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The Importance of Poker Position

By Gary Steele

One of the questions I hear often from new players is about Poker Position. What is so important about being the last to act? After all, they argue, if they are in the blinds they get to play the hand at a discount; wouldn’t they rather be positioned there? The problem with being in the blinds is you have to act first. You do not have the benefit of seeing the bets of the other people at the table.

Let’s first take a simple example and see how it can be detrimental to be sitting in the first seat. Let’s assume you have been paying close attention and you know the player three seats behind you only plays hands when he is dealt something very good in his first two cards, and he always raises when he gets something to play. If he is in the hand after the flop, wouldn’t it be nice to know if he is going to make a bet? When you are in the first position you never know what your opponents are going to do so you cannot use your knowledge of how each of them plays to make your decisions.

Now here are a couple of simple ways to take advantage of being last to act.

First, acting last is the best position to bluff from. If the cards on the flop are low and there are relatively few other players in the pot, bet no matter what you have. Occasionally you will be able to scare the rest of the players out of the pot. If the cards on the flop contain an Ace or King, don’t bother trying to bluff. Most players do not fold big cards if they have them, so betting at the pot is a good way to lose money. Make sure you let the other players occasionally know when your bluff fails, especially if you are a tight player. This may keep them in the pot when you really do have a hand. A simple message in chat saying, “thought I could make you fold that one” will work.

The second way to take advantage of being last to act is to see a cheap card. When you have a few outs (cards you need to make your hand a winner) after the flop you should make a bet if nobody else does. Most of the time when you do this the other players still in the hand will check around to you after the Turn, even if they already have a decent hand. If you get the card you need on the Turn, bet away. If you do not, simply check and see the River. When this works you get to see the Turn and the River for the price of one small bet.

Seeing the bets of all of your opponents is the most important reason acting last is important. It is imperative that you take advantage of being in this position by knowing the playing styles of everyone at the table. Even players online have tells, they just show them in their betting style. It is rare to find an online player who can truly switch up his or her game enough to fool you if you are paying attention.

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