Stealing the Blinds in Hold'em
Blind stealing is a fundamental concept of Texas Hold'em, particularly the no-limit version.
Blind Stealing is the epitome of NLHE as it is the perfect representation of the concept of "position", where the blinds are at such a disadvantage compared to the late players that they often must surrender to their steals.
Blind Stealing: what is it?
Simply put, you are in late position (usually either at the button or the cutoff) and everyone has folded to you. You do not look at your cards, make a standard raise and everyone behind you fold.
Congratulations, you just stole the blinds. Of course you should check your hole cards, this is just an extreme example. In essence this is a simple play, but only a minority of the players master blind stealing, some refining it to an art level.
If the players in the blinds have medium or weak hands, they are likely to fold. It is both a simple concept and a non-trivial one, as this strategy depends on the type of game (ring game or tournament) and the ratio of stacks to blinds.
It is essential to comprehend the concept of and to find the proper balance between stealing blinds and protecting your blinds. A superior skill at blind stealing you will make a difference for you, especially in late tournament stage and to a lesser extent in cash games.
Tournament blind stealing
If you do not know how to steal the blinds in a tournament, chances are slim that you can win one. Indeed some players always (or almost always) steal the blinds from a given level, like level 4. Ironically when they get 3-bet or 5-bet by an irritated player to their left, this is often the time when they have a monster.
Blind stealing is not important in the early stage of a tournament because the blinds are so small compared to the stacks that there are almost meaningless. This is the so-called green zone in Dan Harrington's m-zones definition. But this changes progressively each time the blinds and antes increase as the tournament moves up one level.
The key to stealing the blinds is to know when to start to do it unnoticed, and then to choose the right moment to strike again when it could be more obvious that you may be stealing. Stealing depends on a few factors. First, what is the style of the other players behind you? If there is either a maniac or an aggressive player with a big stack, a blind stealing strategy might be hard to implement successfully.
Ideally you want weak players or rocks to your left. The second factor of course is position and how many players there are at the table. In a short-handed table, it is more obvious when a blind stealing is occurring.
Third, your so-called q-ratio or your stack size compared to the other players in the multi table tournament. If there is a small stack after you, you want to constantly put the pressure on him. If he 3-bet all in, you can call him in a +EV play as he must act this way anyway unless if want to see all his chips gone.
Ring game blind stealing
In cash games, there is not as compelling a reason to steal the blinds as in tourneys.
One of the few advantages of blind stealing in a cash game is to create the image of a loose-aggressive player, nearly a maniac. This is the cheapest way to project this kind of image.
Letting your opponents think you are ready to sacrifice chips in order to steal the blinds and that you are very aggressive is a possible strategy, but a risky one. You can experiment with this on occasion, but not systematically.
Stealing blinds in cash games is more interesting if you have good hole cards. If you bet with good cards and your opponent calls, you will have the positional advantage on him and you put all chances on your side to win.
Blind stealing summary
In tournament, steal the blinds judiciously. Only attempt a steal at the right time. Analyze the style of the players in the blinds and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Mostly take advantage of stealing the blinds in the advanced tournament stage, but do not overdue it otherwise you will arouse too much suspicion.
In ring games, only steal the blinds with moderation, as the risk/reward ration is not as obvious.
One of the most aggressive blind stealer of modern online poker is Ilari "Ziigmund" Sahamies. You can play against him at powerpoker, so why not give it a shot?