Tips for Big Blind Defending Range in Poker Tournaments

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The overall strategy in Texas Hold’em used to be way more conservative before the game became an internet sensation. The average player is very aggressive nowadays, so it’s important to adjust your strategy.

Defending your big blinds properly is one of the toughest and most important skills because you will be under constant pressure. You need to find the right balance to make the most of this hard position.

I share my tips on how to determine your big blind defense range in poker tournaments below. I don’t share actual fixed ranges because tournament play can be very chaotic and you will face all sorts of challenges. Instead, I explore the factors you need to consider in the most common scenarios.

My overall strategy for big blind defending ranges doesn’t account for obvious hands like aces or kings. The focus is on overall approach and borderline starting hands.

Also, my goal is to help with hands in which you face a single raise because they are often the trickiest. If there’s a 3-bet or a 4-bet, you know you need to be fairly tight in most cases.

With that in mind, here are the factors you should evaluate when deciding on your big blind defending range in poker tournaments.

Position of the Original Raiser

Let’s begin with the position of the original raiser because it’s critical for the range of the player in question. As a rule of thumb, the earlier the raise is coming from, the stronger the hand of the opponent will be.

Here’s what you can expect on a standard 9-player table.

  • Early Positions: If the raiser is in an early position (the first three), you most likely are facing a respectable hand. It doesn’t mean they have AA or KK, but their range is legit and doesn’t include many speculative hands.
  • Middle Positions: The raises coming from the three middle positions are way looser. They will often include hands like low suited connectors or low suited gappers, any ace, and other speculative starting cards.
  • Late Positions: If you’re facing a raise from the button or the cut-off position, you can expect almost any two cards. It’s not uncommon for aggressive players to raise 70-80% of their hands from these spots.
  • Small Blind: Similar to late position raises, players from the small blind tend to try and steal your blind with a lot of hands. However, that only applies to unopened hands. If there are limpers in play, the small blind will most often flat-call with average hands like small pairs and connectors.

This is pretty much what you could expect from the ranges of players who open the hand with a raise. If there’s a limp before the raise, it changes a lot. You can expect tighter plays, so you should adjust your big blind defense strategy.

Of course, you need to account for plenty of other factors before making a decision. Here’s the next one.

Stack Size and Size of the Raise You’re Facing

Your stack size is one of the key contributing components to your decision. If you have a fairly small pile of chips in front of you, you have to take more risks.

That means you should be looking to defend your big blind more aggressively by playing a wider range and by going all-in instead of simply calling. Essentially, you should be looking to push in any situation where you have a decent hand and at least some fold equity.


Your decision becomes more complicated if you have a medium or a large stack. The size of the raise you’re facing is more important when that’s the case. People in tournaments often raise only 2.5x big blinds or so which opens the door to a lot of opportunities to defend.

Even without additional callers, you should try to see the flop with hands that have some potential. The list includes small pairs, connectors, gappers, suited aces, and more.

Obviously, the higher the opening raise, the tighter your range should be unless you have a very strong argument that the opponent is weak.

Stage of the Tournament

The next part of the equation when constructing your big blind defending range is the stage of the tournament. In the early moments, you should expect a fairly loose-weak approach from most opponents.


The smart players usually pick a straightforward tight-aggressive approach that relies on big mistakes by the weaker opponents on the table. You won’t see them making crazy movies, especially from the early positions because the reward is not worth the risk.

This mentality changes later in the tournament. At some point, stealing the blinds and the antes becomes a necessity and you can expect much wider opening ranges at this point.

That’s even more applicable to bubble play. Some people, especially when they have a solid stack, become extremely aggressive because they know that many players will be waiting for the money.

If you sense someone’s trying to push you around because of that, you should expand your big blind defending range.

Overall Impressions of the Specific Opponent

I almost left this one out because is very obvious, but I feel obliged to at least mention it. You should always observe every single opponent and account for his style when determining your big blind defense range in poker tournaments.


You should be very careful against nits, for example. It’s a good idea to call with some speculative hands when you have good odds in an attempt to crack their premium hand. Just make sure you don’t raise unless them.

Another common situation would be to face a player who is constantly trying to buy the pot with small raises. You should defend often and mix in calls and raises against such players. The next section can help you decide which one is better.

When to Call and When to Raise?

Deciding whether you want to defend your big blind is only the first decision you have to make. The second one is whether you want to simply call or raise.

That mostly depends on your overall goal in the hand in question. Here are the factors that should determine your decision.

  • Fold Equity: Do you have a realistic chance of stealing the hand before the flop or with a single continuation bet on the flop? If the answer is yes, you should consider raising.
  • Pot Odds and Implied Odds: If the main reason you want to defend your blind is that you have excellent pot odds (small raise, multiple players in action) and/or implied odds (big effective stacks), you should probably call. It’s a small risk – high reward kind of situation, unless you have excellent fold equity as well.
  • Risk-Reward Ratio: If your stack is fairly low compared to the top, you should rarely call. You want to put all of your chips in the middle of the table in an attempt to steal the pot, especially if your hand is not premium. Pushing small and medium pairs, for example, makes a lot of sense because you have at least some equity if you get called.
  • Opponent Intent: If you believe that the opponent’s range is full of weak hands and they’re trying to steal your blind, you should more often raise. If you think they have a decent to premium hand, calling might be better.

You should always think of all of the above when making a decision if you want to defend your blind and how to do it exactly.

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I hope that my tips for big blind defending range in poker tournaments can improve your results. If you want more help with fundamentals, you should check our page on the basics of poker tournaments.

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Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.