Blinding your Opponents – Poker Blinds and how to use them

So, you’re learning how to play poker. Maybe you’ve read a tutorial on what a basic strategy in poker might look like, or maybe you’ve signed up to an online casino where poker players tend to congregate. You’re learning quickly, and you’ve got a good idea of the rules, but there’s a few things you’re still not entirely sure of. For example, what are blinds, and why does everyone seem to consider them so important? Don’t worry, it’s really not as complicated as it might seem at first glance. Just keep reading, and all your questions will be answered.

What are they, and why do they exist?

In poker, everyone plays for the same shared pot, hoping to either win on the strength of their hand or bluff their way to victory. But what happens if no one bets? Without something to play for, it becomes tempting to just fold on anything less than a really good hand, or wait for someone else to make the first bet… and when everyone is waiting for someone else to make the first move, the whole game simply grinds to a halt. This is why poker blinds were invented.

Poker blinds are, in effect, mandatory bets; the two people sitting to the dealer’s left are forced to bet a certain amount of money before they even look at their cards, getting the action going and providing at least a modest pot that everyone can play for. As compensation, it is the player to their left who has to make the next move, allowing the two blind players to see how everyone else bets before making their own decision.

How do I tell if I’m the blind?

Most online casinos in the UK will go out of their way to make it very obvious who’s turn it is to be one of the blinds for this round: icons, visual effects and even pop-up text boxes can all be used.

How much will I have to bet?

This is a question with no set answer; high-stakes games will have appropriately large blinds, while more casual games may only require a couple of pounds in a given round. Online Casinos in the UK are legally obligated to make it clear what the blind will be before the game begins, so make sure to check the menu screen before playing.

Most games will feature both a big blind and a small blind. As the name suggests these two hold different values, with the big blind traditionally being twice the value of the small blind.

How can I use the poker blinds to my advantage?

This is the big question, and as with anything to do with poker there are a great many answers out there. It is no exaggeration to say that entire books have been written on the subject of blinds and how to use them, but for now we’ll stick to the basics, proceeding around the table from the blinds and all the way back to the dealer.

If you are one of the blinds, then you’re in a strong position. You’ve made your bet, so now the pressure is on everyone else at the table to decide how best to react. You’ve got plenty of breathing room to watch what they do and calculate your next move, so take full advantage of it.

If you’re an early player, one of the first people to respond after the blinds have been placed, then you’re in a tough position. Everyone is watching you, trying to guess what you’ve got in your hand, and you need to make a decision without knowing what everyone else will do in response. In general, you’ll want to only play the very best hands, calling or folding with anything you’re not entirely confident in.

If you’re a middle player, you’ve got a pretty decent position to work with and can afford to take a few more risks. You’ve seen what the first few players have done and you’ve had a chance to properly consider your hand in some depth, so you can afford to call or raise even with a less impressive hand.

Being a late player, especially the dealer, is perhaps the easiest position in the game. You’re making your decision fully informed on what everyone else has decided to do, and should you choose to raise then everyone else at the table needs to react to you with no time to think. Take full advantage.

All of the above are, of course, general guidelines more than iron-clad rules; there’s always something to be said for switching it up everyone now and then to remain unpredictable. Still, now that you know the basics, why not try them out in a couple of games for yourself? There’s no substitute for experience, after all.

Play safe, and I hope you enjoy yourself.