak.

Vanessa Rousso
So I like to limp; so what?

In unraised pots with multiple limpers, you will be often laid seemingly irresistible odds on your call. In reality, it's just a honeypot situation.

Even though the odds may be good, more often than not you're going to find yourself in tricky post-flop situations with marginal hands.

In fact, you should almost never be completing the small blind as wide as you might initially think.

Before deciding whether or not to take advantage of those enticing pot odds, ask yourself what types of hands do well in multiway pots.

Your goal is to make "big pot" hands, straights and flushes. Pot odds do not take terrible hands and turn them into gold.

If your hand is a trash hand against one player, it's still going to be trash against multiple players.

Weak Hands Make Dominated Hands

The problem with completing too wide from the small blind is that you will often be left out of position with no clue as to where you stand.

Initially you may think completing J 4 is all right because you're getting 4.5-1 and you're suited, but in reality you're not going to hit that flush nearly as often as you think (only 6.4% of the time).

Most of the time you will either miss completely or pair one of your hole cards, making a weak one-pair hand.

Weak one pairs are a new player's worst nightmare. They are reverse implied odds hands: although your hand may be good now, if you want to find out for sure, it can end up costing you a lot of money.

You aren't going to get here playing dominated hands.

Even good pot odds can't make weak suited hands profitable. You're going to make a flush only a small percentage of the time, and the rest of the time you're going to either miss or find yourself in tricky reverse implied odds situations!

Pot odds are not Rumpelstiltskin - they can't weave your straw into gold. A trash hand is still trash; playing it from out of position is just going to cost you money.

Keep It Real

The types of hands  you can profitably complete with are really no different than your normal list of good hands.

Just keep in mind that you prefer hands that do well multiway and that have "big pot potential."

Creating an exact range of cards that should be completed is a difficult task. It can vary from game to game and depends on the tendencies of the players in your game.

If your opponents are loose-passive and fishy, you can complete much more liberally because you will rarely face difficult post-flop decisions. Also, if you do happen to hit your hand, this type of opponent is much more likely to pay you off.

Big pot for Newhizzle
You want hands that have "big pot potential."

But if your opponents are decent, tight-aggressive players, you should be looking to complete a much tighter range because you are more likely to be put in a tough spot after the flop - and when you hit your hands, the tight players are much less likely to pay you off.

Hands worth completing in the small blind are hands that are not strong enough to warrant a value raise from out of position yet still have value in seeing a flop. Something like: A-T, A-xs, K-Q, K-Js-K-9s, JT-89 both suited or not, 45s+, and 57s+.

Of course this range is not set in stone; the more players in the pot, the wider you can you can complete. Just don't get crazy - keep your goal in mind.

You want to make big pot hands, not potentially dominated ones.

The Rundown

If you treat the small blind just like any other position only with better pot odds, then you should have no problem. It may seem that with such great odds you can do no wrong; the opposite is true.

Completing too often with weak dominated hands and believing your pot odds can overcome your positional disadvantage is a very real leak that far too many players have.

The small blind is a position that is always going to be a long-term money loser; that's just a part of the game.

But if you remember what makes completing profitable, you're going to lessen the effect it has on your win rate and make yourself a better player overall.

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