Without question, playing correctly from the small blind is the poker topic that's been least covered. Most books discuss position, starting hand requirements and pot odds, but I've yet to see any solid information on how to play from the small blind.
The correct strategy from this position might surprise you. You see, there are two contrasting facts to ponder: You already have half of the bet in, but you have the worst position after the flop. The first situation is favorable; the second is not.
When facing a pre-flop raise, especially from a player in one of the early positions, play conservatively from the small blind. Forget that you’re getting a bit of a discount. If, however, you’re dealt a premium hand in this situation, you must reraise. It’s the only play that somewhat neutralizes your positional disadvantage.
In Limit Hold’em, raising helps give you control of the hand. In No Limit, a large pre-flop raise might just win you the pot right there.
Some players smooth call early position raises from the small blind. This is usually a sign of a weak player who’s hoping to get lucky on the flop. If not, he’ll surely be forced out by a player who bets the flop aggressively.
Against late position raises, consider playing more aggressively before the flop. For example, if the button raises and you think he's trying to steal the blinds, reraise him with a hand like A-10.
Playing from the small blind is even tougher when going heads-up against the big blind. With only one blind left in the hand, some would argue that an aggressive raise with marginal hands makes sense. After all, there’s only one player that could call your bluff.
I disagree completely with this approach. Instead of raising from the small blind, simply call with marginal to good hands, and fold your garbage cards.
Solid players understand the power of position. They look to minimize the pot size (as well as their losses) rather than build a large pot where they may be forced to make difficult post-flop decisions. Now, with premium hands like K-K, A-K, or even J-J, raising from the small blind works because your hand is strong enough to warrant playing a bigger pot.
Another problem with raising with weak hands from the small blind is that most players will defend their big blind with a wide variety of cards. That makes it extremely hard to get a read on your opponent's hand after the flop. Unless you catch a good flop, you'll often be waving the white flag, declaring "Okay, take it. I missed."
Let's take a hand like Ad-6c. It rates to be stronger than a random big blind hand, but when you factor in post-flop betting, a hand like even 8-9 in the big blind will crush you in the long run. When you catch an ace on the flop, you'll likely get no action. If you do get action, there’s a good chance your opponent has you beat. If you miss the flop and bet anyway, your opponent can take down the pot with a raise. Even if he calls on a flop like 10-7-3, you’d have to be concerned.
Playing the small blind is no fun; that's just the way it is. Don't lose more chips than you have to by laughing in the face of position.
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