Blind stealing is a very important aspect of playing profitable preflop poker. But many players don’t know how to steal blinds in poker, or at least not well. In this article I want to teach you what blind stealing it, why it’s so important, and how to steal better in the future.
First, what is a blind steal? A blind steal is when we raise with the intentions of picking up the blinds. If you are using a poker tracking program a steal is most likely defined as: “any [tooltip text=”An open-raise is when a player raises after it’s been folded to him”]open-raise[/tooltip] made from the CO, Button, or SB.” This is a fair definition and I’ll also use that definition in this article. So for all intents and purposes we’ll ignore stealing from any position but the CO, Button, and SB.
The reason why we steal is because it can be very profitable. Take a simple situation where it folds around to us on the button with T♥ 7♥. This isn’t a very strong hand, but there are only two people left to act. Since we have no information on either of their hands we can assume they will have junk very often…and if they fold junk often it means they will probably fold if we raise here. By stealing we are applying pressure to our opponents and forcing them to either have a hand or make a play at us. And the fewer players there are left to act, the more folds we are likely to generate when we steal. Steals also allow us to utilize our position, take initiative in the pot, and pick up easy pots that can only help our poker winrates!
The number of players left to act is a huge influencer on how often we steal, but we also care who those players are. For instance, is a fish very likely to fold if we steal? If the blinds are aggressive 3bettors/restealers are they likely to fold often if we steal? The more a player is going to call our steal the more focused we need to be on a plan or our actual hand strength. The more a player is going to 3bet us the more we need to focus on a plan when facing that 3bet.
Want some good news? Hud stats can help a lot! The big stats I like to use here are FoldvSteal, Resteal, CallvSteal, and ATS. If I have a small sample size I will use 3bet instead of resteal (because resteals are more specific and thus necessitate a larger sample size before becoming useful). I also suggest color-coding your FoldvSteal stat so you can quickly look at your hud and decide if this is a good (or awful) steal situation. There is nothing worse than stealing with trash only to realize too late that the players behind you both had fold versus steals of 55%.
While it’s important to know how often a player folds versus steals, it’s also helpful to understand if they resteal and/or call steals a lot. If a player is restealing at 20% you want to be prepared to face a chunk of resistance when you steal. This is obviously very easy when you have a huge hand, but what about when deciding if you want to steal with K7o or 86s? If you expect to face a lot of 3bets/resteals, have a plan before you even steal. Know whether you will 4bet, whether you will flat the 3bet and play postflop, or whether you are folding (and how often you will be folding).
[one_half]On the contrary, if you expect your steal to get called often you can plan for that as well. For instance, we can expect fish will call our steals more often, which is why we steal with less trash against them. But against non-fish we can steal wide EVEN if they will call the steal a bit more often. This is because we can plan ahead and actually consider how often we expect them to fold to our CB. Just because he won’t fold to our steal preflop doesn’t mean he won’t call a lot preflop and then play very fit-or-fold on the flop. So you can actually consider stats like FoldvFlopCB and FoldvTurnCB with appropriate sample sizes against players that will call steals more often.
My winrate when stealing at 100NL
There are two common confusions when stealing. First, is how often do you steal. And the second is what kind of hands do you steal with? The answer is very similar to the answer of other poker questions: “who are your opponents and how do you expect them to react?” If they will fold a ton, does your hand really matter? You could have AA or 96s and at the end of the day they will fold so often you will make outright profit. Take a spot where it folds to you in the SB and the BB is a nit. You are considering stealing to 4bb total with 86o. Well if you think he’ll fold 85% of the time you can calculate the outright EV of your steal:
oEV = (.85 * 1.5bb) – (.15 * 3.5bb) = +.75bb
Now this is just the outright EV which assumes you win when he folds and lose when he continues, which isn’t totally correct (as you will sometimes hit postflop and make some money, sometimes make a bad CB, etc.)….but it simplifies the equation. The important thing to note is that the equation didn’t consider the value of your cards either, rather it shows how profitable stealing can be against the kind of player that folds a ton preflop.
Against players that fold less we become very focused on either plans or hands. So against fish we will steal less often and thus will have stronger hands when we steal. Versus fish we probably pass on stealing with hands like 75s and 96o. Even hands like A2o are questionable when OOP given how rarely we hit, how tough it is to make solid money on Axx, and how unlikely it is that we can bluff them postflop. Many players will disagree with me on that, but I digress…
And it’s the same concept against players that resteal a lot. Have a plan and idea, or use a stronger range that can give the resteal action more often. For instance, if you know there is a LAG in the blinds, be cautious raising with hands like 97o if you expect the resteal often and you plan on folding to the 3bet. It doesn’t mean that some spots won’t suck, like when you steal with QJs and he resteals…but it happens. But you also want to work on your 4betting strategy so you can handle the 3bet more profitably, which isn’t too hard when you put some time and effort into it.
Here are some helpful tips when trying to improve your blind stealing strategy:
- Use your hud stats!: Look for players with high FoldvSteal percentages and steal their blinds relentlessly. Any player that has a higher than 85% FvS is someone that I will target and steal from often, regardless of my cards.
- How many players are left?: Always know how many players you are stealing from. When you steal from the CO you have 3 players to get through, whereas there is only 1 player to get through if you steal from the SB. The fewer players there are left to act the more you want to be stealing as it should be easier to pick up the pot uncontested preflop.
- Card strength is a good thing: The more often you expect to see a flop, the more card value you want to have. This is why you’d rather steal with QJs than 96o against a fish. If you find your steals are getting called more often, be more likely to fold (rather than steal) junk like T6s and 43o.
- Think ahead: If you see a player with a high resteal in the blinds, make sure that you have a plan when you face his preflop 3bet. You can do a lot of this planning and exploration off the table, but make sure you have it internalized so you can quickly create a stealing strategy in real-time.
- Sizes: Sizing is an interesting element of stealing that can create some confusion. Against players that are more inelastic (will continue/fold at the same frequency regardless of your size) you can choose a simple sizing strategy. If players will fold regardless of your size, why risk 3bb if you could just as easily steal for 2.5bb? What about 2bb? What if there is a fish in the the BB and you are in the SB with AA? Why not steal to something like 4.5bb because he’ll call it anyway? I tend to use a 3bb from EP/MP, 2.5bb as a steal, and 4bb as a steal from the SB. There are times when I deviate from that strategy, but as a default it gets the job done.
Stealing is an excellent way to improve your winrate and start taking easy and profitable situations. Just make sure you know who you are stealing from and how they will logically react to your steal. If they will defend often, make sure you either have a hand or a plan. If they will fold often, then start stealing a ton and picking up those easy preflop pots. When in doubt, don’t steal with total trash (so keep it within the top 25% of playable hands), but with good info don’t hesitate to open that range up and start abusing players that can’t defend their blinds well. Hopefully this gives you some good ideas, and remember that you can use these same concepts to steal from other positions as well!