Defending the Big Blind in the Early Stages

The most common attacks that will be made against our big blind in the early stages of the tournament are the BU min-raise and the SB 2.5x raise. The reason that the SB picks a bigger size is that our equity is more realizable as the BB when in position and, therefore, it will be higher EV for us to call a small raise. To prevent us from calling pretty much anything, SB needs to raise larger than BU does. This article assumes that stack sizes are around 25BB in all cases as they are at the very beginning of a Spin & Go.

Defending Against the BU Min-Raise

The actions we will want to take in this position are: fold, call, 3-bet small, and 3-bet all-in. We remarked last time that we are unlikely to face a lot of opponents who use small 3-bet strategies in a balanced way. We should expect these ranges to consist mostly of nutted hands at the lower stake tournaments, if they exist at all. We can fold very often to small 3-bets as a result. The small 3-bet ranges we shall be building in the BB are balanced and will contain bluffs as well as strong value hands that are trying to induce action by going smaller.

We shall also be deploying an all-in 3-bet in this spot and this is a very logical approach with many hands that have a good combination of equity and blockers, but do not flop as well as the value hands in our small 3-bet range.

When facing a small open with position, both pot odds and equity realization are on our side and so do not be alarmed by the width of the flatting range BB vs SB. Yes, we are incentivized to take a flop with a lot of very weak holdings here, and no, we do not expect to make a profit with all of them. We do expect, however, to do better than we would by folding, which costs us an entire big blind whenever we do it.

Think about it this way, if BU opens 2bb, SB folds, and we have 83s in the BB, our investment is 1BB to play. The pot on the flop will be 4.5BB. If we can get back 1BB, or 22% of the pot, we can break even on the defend; is this possible? It would seem so; remember that BU’s range is also very weak. These two suited cards should entitle us to just under a quarter of the pot and this explains why we make these calls that appear so alien to the ABC player who is trying to stay out of trouble. Good pot odds and trouble go hand in hand, so try to embrace uncomfortable situations when it comes to blind defence. Now onto the range chart:

The only hands that are desperate to encourage action instead of protecting their equity by jamming are those that are miles ahead [QQ-AA]. This group are balanced by the bluffs [K5o-K6o], which have some good blockers to Villain’s KK, AK and KQ, and are slightly too weak to call, not minding 3-betting and folding to a shove, since they play so poorly post-flop any way. It would be a shame to squander a suited hand by 3-betting and then folding to a shove in a spot where the BU will very often react to the small 3-bet by shoving or folding. It is worth noting that against weaker, passive players it will be incorrect to use a 3-bet small bluffing range at all and you should firmly stick to the big overpairs when taking this action.

Defending Against the SB 2.5x Raise

Look at how our strategy changes slightly in the BB against the slightly larger SB open:

The biggest difference now is that our favourable position leads to a much higher degree of equity realization by calling and increases the EV of this line. As you can see, this leads to very frequent calling with suited hands even some off-suit mediocre holdings. There is no need to shove with hands like KQs and KJo which flop very well, often benefiting by leaving Villain’s many dominated hands in the pot.

On the contrary, dominating Ax hands will be favourites even when their shove is called and so they choose to play this way, having less connectivity to see flops.

Note that as we can flat wider now, the small 3-bet bluff hands are now weaker. This is because our 3-bet/folds are chosen in a strict manner where they should never be profitable calls against the open. This ensures that we waste no EV by 3-bet folding a hand we could have just seen the flop with. Again, these bluffing hands are selected for by prioritizing the King blocker. Of course, an Ace blocker is even better, but Ax simply plays too well as a shove or call to consider ever taking a 3-bet/fold line.

Finally, our 3-bet small for value range has been expanded because being in position now allows the huge equity of [TT-JJ, ATs-AKs] to translate into very high EV post-flop. Therefore, we are much happier to encourage action with these hands than we were against the BU min-open. Moreover, SB vs BB is a wider range situation and so Villain is forced to defend to our 3-bets with a wider array of hands, increasing the scope of getting shoved on by many more weak hands.


It may seem surprising how wide we must defend our blinds in Spin & Gos. Mathematically, however, these frequently uncomfortable spots in which we must adapt to calling very bad hands to small open raises will translate to profit. The implementation of a small 3-bet range works well at 25BB stack depth and should give us an edge over opponents who do not build this into their arsenal. Next time we discuss how to react to limps before we move on to post-flop play. Good luck at the Spin & Go tables!