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  • The Big Blind Mental Game

    Posted by fivebyfive on July 7, 2020 at 8:10 pm

    I was recently doing a database analysis. Humble brag, I was really pleased with my play. I was doing well in early, mid, and late position. In the small blind, I was really cleaning up. More than should be reasonable. And then I looked at my big blind stats. I know you’re supposed to lose from the big blind. Like you can’t avoid it, but I was REALLY losing from the big blind. Like blood bath territory.

    I was especially losing when I caught a marginal hand. I just couldn’t seem to find a fold after I caught middle pair or whatever.

    As I looked closer and thought about my play, I realized that I’m playing the big blind in a really poor way and I think it has a lot to do with my mental game. In other positions, I’m playing a pretty strong contingent of hands and when I hit a marginal hand with them I generally have position or initiative or both.

    In the big blind I have neither, and yet I hadn’t been considering the difference enough. I’ve read so much about how wide you need to defend from the big, I think I absorbed that into my thinking around future streets as well. Defend, defend, defend. So I call down way too much, defending my big blind, and rarely turn the tables and get aggressive myself.

    I’m working on a new strategy now, but my first step was recognizing the issue and the underlying cause. That’s really one of the biggest parts of the mental game. Recognition and humility.

    Anyone else struggling with the mental side of their big blind play and how have you worked on it?

    jim replied 3 years, 8 months ago 3 Members · 6 Replies
  • 6 Replies
  • steve-fredlund

    July 7, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    I love this post; I think this is one of those things that is, in fact, a mental game issue but many of us don’t see it as that. We see it as a strategy thing, but I think even just the “defend” mentality is part of our amygdala kicking in – it’s fight or flight when a hippo is chasing us (or trying to “steal” our blind); we can take it more personally that we should and over-defend, resulting in long-term losses. Interesting Chrris.

    • jim

      July 8, 2020 at 11:57 am

      We were talking about this in the OPaH last night – feeling like you “should” make a play to be “unexploitable” because of a textbook strategy, even though it feels like sometimes you’re counter-exploiting an opponent’s strategy that doesn’t even exist. I’m struggling with how to weigh balanced and exploitative plays in my overall game now, it’s an interesting tension to explore.

      • fivebyfive

        July 8, 2020 at 1:52 pm

        Yeah, I feel like once I get into “defend” mode, it trickled into how I played the whole hand. Not just having a wider range because of the discount, but I became much more passive. check call. check call. check call.

        I’m now working on a strategy for 3-betting more preflop from the BB and check raising more after flops. And then, of course, just ditching marginal hands too in postflop spots.

        It’s a more complicated strategy because it involves developing a set of ranges that can play on 3 bets, check calls, and check raises, but I think it is going to end up making me a tougher big blind to play against.

        This will definitely be a future seminar topic too. Out of my own self-interest, but also because I suspect many players struggle with this spot.

  • jim

    August 1, 2020 at 8:41 am

    Whenever I’m constructing ranges, 3betting ranges in particular, I try to use a process like this to come up with the basic framework:

    – what is the RFI stat of this foe?

    – what percentage of hands can actually CONTINUE with profitable equity vs that range? To “continue” we can either raise OR call.

    – do we want a linear or polarized 3betting range vs this foe?

    – if linear, what 3betting range will have profitable equity against their CALLING range, and is it necessary vs this foe to include some candidates to 3bet and fold to a 4bet in a linear range?

    – if polarized, what combos of bluffs do we want to include with our value range here to make this foe indifferent to various actions vs our range?

    Once we’ve gotten this far, the value range of your 3bet should be very easy to figure out with Equilab or your PT4 equity calculator. Just punch in your foe’s continuing range and find the hands that have profitable equity vs those hands. The hands with less equity (in a LINEAR continuing range) should call instead of raising, and the hands with even less equity should be folded. But in a POLARIZED continuing range, some of those raising hands should be demoted to calling hands, and we take their spots in the raising range with bluffs instead.

    SO when we are constructing the polarized 3betting ranges, what combos of bluffs should we include in this range?

    I like to think of these types of situations as different types of SPOTS against different types of FOES against which you will want to choose between different types of hands, or CANDIDATES, to use for any given spot vs any given foe. Some examples of this include:

    – using a dry blocker in a 3bet because your foe always folds or 4bets and you will never have to play it postflop – A3x is a CANDIDATE for this

    – using a suited connector as a 3bet because this is a regular foe who often calls and you want to have a few combos of non-premiums to cover different boards – 76s is a candidate for this

    – using a “wheel” ace hand as a 3bet because you aren’t really sure about this foe but you want to have a non-exploitably-tight 3betting range so you ca get some folds and still have some playability postflop – A4s is a candidate for this

    – making a thinner value 3bet because your foe calls with much worse often enough to make it profitable – ATx is a candidate for this, but so is KJs and so is 88.

    So as you can see, if you included ALL your candidates as 3bets in ALL spots vs ALL foes, you would obviously have a crazy wide 3betting range and you would go broke. But by using SOME candidates (and not others) vs SOME foes in SOME spots, then you get to use all the different tools in your toolbox for the jobs they were designed for, and you can show u with a WIDE 3betting range that is not as WEAK as it would be if you played all those hands at 100% frequency – don’t 3bet dry A3x hands against players that enjoy going postflop! Choose a better FOE for that play, or a better CANDIDATE for that foe! If this player loves to go postflop, do you even want to HAVE a polarized 3betting range here? Why not just look at their RFI and the % they fold to 3bets – that will give you their continuing range. Now construct a value raising range that has profitable equity against that continuing range. Guess what? In the long run, (ceteris paribus and if your assumptions are correct) you will profit in this spot because you are playing mathematically stronger ranges than your foes.

    SOOOOO long way of asking – @FiveByFive how do YOU decide what hands to include in a non-linear 3betting range?

    • fivebyfive

      August 1, 2020 at 4:09 pm

      This is where the rubber meets the road isn’t it? So I love a lot of these types of hands to extend my 3bet range. Suited wheel aces, suited connectors, and suited broadways. I do think this is adjustable to opponents etc., with some of the exact reasoning you mention, but against unknown opponents or early in games, one of the ways I’ve been working on figuring out some randomized three-bet spots while also keeping the amount that I three-bet in check is to work off of suits.

      So I use randomizer 1-4. With 1 being spades, 2 being hearts, 3 being diamonds, 4 being clubs. You can do this on your phone if you’re playing live. And you can do it at each break to shake things up if you think anyone is picking up on it (they usually don’t). Or maybe even after any 3bet hand where you ended up showing a certain hand.

      So if my random suit ends up as clubs this round. Now I’m 3betting 7c6c and Ac3c or Ac10c (for the blockers), basically anything in that list where the key cards are clubs. If you run this in a tool like flopzilla, you’ll see your 3bet combos drop by 75% (which is fairly obvious). But this drop puts you with a much more reasonable mix of value 3bets and bluff 3bets, while mixing in each of those potential types of hands. This also means that you have a really strong board coverage when you three bet. So when you three bet, any of those boards that come can reasonably, but sneakily, smash your hand.

      And if you keep randomly switching this up, even if I tell you this strategy on a forum like this, there’s very little you can do about it as long as you don’t know how my randomizer result landed.

      • jim

        August 7, 2020 at 11:58 pm

        I’ve heard of using suits to randomize, but playing online have had other options – but I really like the way you lay this out. I’m def stealing this for live play and probably also some online – thanks boss!

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