How to Play Poker
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The Importance of Position

Poker is a game of information. The more information you have at your disposal, the better your decisions will be. Being the last person to act in any given round of poker is called, being in position. It is a powerful concept because you automatically obtain more information than everyone else and can make the best play as a result. To illustrate the power of position, let’s play out a hand, using position as the major factor…

- PLH (Pot-Limit Hold-em), $1/2 Blinds, 9 handed. You hold KJs (King-Jack suited). Everyone at the table is a fairly solid player. It is not a very loose game.

1) Early/Middle Position:

You raise 3x the BB (Big-Blind) from UTG (Under-The-Gun), looking to narrow the field and to size up your opponents. The plan for your hand includes the possibility of a multi-way pot since you have big suited connectors and can win a lot of money if the flop hits you hard. The player in seat 4 apparently likes his hand too and makes the call, as does the player in seat 6. However, the player in seat 9 makes it $21 to go, and it’s folded around to you. You are now faced with a difficult decision: Right now you are getting 42-15, almost 3-1 on your money, but you can’t be confident that you have the best starting hand anymore. There is still value in both your straight and flush draws and, if you knew that the players in seats 4 and 6 would call, and everyone had a deep stack, then you can make the call looking to hit a huge nut-draw and possibly felt a couple players. Unfortunately, because you are the one who has to act first, you cannot be certain that the other players will call the raise made by seat 7 (or re-raise themselves) and you opt to fold your hand.

In this situation, you forfeited your initial $6 investment and didn’t see the flop.

Since there is always the possibility of being raised and re-raised while playing in early position, you must play better starting hands so you don’t lose too much money to late-position re-raisers.

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2) Late Position:

In this case, the player UTG raises 3x the BB. Seats 4 and 6 call the raise, just as before. Now you, in seat 9, have only to worry about the SB and the BB. The blinds generally raise here with only premium hands, so the likely-hood of them re-raising is very low. Being in late position also affords you the opportunity to re-raise to knock the blinds out and/or to create deception in your play. It is important to change your game from time-to-time and being in late position is the best time in which to do that.

In this situation, you will almost certainly see the flop for your initial $6 investment.

Since there are far fewer people to act behind you, the possibility of the pot being re-raised after you act is minimal. You are much more likely to know what your starting investment will be compared to the size of the pot and can play a wider range of hands as a result.

Give yourself an opportunity to gather as much information as possible by leveraging your position at the table. Don’t start with marginal hands from early position, forcing yourself to call big bets or throw your hand away. See a flop. Your bankroll will thank you.

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