Blind Stealing in No-Limit Hold'em Poker
When it folds to you pre-flop in late position in no-limit hold'em, you'll often have a chance to make a small raise to try to steal the blinds. Your open-raising ranges will be the widest pre-flop when it folds to you on the button and in the cutoff if you are playing well. However, it can be tricky to know what kinds of hands you should be raising when you're put in this position. Things are more complicated in today's games than before because players are more aware of how to defend against players who steal the blinds frequently.
Suppose it folds to you on the button in a $0.50/1.00 no-limit hold'em game with $100 stacks. Both players to your left are fairly tight, and they will both be folding about 85 percent of hands each. This means that both players will fold just over 72 percent of the time, so you're taking down 1.5 big blinds without having to see a flop almost three-fourths of the time. The other 28 percent of the time, you'll either have to face a 3-bet or play post-flop in position for the rest of the hand. Let's focus on the 72 percent of the time that you take down the blinds.
The most common size for a pre-flop open right now is three times the big blind. Let's assume a fantasy scenario where you check/fold every single time your steal isn't successful with a $3 steal in this $0.50/1.00 game. This means that 72 percent of the time you are going to be winning $1.50, and 28 percent of the time you are going to lose $3. On average, this means you will have a profit of ($1.50 * 0.72) + (-$3.00 * 0.28) = $0.24 just from each individual steal attempt. If you only play on in the obviously profitable scenarios when you are 3-bet or see a flop, then you'll easily make a lot of money with your steals against these players no matter what your cards are.
However, even though you could open raise with any two cards here doesn't mean that you should. What makes your steals so profitable in this situation is that both of your opponents are folding a very high percentage of the time. If you start stealing a very high percentage of the time to counter, like 80 percent of starting hands, then your strategy is very easy to notice and take advantage of. Your opponents will be very likely to adjust by 3-betting you more often, and this will mean that they are folding less often. By folding less often, your opponents will make your steals with your worst hands unprofitable, and your steals with most of your other hands will be less profitable as well.
Instead of exploiting your opponents' high folding frequency to such an extreme, you should only exploit it mildly. Stealing 50 to 60 percent of hands on the button in this situation would probably be sufficient to milk your advantage without making it blatantly obvious to your opponents that they should be changing their strategies. Keeping situations going that are very profitable for you is one of the key concepts needed for successful blind stealing in today's games, and it will make more money in the long run than constantly tipping off your opponents by making small gains in the short run.