How to deal with an aggressive blind stealer

This question is an extremely delicate one, and it is by no means easy to answer.

First of all, before you even begin to contemplate ways of dealing with the aggressive blinds stealer in the button, you need to consider whether it’s a SNG or a MTT we’re talking about.


The reason is, push/fold poker (which you’ll have to play if you’re on a shallow stack) works differently in SNGs than in MTTs on account of the chip and prize-pool equities.

In SNG’s, push and fold poker begins when there are 4-5 guys left at your table. You get rid of 1-2 of them and you’re in the money. In a MTT, things don’t work quite like that. The effects of the prize-pool equity are much lighter on your decisions, and the gap between prize-pool equity and chip equity is much wider.

The other thing you need to consider is your exact stack size. Whether you have a medium stack or a shallow one makes a lot of difference. If you have between 12-16 BBs (big blinds) in your stack or more, you have a medium stack which leaves some options open for you.

You can wait for a better hand and attempt a re-steal from the opponent who always steals your BB when he’s in the button (we all know there are such players). On a medium stack like that you don’t necessarily have to play push/fold poker, you can strike back at him when you pick up a reasonable starting hand (like a pair of sevens or better) because the fact that he is moving in for the steal every single time means his stealing range has to be very low. In case things backfire, and he does happen to pick up a solid hand, you can still afford to fold.

If your stack is below 10 BBs though, things will be different. Your opponent’s attacks will be more brazen and your job of keeping him honest will become a lot more difficult. You will be forced to play push/fold poker, because every move that you make at the table will effectively pot-commit you. Push/fold poker is justified by the pot odds at this stage, which means that you’ll get reasonable odds to shove all-in almost regardless of what you’re holding in you pocket.

In your battle against the aggressive blinds stealer, you’ll be reduced to two offensive weapons: pushing and calling. Given the fact that your opponent takes a whack at your blinds every time he’s in the button, you’ll have to assume that his range on making the move is relatively low. Based on that, you’ll have to determine your pushing and calling ranges.

In order to make the move a mathematically correct one, you need to have a better calling range than the bottom half of his pushing range. Because of the fold equity, I’d even say you need to have something even better than that (the player who makes the push always enjoys an advantage over the one who makes the call on account of the fold equity, so that’s one more adversity you need to overcome here).

Your shoving range on the other hand, needs to be better than the lower half of his calling range. What all this means is that you need to wait for a hand that fits one of the above ranges and make your move. Be prepared to push all-in because it’s almost certain that’s where you’ll end up anyway.

If you respect the above-described criteria for hand selection, you’ll always enjoy an edge over the aggressive guy and you’ll secure the best odds for a double up. The possibility of a bad beat is always there though and so is that of your opponent picking up a monster (like pocket rockets) on the very hand you decide to commit on. This comes with the turf though. The luck element can never be completely weeded out of the game.

Written by Steve Larson.
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