Power of Position

Power of Position

Friday, 31 August 2012

Position can be the difference between winning and losing a pot and that will add up and make a significant difference in the long term. Ben Jackson shares two examples where position proved crucial.

Position is one of if not the most important aspects of poker. Being in position allows you to be a lot more flexible in a hand, as you can define your opponent’s range before you have to act on each street. It can be the difference between winning and losing a pot and that will add up and make a significant difference in the long term. I played two hands recently where position won me the pot. The first occurred in a very deep £1-£2 game. There’s a straddle to £4 and a fairly aggro player opens to £15. I 3-bet on the button to £33 with 10h4h and Perry, a player I know well, 4-bets to £90. The initial raiser folds.

My thinking here is that 10-4 obviously doesn’t play well on flops and Perry is capable of triple-barrelling certain boards. Also, he’s very aggressive and is more than capable of 4-betting light here, especially as we’re both around £2.5k deep.

I decide to click it back to just under £150 with the idea that he will flat every single time. I think he flats all hands, including hands like A-A/K-K, and then also his funky hands like Q-9s etc. If I were out of position here, the hand would be totally different, and I would most likely fold or 5-bet much bigger as I wouldn’t want a call.

The flop comes Qs8s4h. Perry checks and I decide to check back with the intention of looking like I have some showdown value which I can then bluff later on. Also, I don’t really like this board as he can hit it a lot with hands like J-Q, K-Q, and he will at least call one bet even with hands like T-T or J-Js, so I would have to barrel a lot of the time. I don’t really want to have to do that as he can equally have Q-Q/K-K/A-A, which he isn’t folding.

The turn comes the Ah, giving me a flush-draw, and it’s a great card for my perceived range. He now leads for £150 and I don’t like this play, regardless of what he has. In my opinion, he should be checking his entire range to me here, as he can expect me to bet that card whether I have it or not. If I have it, I will just call, but if he checks I can bet regardless of what I have and he can go from there. A check also gives him more ammo to get me off a hand like A-K, as he can check-raise and put me to a big decision with only one pair.

I decide to flat, firstly because I think he can’t really have anything as he would check with any value hand, and secondly because I can now rep A-K massively, and unless he has a set (which I think is unlikely because he didn’t check), I should win the pot on the river.

The river is an off-suit eight, which pairs the board and he checks. Now I never think he has a set, as he would go for a massive, polarised bet (which he loves to do) and can comfortably think I’m going to call with my perceived A-K.

So, unless he’s going for a check-raise with a boat – and I don’t think he’s the type of player to do this – then I think I can win the pot with a bet. l think he was going for a kind of pot-control turn bet to save him going check-call on both streets, sort of guessing. So, if he thinks this and is now checking the river, I figure he would just give up if I bet.

I decide to bet £280, which is about half the pot. I want it to look exactly like A-K and look very “valuey” because I think he’s more likely to fold to a bet like this than a bigger bet of around 500ish. He tanks for a while and eventually folds. I think Perry’s position in that hand cost him the pot as he didn’t really have many options, whereas my position was significant, gave me a lot of options and also let me see what he did first which gave me a better idea of his range.

The second hand is also against Perry in the same game with the £4 straddle. It’s opened from the same guy to £15. I flat on the button with 3c4c and Perry, in the small blind, 3-bets to £55. The initial raiser flats so I decide to flat also. The flop comes 10sJsKs and Perry checks. The guy in middle also checks and now I decide to bet £90. The reason for this is that Perry is the type of player who, if he has a strong value-hand here, would just go bet, bet, bet – and the same with the guy in the middle. So although this is a very drawy board that someone has most likely has a piece of, I feel I can win the pot by betting two or three streets, as it’s very rare for either of them to have a very strong value hand.

Perry flats and the guy in the middle folds. The turn comes the 8s, putting up four spades, and Perry checks. I decide to check too, mainly because if I bet here then I believe Perry would see my hand as very polarised – ie, with the As or better or total air. By checking back, it looks like I have some showdown value. Also, being in position, I can see what Perry does before I act and get a good sense of what type of hand he has.

The river comes the 7s, making the board 7-8-10-J-K, all spades. Perry now bets £140, which is about 40% of the pot. So now, because of the type of player he is, I don’t believe he has a very strong hand here – with big hands he likes to polarise his hand range to the nuts or nothing. I’m a bit confused as I think, with the As and 9s, he would go massive and anything else he should check. Based on my information that he like to polarise hands, I decide that, at best, he could have the Qs and I think I can make that fold with a hefty raise. Also, because I checked back the turn, I can easily rep the 9s, which is now a straight flush, as I wouldn’t bet the turn with it as it’s a good bluff-catcher on the river.

I raise to £510 and again he goes into the tank and says to me he flopped it. I’m now thinking he has the ace-high flush and will most likely call. He then turns over his hand while he’s thinking and shows me 3s4s, which I’m delighted to see because I’m now frerolling: if he calls, I chop; if he folds, I win. He tanks for ages and other players start getting on his back, questioning why he’s taking so long to act when he’s playing the board. He eventually folds and I feel pretty lucky as I got his hand-range kind of wrong this time. Had the board not run out perfectly for me, I would have just barreled off to him. However, despite my miscalculation, I hope both these hands illustrate the huge advantage I had by playing in position.

Tags: Strategy, Ben Jackson