One of the more rewarding things to learn in poker as a beginner is the importance of position. Once you grasp this concept your time at the tables will be a lot more comfortable and very likely more profitable as well.
Why is position important?
Playing hands in position has a some great benefits. First of all, the other players in the hand act before you so you have more information to base your decisions on than your opponents.
Secondly your have more ability to control the action, take initiative and put in the last bet or check.
What this gives you is a much better chance to realise the equity of your hands as well as to push your opponents off their equity. Strong hands will be fairly easy to play both out of position and in position but marginal hands will be a lot easier to play in position due to the factors mentioned above. Because of this, bluffs will also work better in position.
Pick the right hands
Which hands you put in your pre-flop ranges will be key in putting yourself in the right spots post-flop. Generally look to play tighter from early positions as well as from the small blind and to some extent the big blind.
When you are playing a hand which you are likely to be playing out of position, you want to pick hands that are easy to play post flop. Avoid playing hands that will be difficult to get to showdown and choose hands that can either flop strong hands or make strong hands on later streets. This is generally pocket pairs, strong Broadway hands and suited connectors.
Now let’s look at some examples:
Example 1 – playing a marginal hand in position:
It’s folded to you on the button. You open to 2 big blinds (bb), the small blind folds and the big blind, whom you think is a fairly tight player, calls.
The flop is and your opponent checks to you.
In this spot it’s very unlikely you will be called by a worse ace if you bet. Versus a nine or a pocket pair between KK-TT you can’t expect to get more than one or possibly two bets called, and you can do this on later streets.
You also hold a backdoor flush draw and a straight draw so there is value for you in seeing the turn as some cards will increase the equity of your hand drastically, and if you bet the flop you risk getting check-raised by a stronger hand or a bluff/draw. At the same time you don’t need to bet to protect your hand as few turn cards are bad for you.
Therefore, you check the flop.
The turn is the making the board , giving you both a flush and a straight draw. Your opponent makes a 3/4 pot bet and you call since you have no reason to raise here as you will only get action against a better hand if your do.
The river is the making the board and your opponent checks.
Since you expect him to bet a flush on the river you go ahead and make a half pot value bet with your straight and get called by a set of nines.
This example should hopefully illustrate how you used position to realise the equity of your hand.
• Checked behind with the worse hand on the flop
• Called the bet on the turn with a disguised hand and a spike in equity
• Used the information from your opponent’s river check to put in a nice value bet on the river
To make the importance of position even more clear, let’s imagine the positions are reversed.
Example 2: playing a marginal hand out of position
So a fairly tight player opens the button to two big blinds, small blind folds and you call the big blind with .
The flop is and you check. Your opponent bets 3/4 pot and you call.
On the turn the action repeats as you check-call a 3/4 pot bet expecting to be up against a strong range consisting mostly of flushes, two pairs and sets. You make the call since you have good equity against most hands and expect to get paid off by a worse flush on the river some of the time.
As the river completes the board you check and your opponent check behind.
In this case you:
• called a big bet on the flop with the worse hand
• called a big bet on the turn knowing you have the worse hand hoping to improve on the river
• had to check to river once your hand improved to the best hand allowing your opponent to check behind
Sure you can bet into your opponent on the river here but you will most often get called by a flush when doing so, which makes it an unfavourable option.
Playing against aggressive opponents
Position becomes even more important when you are up against aggressive opponents. This will allow you to play a much wider range of hands than you could out of position which is very desirable if one or more of your opponents are weak and aggressive.
Sitting in position on a weak player of any kind, passive or aggressive, tight or loose is a very good spot for you. It gives you the best chance to exploit their weaknesses and isolate these players to play more hands against you than any other player at the table.
So, if you are about to sit down at a table with only a few players, try to pick a seat directly on the left of a player you suspect to be aggressive or weak.