Stealing the blinds: the fine art of poker larceny...
Stealing and defending blinds are two of the most important skills there are in multi-table tournament play. This applies particularly during bubble and the in-the-money stages of the tournament, all the way to the final table.
Much like attacking weak players during the bubble period, it is best to target opponents who are playing a little too tight. They are likely to give up their blinds too readily. However it is also useful against strong players, albeit slightly harder. You may need to turn down the aggression against stronger opponents.
"Blind stealing" is the process of raising pre-flop with the aim to win the blinds and antes, regardless of the strength of your hand. It is ideal to do so in late position, when everybody acting before you has folded and the players in the blinds are weak. You can raise with almost all your hands in those conditions and have a reasonable degree of confidence that your stealing will work. If someone plays back at you, you know you are up against a big hand so can fold.
If your position is worse, or the players in the blinds are on the loose side, you have to be more selective about your hands. There are also some other factors like your stack size and the stack size of the players behind you that are important.
Here are a few examples of when you might want to steal, and when you might not.
Re-raising all in
Unfortunately you are not the only player at the table who likes to add more chips to his stack. When you are in the blinds, other players will inevitably try to steal from you. If your opponent moves all in, you only have the decision if you want to call him or not. But if the stacks are bigger, and your opponent has made a standard opening raise, then there are two options how to defend:
Re-raise, usually all-in
Call, see a flop and go from there
The next set of examples will deal with re-raises all-in. They are also called "re-steals", based on the premise that your opponent is attempting to steal the blinds, but you are attempting to up the aggression even further.
Defending the blinds
If you have posted one of the blinds, you are likely to have it attacked by one of the stealers at the table. You also know that you will be forced to play the pot out of position. However you will need to take a stand and defend your blind on a number of occasions, and you do always have the option to call and reassess after the flop - an option that should only really be considered if stack sizes are too big simply to move all in.
It is crucial to play well after the flop if you elect to call out of position. The most important thing is to be quite aggressive and not to give up the chips you invested too easily. If you don't hit anything at all, it is advisable to fold, of course.
The next set of examples will show some typical situations and how to deal with them.
Recap: Keys to fighting for the blinds
Raise a lot if you are in late position and everybody has folded in front of you
Be more careful if someone called or raised in front of you
Re-raising all-in against a possible steal can be very strong
The perfect conditions to re-raise all in: you have a decent hand, the raise is from late position and your stack is three to five times as large as the raise
Be very aggressive after the flop if you defend your blinds by calling pre-flop