How To Defend Your Big Blind Effectively in MTTs

It is vitally important to defend your big blind when playing in poker tournaments. Learn how to effectively defend against button stealers.

Playing out of the blinds is the worst position in No-Limit Texas Hold’em. You are out of position against a preflop aggressor, which is not a great spot to be in. It is important to defend your big blind in tournaments despite your positional disadvantage. Allowing someone to continually steal your blinds sees your stack dwindle in addition to making you an easy target.

First, what does it mean when someone says defend your big blind The concept is simple. Calling or three-betting a raise is defending your blind. Those raises tend to come from late position, which is the most likely seat at the table attempting to steal the blinds and antes when they are in play.

What To Consider Before You Defend Your Blinds

There are numerous factors to consider before you defend your big blind in a tournament. The pot odds you are receiving are first and foremost. Raising in tournament poker tends to be smaller, sometimes only twice the size of the big blind. This alone increases your pot odds. Furthermore, antes increase your pot odds substantially. These two factors mean you should defend your big blind liberally.

Your opponent’s late position raising range is another major factor in your decision-making. Most solid players open from the cutoff and button with a very wide range of hands. This is amplified if they have stacks of 40 big blinds or more, which is quite common. You should defend your big blind with a wide range of holdings if your opponent is opening wide.

An Example of Big Blind Defense

Figuring out your opponent’s blind stealing range is a difficult task but trust us when we say good players raise extremely wide. A typical button raise from 40-50 big blinds is approximately 54.5% of all hands. That is super wide. Put that range into a hand equity calculator to see how many cards your opponent is playing.

Your defending range is even wider the opening range, approximately 77.5% of all hands. The majority of hands are calls with a few three-bets thrown in for good measure. Five-trey offsuit is the worst hand to defend with using that defending range. It seems very weak. However, it has 33.65% equity against our opponent’s range!

Let us use those ranges in a real-life example where the blinds are 100/200/20a and effective stacks are 40 big blinds deep. Everyone folds to the button and they open to 420. We are in the big blind, what is your play? You defend your big blind, of course! It costs 220 to possibly win 900 chips right now. You only need 19.6% equity to profitably call. Even a hand like trey-deuce offsuit (do not defend your big blind with this trash!) has 30.8% equity against a typical button raise.

More Blind Defense Tips

You should defend your big blind with a wide range of hands against a solid player, that is now obvious. However, the following tips will come in handy during your tournament grind.

Do not be afraid to three-bet shove with a 20-30 big blind stack. Do this with hands that perform well as all-in bets and that see all five community cards. Your shove is likely to go uncontested and you pick up an easy pot.

Furthermore, do not underestimate the importance of picking up the antes. These seemingly small forced bets change the preflop dynamic of hands. They increase pot odds and are a welcomed addition to your stack. Getting your hands on them once or twice an orbit gives your stack a serious boost.

Lastly, calling with a short-stack is not disastrous. Most people fold or three-bet all-in with stacks of six to 15 big blinds. This has been the standard for a while. However, consider a call if you are getting great pot odds. Get your stack in after connecting with the board and expect to be good a large percentage of the time.

Brad Johnson

You name the game, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Brad has either played it or placed a wager on it! Brad calls himself a natural gambler, and someone who gains as much enjoyment from writing about the crazy game of poker as he does playing it.


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