Saturday, November 16, 2013

Position = Pot Control

Repeat Question: Why is position so important?
Answer #2: Position makes it easier to control the size of the pot.

"Compounding Interest."
-Albert Einstein, reportedly when asked to name the greatest invention in human history.

In the last three posts (here, here, and here), I talked about the information advantage that position gives us at the poker table. In today's post, I'm going to shift to pot control, and how having position can dramatically affect how big or small the pot is by the time we get to the river against one or more opponents. For beginners, information is by far the most important advantage of position, but as our skills improve and we progress into intermediate and higher play, pot control is arguably just as important. In fact, I think it may even be more important.

When we have position in a hand, we get the last word from a betting point of view. Said another way, we get to close the action and/or determine whether the pot gets raised or not. This can be a huge edge, and we can use it to significantly alter how big and how fast the pot grows. To see this in action, let's imagine that we are on the button in a $1/$2 cash game with 100BB (i.e., $200) stacks. In each of the following four examples, a mid-position villain limps into the pot, we then act, the blinds fold, and the villain check-calls preflop and on each subsequent street of action.

Let's start with us having a monster hand, like Aces preflop. Villain limps in for $2, we bump it to $8, the blinds fold, and the Villain calls. Ignoring rake, the pot is now $19. The flop improves us to a monster nut hand (call it a set or quads for argument sake). Villain checks, and we bet the full size of the pot (i.e., $19). Villain calls. The pot is now $57. Turn comes a blank, Villain checks, we bet pot again, and he calls. Pot is now $171. River is another blank, and again the Villain checks. We have $116 behind, and we shove it all-in. Villain calls. Final pot size is $403.

Now let's imagine that we non-nut, but still relatively quite strong Value hand. The same action ensues, except this time we raise to $6 preflop, then bet 75% of the pot on each subsequent street. By the time we finish the river betting, the pot is $235, or just a little more than half the size of the pot in the first example.

Now let's imagine that we hold only a moderately strong hand relative to our opponents range. We call behind on the flop (i.e., don't raise), and then bet just 50% on each street of action. The final pot size is now only $56 after the river.

And finally, imagine us holding a weak hand. We call preflop, bet 50% of pot on the flop and turn, but then just check behind on the river. The final pot size is just $28. It could have been even smaller if we'd checked behind on the flop and/or turn, too.

Here's a graph that illustrates how the pot grows by street for each example:

Having position allows us to vary (control) the amount of money that goes into the pot. We can even withold money by checking behind. This is a huge advantage to have. To understand this better, imagine we have the same hands dealt to us, but our position is switched with that of the Villain; now, we're out of position in each one of these scenarios, and our opponent has the power to raise or check behind, and there is very little we can do about it.

All-in for now...

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