One of the most misunderstood pre-flop situations in no-limit hold’em is playing the small blind after a group of people have just called the big blind and having to decide if you should call also. In this situation, a little bit of math can go a long way, so it’s very important to really understand the odds of certain hands having favorable flops in no-limit hold’em. The number of people still in the hand has a massive effect on whether you can play super marginal hands or whether you should just dump them pre-flop. Here we’re going to look at some example situations and use some math to direct our way when deciding if we should complete the small blind or not.
So let’s tackle the obvious spot that will answer most of our inquiries about this common scenario. We have some number of limpers pre-flop, and it folds to us and we have suited trash, like Nine-Four of hearts or some other hand that has no real value other than flopping flush draws or two pairs. We can generally assume that if we flop a flush draw or a made hand better than one-pair that we’ll be profitable for the hand, so just knowing the chance of flopping these hands is sufficient and we don’t need to know much about the post-flop tendencies of our opponents. Since there is a 10.9% chance of flopping a flush draw with suited cards, and a 3.5% chance of flopping two pair or better, our combined chance of hitting a favorable flop is 14.4%, meaning we have almost exactly 6:1 odds against having a favorable flop.
If there is one limper ahead of us, then we’re getting pot odds of 5:1. If there are two limpers ahead of us, we’re getting 7:1, and if there are three limpers ahead of us, we’re getting massive odds of 9:1. Since we only need 6:1 to make the call, it’s obvious that we should call against two or more limpers, and that it’s close against only 1 limper. With weak off-suit connectors like Ten-Nine off-suit, we’re only missing the flop with our major draws 0.5% less of the time, but we’ll also flop gut-shot straight draws some of the time which will make up for the missed value.
With this baseline in mind, anything better than a crappy suited hand should be a clear call in the small blind against even just one limper. Hands like Ten-Seven suited that also have straight draw potential and hands like King-Eight suited that have the flush draw chance in addition to a lot of high-pair chances should almost always be called with any amount of limpers. Keep these simple numbers in mind next time you have a game with a lot of limping going on and you’ll be able actually make money out of the small blind, something that’s difficult to do because of the loss of posting the blinds each round.