The small blind (SB) is the name given to the seat to the direct left of the button and the direct right of the big blind (BB). The term small blind also refers to the mandatory blind payment that the player in this seat must put into the pot before any cards are dealt. The small blind payment is typically half the size of the big blind payment (although not always).
In this guide we’ll learn the following -
- Why is it called the small blind in poker?
- Is it possible to steal from the small blind in poker?
- Which hands should we open-raise in the small blind?
- How should we play against open-raises when in the small blind?
- What is a good small blind winrate?
- How should we play against small blind open raises?
- Do all poker variants have a small blind seat?
Why is it Called the Small Blind in Poker?
It is called the small blind position because the player in this seat is required to make the ‘small blind’ payment before any cards are dealt. It is called small because it is half the size of the big blind payment. It is called blind because chips are invested into the pot before any cards are dealt.
Is it Possible to Steal from the Small Blind in Poker?
The small blind is considered one of the three steal positions at the table (alongside the button and cutoff). When the action is folded to us in the small blind we only need to get our steal attempt past the big blind in order to pick up the pot uncontested. This means we should be attempting to steal somewhat aggressively. The drawback is that if big blind does decide to defend then we will find ourselves out of position postflop.
Which Hands Should We Open Raise from the Small Blind?
While it does depend on the exact game, a typical cash game player will open raise around 40% of starting hands from the cutoff. This will generally be the top 40% of starting hands depending on how we value them. If the big blind is folding a lot preflop however it can quickly become correct to start open raising 100% of holdings from the small blind.
How Should We Play Against Open Raises When in the Small Blind?
It depends on the position of the open raiser. If the open raiser is on the button or cutoff we can typically 3bet (known as restealing in this context) quite aggressively. If our opponent is opening in middle-position or earlier we want to treat the open-raise with more caution and only 3bet premium holdings.
What is a Good Small Blind Winrate?
Winrates from the small blind will vary depending on the format, but a good cash game player typically expects to see a winrate of around -15bb/100 hands from the small blind position. Note that this is a negative winrate, i.e it’s common to lose out of the small blind as a result of the mandatory small blind payments we have to make. The goal of small blind play is to hence keep this loss rate to a minimum rather than actually make profit overall.
How Should We Play Against Small Blind Open Raises?
When we face an open-raise from the small blind position it implies we are in the big blind. Not only are we guaranteed position postflop but the small blind is also likely to be opening a wide range of holdings. A good cash game player may typically cold-call around 35% of the time and 3bet 15% of the time when facing a 3bb small blind open raise.
Do All Poker Variants Have a Small Blind Seat?
Community card variants such as Hold’em/Omaha, and draw variants such as 5 card triple draw make use of a buttons and blinds structure. Other variants including all stud poker variants make use of completely different position names and don’t feature a small blind position.
The small blind is considered one of the worst positions at the poker table. This does not mean small blind play is not important however - we should be doing everything we can to limit our losses from this position. We should be looking to play actively when the action is folded around to us preflop or when we face an open-raise from late position. In other scenarios we’ll look to fold a lot and play a tight range of premium holdings only. Why not check out our top tips for playing from the blinds?