A player’s position in the betting order is an essential yet underrated characteristic of poker. In our explanation of raising, check-raising and free cards, we have considered how position affects the method you play a hand. Perhaps, it is truly said that position is one of the important components affecting every play in poker.
In games such as five-card draw, draw lowball, and hold’em, you know your position much before each deal, as the person to the left of the dealer, the man under the gun, as he’s exclaimed, always performs first and the dealer performs last. On the other hand, in stud games both high and low, you can be certain where you will be in the betting order from one round to the next, as already noticed.
The position is more vital in some games as compared to others; it is relatively essential in hold’em and in five-card draw and draw lowball. Although, in all poker games it is much better to perform last, basically because it is simple to decide what to do after you have seen what your rival has done. Ironically, then the worst position is to be first, as you should perform before you know what any of your rivals are going to do.
For example, you may have a hand that is worth a call if there are two or three other callers, but in the first or early position, you cannot be sure that there will be any other callers. You would certainly know, at least in the last position, whether you are getting sufficient pot odds for a call, and if you aren’t getting it, you would save a bet and fold. When you are neither first nor last, the closer you are to the last position the better, because you have less unidentified quantities after you and more particularly identified quantities in front of you.
Benefits of Last Position
To consider how significant it is to be last, let’s take a case from Seven Card razz. Suppose you begin off with a good three-card low, and you believe your rival did, too. Now, your rival pairs up on board and you catch a king or even a queen. Without a pair, you precisely have the best low hand if play has to stop suddenly, though you should not bet. The open pair makes it possible that your rival will be last to perform on every round of betting and that truth more than makes up for your little better first four cards.
Why it is good to perform at last? As there are several reasons. If you are in the last position with only a fair-to-good hand and the first player bets, you may call except without fear a raise behind you. Players who are in the middle or early position cannot be so relaxed. If they call with a decent hand, they take a risk of throwing it away or pay a huge price to continue when there is a raise behind them.
If in the last position you have a big hand, you are in much more benefit. To know this, make distinguish with the first. In the first position with a big hand, you may try to check-raise. However, if nobody bets behind you, you will lose a few bets from players who have called a bet from you while you have given a free card to players who would not have called.
However, if you bet in the first position, you yourself cost money when check-raise had worked. With a big hand even in the middle position, you have severe strategic decisions. If no one has bet and it is up to you to decide whether to bet or risk sandbagging. If someone has bet in front of you, you must consider whether it is beneficial or strategically correct to raise, predictably driving out other player behind you or to call in expectation of some overcalls behind you. You have no such difficulty when you are in last position. If no one has bet, you can, and if someone has bet ahead of you, you are free to raise or to slowplay after knowing how many players are possibly to stay in the pot.
If your hand is an average, it is still benefited to be last. On the first round you can call the small opening bet without fear of a raise. On future rounds players ahead of you may check better hands than yours that permits you to check behind them and get a free card. On the other hand, if you checked that same average hand in an early position, a rival may bet a decent hand behind you, rejecting you a free card and possibly forcing you to fold.
When two players have remained in the pot, positional considerations still apply, indeed more than when there are many poker players in the pot. You can bet a big hand in last position when your rival doesn’t and raise when he does. In first position and with the same hand, you would have to determine whether to check-raise or bet; when you check with the object of raising and then your rival checks behind you, you yourself cost a bet; if you bet when a check-raise had worked, you again yourself cost a bet.
Having an average hand against one player, it is also beneficial to be last. If you do not call a bet, you even may get a free card when the rivals checks. As seen in Chapter Ten, in first position you are not free to give yourself a free card. Ultimately, if somewhere your hand is in the middle – good but not great – it is better to be last. In fact, you will bet in either position, but in last position you have a surface to call when your rival bets. You may bet in first position, which is a calling hand and in last position, find yourself raised by your rival.
The only real fear to a player in last position is the probability of a check-raise. As a result, in games where check-raising is not permitted, it is more beneficial to be last. When the players ahead of you have checked, you can be sure they are not sandbagging with a big hand.
Benefits of First Position
Though, this point brings the reality that there are certain situations where it can be beneficial in first position. You get more check-raising chances in first or early position. Moreover, with a lock in first position, you may win three bets by betting and re-raising.
Ultimately you want to drive your rivals out to make your hand best; only raising in first position, before the rival have any chance to call first bet, can succeed by this doing. However, the benefits of first and early position are less as compared to many benefits of last position.
