Friday, October 16, 2009

Position, Pubbles, and Profit

We all hear that utilizing position is one of the key factors in becoming a winning poker player. Being able to act after your opponent during the course of a hand is vitally important. Acting last allows you to see what you opponent does in the hand before you have to act. It allows you more control over the final pot size. It lets you bluff more easily and exploit the villain's tendencies. You can float a player if you have position. You also can let your opponent bluff into you when you have the nuts. In a sense, having position allows you to take control of the hand. When you're out of position (OOP), you are often forced to give up control. You may flop TPTK, but when your opponent comes back over the top on you in position (IP), you may have to give the hand up. In other words, more often than not acting first sucks.

So why do I bring this up? Answer: I was perusing my PT3 data last night, looking for leaks in my $10NL cash game stats. During this exercise, I stumbled across a pair of filters that showed just how much being IP was better than being OOP. (These filters can be found under the Filters\Misc tab.)

Here are the results from the last 2 months for the hands I played IP on the flop:
And here are the results for the same period of time with the hands I played OOP on the flop:
The results are eye-opening. At best, I'm breaking even over time OOP, whilst IP I'm showing a fairly steady profit. I haven't done the math, but it would be interesting to actually calculate how much expected value one gains by playing the same hand IP vs. OOP.

At showdown (or anytime all the money has gone into the middle), all positions are created equal; i.e., the best hand will win. But being IP during the play of the hand means you'll have a much better chance to (a) extract maximum value out of your monsters; (b) control the amount you risk with your marginal hands; and (c) minimize your losses with the hands that don't hold up and/or get a better hand to fold. The importance of all this may be obvious, but it bears repeating. As everyone in the long run gets dealt the same number of good and bad cards, the difference between winners and losers is the amount they win when they win, and the amount they save when they lose. In other words, position is critical to winning big and losing little. Don't believe me? Take a look at your own stats for a sobering experience.

Finally: courtesy of Mr. Multi, I have a new word to add to my poker lexicon: "Pubble", which is the Penultimate bUBBLE, or the point in a tournament right before the bubble. In a single table SnG that pays the top three places, the bubble is when there are four players left. The Pubble, then, would be when there are five players left.

All-in for now...
-Bug

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