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Publication: Hold'em or Fold'em
Texas Holdem - The importance of Position...

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HOLD 'EM or FOLD 'Em                        February 10, 2006

Comment The Post Below...

Hello Poker Players, 

Well I had a lot of fun playing some poker with a few of 
you. I am usually playing off and on throughout the weekend.

Sometimes I'm in the free games and then I like to play
the 15 cent/ 30 cent games. It's not a lot of money and
I started with just $25... and I'm happy to say my bankroll
is now over $80.00 :) this is over the course of about 2 

Anyway, we have a very good article today. It is really
an important one about playing position. Something I didn't
always grasp until very recently.

Ante Up,   

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courtesy of cardschat.com

Today we're talking about position - which all players but 
the very beginners know is important, but not everyone may 
understand exactly why it's important, and how to use it.

Some definitions, first: "Having position" on another player 
means he acts before you. "First position" means you act first. 
If you're dealt-in in fourth position, but the blinds and the 
player UTG ("Under The Gun", first to speak after the blinds) 
folded, you will be in first position for the rest of the hand 
(until you fold, at least). "Last position" is your position 
relative to all the other players still in the hand, meaning 
that even if you're not dealt in on the button, you're still 
in last position if no one will act after you (i.e. they players 
after you folded).

I'll cut right to the chase: Position matters, because it will 
affect your expected value of any given hand. There are situations 
where you might gain a lot more from being in early position than 
in late position, but as a general rule of thumb, most hands get 
their best value in being last to act, and this is the key point: 
At showdown, all positions are the same - but being in last 
position means you'll have much better control of the pot size, 
and can therefore extract maximum value out of your monsters, 
while keeping it to a minimum when you expect you might be beat. 
The importance of this may be obvious, but let me state it for 
the record: As everyone, in the long run, gets dealt the same 
amount 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.

Continued below...


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You have
Kh 9h  ... and are in last position. The board is
7h Ac 8h 5d 6s

You're holding what is likely to be the best hand. You're pretty 
sure your opponent has at least a pair of aces, maybe two pair, 
maybe even a set. If you were to act before him, in this situation, 
and bet out on the river - would he raise? But now you don't have 
to worry about it - it's his problem. He has the tough decision of 
whether or not to bet his strong hand or not, knowing that if you 
have a 9, you'll raise it and he will have lost an extra bet. He 
also knows that if he checks, he risks missing an extra bet to a 
worse hand who would just check behind him.

You, having position on him, however, don't have this problem. 
You will bet if he checks, and raise if he bets. Your decision 
will always be the right one, his won't. As poker is about making 
the correct decisions, your position in this case gives you the 
advantage of information - or rather, denied your opponent the 
advantage of information. This is the most commonly stated 
advantage of position, but it's rarely stated exactly what you 
should do with it. Let me show you an example of when it might 
really matter:

You have
Ah As  ... and are last to act. The board shows
Ac Qc 8s 3h 10c

There has been some action all throughout the hand, mostly 
between you and the first player to act, but there are two 
players who have simply been calling all the way to the river. 
Now, the first player bets, the second player raises, and the 
third player 3-bets! What hands would suddenly come alive with 
that ten? Probably a straight and/or a flush. You had a great 
hand until the river, but you should probably lay it down. Your 
position saved you a lot of money here.

Having position is a blessing and a curse. You're hard pressed 
to trap anyone when you're last to speak - if your monster is 
checked to you, you need to decide whether to bet to protect 
your hand, or if you should check to try and induce a bet from 
someone before you on the next street. If you bet your trip 
aces, chances are everyone will just fold, and you'll feel a 
bit bummed out over that, because you could have won a monster 
pot. And if you check, you're giving a free card that could 
give anyone a draw that will beat you. No fun.

Against typical players (whatever that means), I'll often 
represent strength in this spot. Slow playing has its uses, but 
most people often fall victim to the FPS (Fancy Play Syndrome) 
where they're so caught up in their attempts to trap that they 
miss out on good ol' big pots. In fact, being in last position 
and betting into a board with two aces on it will so often be 
conceived as a steal attempt, that you're likely to get calls 
from people who just plain can't believe you actually have it. 
They won't raise you, but they'll call. Use that against them, 
and bet your hand when you have it. If nothing else, it might 
give you a better chance of stealing the pot those times where 
you bet with nothing out of last position, if their memory is 
good enough to recall you doing that with an actual hand from 
time to time.

Continued below...

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The reason hands go up in value when you're in last position is 
a combination of several elements, but the important lesson that 
I want you to learn here is that it's not because hands themselves 
get better, it's that your long-term expected profit from them 
increases because you will be able to make better decisions, and 
you'll get to control the table. The reason 10h-9h is playable 
from the button but not from UTG, for instance, is not only that 
you risk being raised preflop by some later player if you limp 
with it, it's also that the times when you actually hit your 
hand, you're not going to be able to extract enough money from 
it to make it worth the times you swing and miss. 

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Fold'em Blog: http://blog.gophercentral.com/poker.html

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Copyright 2006 by GopherCentral All rights reserved.   

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