Playing from the small blind against the big blind when everyone else has folded can be very tricky, especially if your strategy is flawed. There are two schools of thought regarding how to play this situation.
Beginning players too often overplay their hands from that position. They will raise from the small blind, thinking that it's very unlikely that the big blind has a strong hand, and that there's only one player left to steal the pot from.
While there's some merit in this approach, I'm more inclined to follow the more conservative school of thought and just call. Since you'll have to act out of position on every street after the flop, the last thing you want to do is put more money in the pot, especially with marginal hands.
You see, most skilled players and professionals will limp in from the small blind with a wide variety of hands because they’re thinking in terms of minimizing losses from that position. When out of position, they’ll play cautiously unless they’re dealt a very strong hand and are looking to set a trap. They’ll wait to be more aggressive until they actually do have position.
Let's look at an example of how this situation might play out if you decide to raise with a hand like A-4 offsuit from the small blind.
One of the problems with this hand, of course, is that your A-4 simply won’t hit a lot of flops. You'll only be happy with that hand if you get really lucky and make a straight or flop aces and fours. If the flop comes with one ace, you’ll still worry about your kicker. If the flop comes 9-10-J or Q-K-8, you’ll find yourself in no man’s land after the flop.
Now, you can always attempt a bluff after the flop and hope that your opponent folds. If he doesn’t, however, and calls your bet, you’ll face another difficult dilemma — whether to continue the bluff after the turn. Of course, if he raises you, well, you’ll obviously have to fold.
Always remember this: A strong player in position might very well raise you on virtually any flop because he knows that he has position. Position equals power. Unless you have a strong hand on the flop (and that’s unlikely), he’ll simply be able to bluff you out of the pot.
Limping in from the small blind is a play that shows a deep amount of respect to your positional disadvantage. Having said that, there are situations where it would be correct to raise from the small blind. It’s important that you consider the type of opponent you’re playing against.
For example, if the player on your left is an extremely conservative player, don’t let them get a breath of air. Go ahead and raise from the small blind a high percentage of the time, regardless of the cards your holding.
As long as you’re committed to leaning towards a more conservative style of play from the small blind, you’ll be one step ahead of the game. Once the other players pick up on the fact that you’re entirely capable of limping in from the small blind with strong hands, they’ll no longer see your cautious play as a sign of weakness. That will just make it easier for you to see cheaper flops with a wider range of speculative hands.
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