Steal Smart: The Dos and Don'ts of Poker Stealing

Poker Academy
15 May 2024
Holdem Strategy
15 May 2024

Have you ever heard of the term "stealing" in poker? Stealing is one of the frequently used actions in the game.

Let's learn about the timing and sizing of steals to enhance the success of this move!

What is Stealing?

Stealing in poker refers to open-raising (i.e. when no one else has raised preflop), aiming to get everyone to fold and grab the blinds.

It's often used from late positions such as cutoff (CO) or button (BTN).

Let's look at an example. Everyone folded to you on the BTN. You raise, and both SB and BB fold, bringing you a pot of 1.5 bb. This is called a steal.

In Texas Hold'em, where folding more than half of the hands is common, especially at lower stakes, stealing blinds often is an auto-profitable move.

Steal Sizing

The common size of a steal is 2.5bb-3bb.

The main goal of stealing is to induce opponents to fold and grab the pot, so it's advisable not to use a size that's too small.

In deep stack situations or in live games (where the stack is large, such as 200bb), using a size of 4-5bb can help avoid being called by too many players.

Additionally, when there are limpers, it's recommended to add +1bb per limper.

When to Steal

When should you steal? Here are three points in the game where stealing is a good idea.

1. When your opponent folds frequently

When the player on the BTN folds too frequently, it's advisable to widen your stealing range. For example, if you usually steal with the following default range:

..and you feel that your opponent is over-folding, it's recommended to include hands like J9s, QTo, K4s, etc., in your stealing range.

The higher your opponent's folding frequency, the wider your stealing range should be.

So, if you feel your opponent is tight and/or passive and doesn't call or raise enough, exploit this opportunity.

Especially closer to the tournament bubble, players tend to fold much more, so it's recommended to widen your stealing range with deep stack.

2. When your opponent's 3-bet frequency is low

When your opponent doesn't 3bet frequently enough, you can widen your stealing range and expoloit their tightness.

The most challenging aspect of attempting a steal is facing a 3-bet. However, if your opponent simply calls, it gives you an opportunity to see the flop and realize more equity with your hands.

Especially, this strategy works well against beginners at lower stakes, as they don't 3-bet frequently enough. Most of them only 3-bet with premium hands like AA, KK, AK, etc., allowing their opponents to see the flop.

In such cases, it's better for you to attempt steals with wider ranges. Conversely, if you feel your opponent is abusing you with their frequent steals, it's effective to widen your 3-bet range.

When Not to Steal

Stealing works well when your opponent don't fold or 3-bet much. However, there are times when it's not as effective. 

1. When your opponent's stack is short

When your opponent's stack is small, such as 10-15bb, you should not steal. Otherwise, you'll be committed to the pot and forced to call with weak hands when facing an all-in.

Especially when you reach the middle stage of a tournament, there will be many players with short stacks. Just before the bubble, there is a high chnace that the player will fold and your steal will be effective, but in other situations it is better not to steal.

When stealing, make sure your opponent's stack is not short before doing this.

2. When your opponent is a calling station

If your opponent doesn't like folding and calls with any hand, it's not a good idea to attempt steals against them with marginal hands. This can lead to challenging situations postflop.

When your opponent is a calling station, it is more profitable to get involved with your default range, rather than attempting steals with any two, and extract more thick and thin value postflop.

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