Professionals often refer to position in poker as the most important factor in playing profitable poker. To the average player, the reason may not be apparent. Within this article, I hope to shed some light on why professionals believe this to be the case alongside strategy enabling you to crush games using position.
The Power of Position
Is position all it is made out to be? Is the power of place merely a myth? In addressing these questions, you must consider what position translates to in a game of poker. If you have position on another player, it means that you act after they do. Generally, a player will bet if he has a strong holding, whereas he will check weak or marginal hands. This provides us valuable information.
Given the imperfect information, making the best decision possible is our aim when playing good poker. It makes sense that position can, therefore, increase our ability to profit. Furthermore, by being in position, it gives you the choice of whether you want to bet given available information. Being out of position you are at the will of your opponent. They can often put you in tricky situations where your best decision is unclear. In short, being in position makes your decisions easier, bluffs more efficient and value bets more profitable. What’s not to like?
Realizing equity is likely to be a concept new to most of you reading this. However, its meaning is simple. Tricky situations occur if opponents wish to bet when you are out of position holding marginal hands. Sometimes you will be forced to fold. When folding, you lose equity in the pot as you have some chance of winning the pot at showdown. Being in position, you have the choice of betting or checking allowing you to realize some equity with marginal hands. These hands occasionally win at showdown since you can check them behind.
Similarly, when out of position with draws that may not be getting the correct ‘price’ you may have to fold your equity in the pot. If in this circumstance you are instead in position you may be able to call because you can act last. You have implied odds on later streets (for more information visit our poker odds article). This equity is now realized, hence make you a more profitable player. The importance of position can’t be exaggerated enough since equity in the pot translates to real, hard cash!
Position: Getting the Last Say
Aforementioned, I explained how with marginal hands you are often put in tough spots out of position. The opposite is also true, you can make your opponents have difficult decisions when you’re in position! One benefit of position is that you are able to bluff effectively since often an opponent will tell us the strength of their hand when they bet or check. Similarly, you are able to do the same with hands for value as you can determine whether or not your holding is likely to be best. Hence, being in position you are able to make more speculative calls both pre and post flop due to your improved value betting and bluffing ability. This is particularly notable when you are playing against opponents that habitually continuation bet (c-bet) on the flop. This brings us to our strategy sub-topic:
Strategy: Floating Bets in Position
I illustrated how the c-bet is such a valuable asset to any poker player in a previous article on betting. If used too frequently the c-bet is very easily exploited by your opponents.
When you c-bet you force your opponents to fold their weak hands not connected with the board. Logically this strengthens their holdings approaching turns and rivers. If they are bluff c-betting too often you can exploit them by floating hands in position. This is because opponents will often check and fold turns too frequently. Floating bets, or floats can be used very effectively against weaker opponents and since you are calling a proportionately small flop bet to win a larger pot on the turn it can be highly profitable! C-betting too frequently is one of the most common leaks in new players beginning their poker careers. If you want to crush the games you play, floating in position could be the play for you!
Position Strategy Example: Floating Bets In Position
The best types of floats in position are ones whereby if you do end up bluffing earlier streets, you have a chance of winning the pot by making the best hand by showdown later on. A good example of this is as follows:
You are playing a $1/2 game at a local casino and an early position player raises to $6. You call the button with K♥Q♥ and the blinds fold. The flop is J♥2♣4♦ and the preflop raiser (PFR) c-bets $8 into a pot of $15, what should you do?
At the moment you have just King-high and no obvious draws. You do, however, have 3 cards to a straight and flush, as well as two over cards to the Jack. Calling here in position seems like a reasonable proposition since you can improve to a strong hand on any King or Queen and turn good equity on any Nine, Ten, Ace or heart allowing us to continue or bluff. This might seem like a loose play, but by looking at the maths it seems clear: The player is betting $8 into $15 so we must call $8 to win $23; we must win just 34.8% of the time to make this a break-even play.
Versus an opponent holding Ace Jack, we have 29.3% equity. With a hand like 99 the equity is 30.5%. This equity ignores the times that you make money from them check folding flop bluffs on the turn or winning large bets (implied odds) from them on later streets by improving – it clearly becomes a profitable play.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of why professionals put emphasis on the importance of position as well as how to exploit weak strategies from your opponents having read this article. Knowing how to utilise position is the difference between breaking even in games and crushing. Time to practise what you’ve learned here on the felt and make money! Until next time, good luck and run hot!