Adjusting Play to Position
There are situations where positional benefits permits you to win a pot otherwise you would not have won. Many times the best hand wins even though whether the position is first or last. Therefore, the positional benefits is the extra bets that can be saved or gained of being in last position – a check after your rival checks, a raise after your rival bets and so on.
The significance of these bets cannot be overstressed. Always remember that in poker we try to win money and not pots. Each normal player wins a reasonable share of pots but it is the extra bet you can get into the pots you win and those you can save from the pot you lose that maximize your hourly rate and the money won in the long run.
You have little to secure to last position from one transaction to the next but when you have it, you should take the advantage of it. For example, in seven card stud, you should wait for the position you will get from one round to the next round. If an ace or an open pair is to your immediate left, it can take you to last in next round. You can play your hand a bit different, a bit trivial, and a bit looser, than you would if you are hoping to be first.
However, when the bettor is to your immediate right and force you to perform ahead of others, you should tighten up relatively. It is really necessary for you to fold all the average poker starting hands in this position. The probability of a raise behind you and in addition to this, the chance of a re-raise from the original bettor is distressing. However, you can often count on having the same unhappy position – not accidentally called under the gun – for the remainder of a hand.
If you continuously call bets with trivial hands in this position, you will have to fold many of them – either further in same round when the bet is raised or on the next round when the bet is repeated – that you will lose a huge amount compare to the infrequent pots you may win by remaining in.
Therefore, in five-card draw, if in early position a player to your immediate right opens, you should give away two aces most of the times. In lowball, with the same position you would generally give away a one-card draw to a 7, 6 and likely a 7, 5 even though you had played these hands pleasantly, and were certain there would be no raises behind you. In seven card stud if the player to your right raises the opener on third street , you should fold middle-sized pairs when there are many persons behind you who have re-raise.
With any of these hands you can surely call in last position, a fact that underlines another of that position’s advantage: You can play more hands. You need not to be afraid a raise from players who have not performed, and most of the cases you will likely remain last on future rounds of betting too. Similarly, in seven card stud when the bettor to your left is not to be high on board and therefore performs first, the other players will certainly check to that bettor on the further round.
Strong Hand, Bettor to the Left
The next vital benefit to the last position is that when you make a strong hand, you have more chances to win the pot. You can sit there simply with a monster hand and allow the bettor to your left drive out the other players around to you. That rival bets, two or three players ahead of you call and now you raise.
You get a single bet from rivals who fold after you raise and you get a double bet from rivals who call. You cost more to those who try to draw out on you when there are more cards to come. (We have noted in this situation the difficulties faced by players in first and middle positions. The callers in the middle always risk a raise from an online poker player behind them.)
Strong Hand, Bettor to the Right
If you had the same strong hand and the bettor is to your right, you would be able to play the hand in the same manner. If raised, you will be needing players behind you to call a double bet to continue. Therefore, you would get fewer callers (if any) than you would if you raised in the last position after they had given themselves by calling the first bet.
However, by simply calling in the first position, the best you can expect is to gather some single bets from players behind you. Simultaneously, when there are more cards to come, you make it considerably cheap for the callers to draw out on you. Thus, with more cards to come, you have to determine whether your hand can oppose or whether you must raise to drive players out.
In What Way Does Position Affect Play?
If the rival to my left raises a reasonable amount and gets three calls, I will also call provided that most of the players have a normal amount of money in front of them. Were I to flop their 6s (the odds against it are about 8-to-1), I would expect to win a huge pot. Conversely, where the players on my right raise the same amount, I will have to fold my pair of 6s even though I think there would be some calls but no raises behind me.
My worse position is what makes the difference. It adjusts things on future rounds to turn a call into a fold. If I were to flop three 6s in last position, that 6 on board will simply look inoffensive. The original bettor will perhaps bet again or get called, and then I will put in a raise – or possibly slowplay and anticipate to raise on fourth street.
If the immediate bettor is to my right, I wouldn’t suddenly raise with three 6s and expect to be called by players behind me, whether on the fourth street or on the flop. Therefore, when I am behind the bettor, my implied odds are minimized so much that it is worth calling that bettor’s first raise before the flop.
Position in Relation to Other Players in the Game
Position is essential in relation to the playing approach of the other players in the game. You desire to have loose, hostile player in the game to your right and a tight, conventional player to your left. Afterward, you can relatively decide how to play your hand after the hostile player has performed, whereas you need not worry about many surprises from the conventional player behind you.
You are simply in a good position to handle the hostile player and probably to force him to make mistakes. Likewise, if there are players in the game who tip-off whether or not they are playing a hand, you will wish them to be your left so you can use that information when determining yourself to call the first bet.