Power of Position, Position of Power

[BB] Nemo, the winter storm not the animated fish, had postponed the monthly poker tournament, so Benny the Book continued to teach his son Joey the Juvenile how to play Hold ‘Em at home. “I noticed that you play a lot of hands in early position.”

[JJ] “Well, I just like to play hands. What fun is it to fold all the time?”

[BB] “What fun is it to bust out of a tournament early?”

[BB] “Beginners almost always undervalue position. Back in my Palm Pilot days, I used to play this horribly weak Hold ‘Em game1 on it, and as a beginner it felt like an advantage to be in the big blind because I already had some chips in the pot, and I was last to act on the first round of betting. That’s the first type of position: preflop position.”

[BB] “After the flop, if the button is still in the hand, he’s always acts last on each street. That’s the second type of position: postflop position.”

[BB] “But if only two players are left in a hand, and you act after the other person, it doesn’t matter if you were both early position. One of you is out of position acting first, and the other is in position acting last. That’s the third type of position: relative position.”

[JJ] “The best hand wins at showdown. It doesn’t matter what position you’re in then.”

[BB] “True enough. Position is also irrelevant once somebody’s all-in. But otherwise, being in position lets you act with more information than your opponent has. Position lets you win more pots, by betting when your opponent shows weakness, and lets you control the size of the pot more easily.”

[BB] “If you act first, you have only two options: bet or check. If you act second and your opponent has already checked, you have the same two choices and you have more reason to believe your opponent has a weak hand. But if you act second and your opponent has already bet, you have three choices — fold, call, or raise — and you have more reason to believe your opponent has a good hand. One more piece of information and one more betting option on each of three betting rounds is a tremendous advantage.”

[JJ] “But what about check-raising? Doesn’t that negate some of that advantage.”

[BB] “Indeed it does, and I think it’s fair to say that most players don’t check-raise often enough. But it doesn’t close the gap that much, because many planned check-raises get thwarted when the opponent checks behind. That’s a great topic for a future lesson though.”

Footnotes:

  1. The app was Real Dice “Multiplayer Championship Poker – Texas Hold’em Edition”. As bad as it was, it was the best Hold ‘Em game I ever played on Palm OS, with very good graphics (for the time) and support for the taller 320 by 480 screen on my Sony Clie NX70V. The company ported the app to the iPhone, but removed it from the App Store after a year or so (a BlackBerry version still seems to exist, and they also had a Windows Mobile version).
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