Tuesday, March 19, 2013

ABC Basics: Position

We've all heard it before: Position is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding whether to enter a pot. Position is power. Position = Information. Position means acting last, which is the key advantage to winning. Position lets you pick up orphan pots. Position is the secret to pot control. Position, position, position...

Yada, yada, yada...

We all know that having position is important, right? So then why is it that so very few people actually seem to use it consistently in their game? You and me included?

Good question. Perhaps a better way to preach the Gospel of Position is not to talk about how powerful it is to have, but instead to talk about how bad it is to not have it in a hand. Let me demonstrate with a non-poker example: blackjack.

I'm not a blackjack player, nor do I really want to be one, but I got to thinking about how it relates to poker the other day when I saw a blackjack hand on a TV commercial for beer. (Or was it laundry detergent? Or a credit union? Maybe a Nissan commercial. Dunno.)

Anyway, in the ad, a lone player is sitting at a blackjack table in a casino late at night. The player is dealt two cards, looks at them, takes another card, goes over 21, busts... and loses. The dealer didn't have to do anything to win. Why? Because the poor sap playing against the house had to act first. Said another way, he did not have position, so had an inherent disadvantage in the hand.

Now, switch to poker: You have ATo in EP. You open raise, but then get three-bet by a frisky LAg on the button. You call, and the flop comes out K-T-9 two-tone. You have middle pair on a coordinated board. Did this flop hit your opponent's hand? How the hell can you possibly know without betting? But that can't be a valid reason to bet, right? Instead, you should bet for value or a bluff, right? But he's probably not going to call with worse, and he likely won't fold better. So what are you going to do? Check/call? Check/fold? Statistics say a flop will miss a random hand 67% of the time, but he 3bet you preflop, and this board hits a 3bet range pretty strong. Did he three bet because his hand was real, or because he was simply frisky? Arghghg.

The basic, fundamental problem in this hand is you have to act first on the flop. You're out of position, with very little control over the pot size or the hand itself. You don't know where you stand, but you have to act first.

In other words, the blackjack dealer on the button simply has to wait for you to make your mistake before he has to act.

Position, position, position...
Yada, yada, yada...

All-in for now...

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