This basic guide will deliver our strategic outlook when playing in the BB (big blind). We’ll select examples from NLHE cash games, but many of the concepts will translate into other formats such as tournaments or PLO.

Let’s quickly recap on key features of the big blind:

  • We are forced to invest 1bb before seeing our hole cards.
  • We “close the action” preflop (in most cases. See the box ‘closing the action’)
  • We act last preflop, but typically first postflop (unless playing against the small blind).

The Big Blind – An Overview

The fact that we have to invest a big blind without seeing our hole cards is a significant disadvantage. However, it does mean that we get an effective discount on any preflop cold call. For example, if we face a 3bb open-raise, we only need to invest an additional to see the flop. 

Closing the Action

Whether or not we “close the action” in the big blind depends on the action before us. 

For example, if one player open-raises and everyone either calls or folds, we are guaranteed to see a flop when cold calling in the big blind.

However, if there is a raise plus a re-raise (or a limp plus a raise), it means another player will need to act after us preflop, so we won’t be closing the action.

The fact that we are also guaranteed to see a flop in scenarios where we are closing the action means that wide cold-calling strategies are typically incentivised when in the Big Blind.

If we were to summarise our strategic outlook while in the BB it would be as follows -

Strategic Outlook in the BB

We cold call wider here than any other position at the table. 

Stats:

Recommended average cold call frequency: Around 26%
Recommended average 3bet frequency: Around 8%
(Remember that these stats account for a range of different open sizings)

Sample Ranges From the BIG BLIND

Let’s take a look at some sample defending ranges from the big blind when playing a 100bb NLHE cash game. Remembering precise combinations is not important, but we should have a good general feel for how wide we go in each spot. 

BB Defence vs BTN Open

Purple: Re-raise (3bet) range
Blue: Cold calling range

BB Defence vs BTN Open

This sample range is for defending against a BTN 3bb open-raise. If the BTN open-raises smaller, we should defend wider, but more on that later. Note that the 3bet (re-raise) range is heavily-weighted towards high-equity holdings. It makes sense, not to 3bet-bluff speculative holdings in the majority of games since players are not folding as much as they are supposed to when facing 3bets. 

BB Defence vs Lojack Open

Purple: Re-raise (3bet) range
Blue: Cold calling range

BB Defence vs Lojack Open

The crucial difference should be readily apparent. We defend a tighter range of holdings from the BB when facing an open from an earlier position.

BB Defence vs SB Open

Purple: Re-raise (3bet) range
Blue: Cold calling range

BB Defence vs SB Open

When we face a SB open-raise, we are guaranteed position postflop. We can hence defend a wider range of hands vs the SB than we can against the BTN.

Relevant Adjustments

It’s essential to understand that the sample ranges should be used as a rough guide rather than a set rule. In practice, we will end up changing these defending ranges based on several variables. A good understanding of these variables will help us to make high-quality decisions on the fly.

Villain’s sizing – The larger our opponent’s open-raise sizing, the tighter we defend.

Formation – The later our opponent’s position, the wider we can defend.

Reads – E.g. our opponent folds too much to 3bets, we can 3bet more aggressively.

Villain skill - If our opponent is a bad player, we can play more hands in general. 

Other Scenarios

Iso-Raising – This situation is where we raise from the BB facing, either an open-limp or a SB complete. Facing a SB complete, we can play very aggressively, perhaps raising around 50% of hands since SB is unlikely to be very strong plus we are guaranteed position postflop. 

Versus an open-limp from other positions (e.g. the BTN), we should be much more reserved with our approach to iso-raising, mostly just raising premiums. We need a tighter range to be able to play profitably out of position. 

Besides, even if we don’t iso-raise, we get to see a free flop when we check back.

Iso-raise – A preflop raise made against a limper.

Overcalling/Squeezing – Overcalling and squeezing are terms which refer to 3-way scenarios. When facing two opponents, we generally prefer to 3bet (squeeze) a tighter range and weight our calls (overcalls) towards speculative hands with good suited/connected potential. 

Overcall – A call after a player has already called before us on the current street.  
Squeeze – A 3bet made after there has already been at least one caller vs an open raise.

For the sake of comparison here is what a BB squeezing range might look like when facing a BTN open and SB call. 

Purple: Re-raise (squeeze) range 
Blue: Overcalling range

BB-Squeeze-vs-LP-3bb

About the Author
By
Timothy "Ch0r0r0" Allin is a professional player, coach, and author. Since the beginning in 2006 he has built his roll from the lowest limits online without depositing a single dollar. After competing in some of world's toughest lineups (and winning) he now shares his insights and strategies with the 888poker magazine.
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