Tactics For Playing Out Of Position

Guide To Winning Poker (23)

  • More than anything, we need to tailor our strategies out of position to our opponents
  • Whether we lead out or not will depend on both their folding and raising tendencies
  • What we do must also be compared to the alternative of letting them do the betting

We Need To First Take Off Our Shackles

In the last lesson we looked at some common misconceptions about the disadvantages of playing out of position and how the beliefs about these misconceptions, for the most part, ends up creating and perpetuating these disadvantages. In particular, the belief that one must play far more passively out of position, given that passive play in general is less desirable, is where most of the disadvantage comes from, not from the positional situation itself.

To recap a little here, we said that there are three main problems that the out of position player has to deal with. The first one, acting first, is held to force the out of position player to divulge too much information, but in reality both players are subject to divulging information in a similar way, and the out of position player can simply check every time if he or she wants to. The in position player is subject to the same problem if he or she plays transparently. So what we want to do is to look to avoid playing too straightforward, as we would in position as well, and position has nothing to do with any of this.

The Misconceptions About Position Abound

Next, we looked at the claim that players in position can be more aggressive and thus put more pressure on the player out of position. There’s nothing in the nature of position that makes this so, other than people playing too passively out of position. We can remedy this by simply refusing to play passively out of position unless we have a good reason to do so. In fact, being out of position provides us with the ability to take the initiative more, and therefore if we take advantage of this, if anything, the reverse of this misconception would be true, meaning that the out of position player has the ability to put the in position player under pressure more by betting into them more often.

Finally, we looked at the claim that the in position player is in a position to make more money off their good hands and also win more pots through having more control over the price of continuing, meaning forcing opponents into folding more often. We reasoned that much of this is once again a matter of the way people play, although we did root out an advantage here for the in position player to be able to take more free cards when checked to.

Surprisingly, This Advice Is Pretty Unique

The reason I’m going over all this again is that this is not only very important, but like a lot of the material in this series, is something you won’t read about anywhere else. It seems that the poker world in general is so taken by the element of position that they refuse to even want to look at the reasoning behind it, apart from the way people play. So what happens is that players lose a lot more money out of position than they need to, by playing far too passively than they need to.

When you end up folding the better hand time and again, and then claim, well it was because I was out of position, then you need to step back and realize how foolish your statement is. At best, you need to go into the reasons why this should be the case, and in the end there aren’t any good ones. So I don’t want to see you roll over too much out of position like so many other players, even some very successful ones, tend to do.

Let’s go back to the free card situation though and see what sort of disadvantage this really represents. Now this is only going to be an issue for us when we’re probably ahead and want to make sure we get value from our hand. Some people think that it is because we don’t want our opponents to draw out on our better hand but that’s not the case at all. In fact we want them to draw, or else we’d be looking to take the hand down, meaning taking advantage of fold equity.

It’s Not That Being Out Of Position Doesn’t Have Its Pitfalls

Any time we have the likely best hand though we want to focus on value, which means that we want to show the hand down and build the pot to the extent we can while still maintaining our advantage. So there’s two ways we can go wrong with this, which are building the pot too much, where our opponent will only show down a range that is ahead of ours, and not building it enough, where we get paid too little for our efforts.

So it’s the latter problem that we’re concerned about when it comes to looking at the dangers of giving free cards. Once again, and this a very important point, we are not concerned about opponents drawing out on us, and we do want to always give them the opportunity to do so if we are ahead in the hand. However, we do want to get paid when we do win the hand, which means building the pot.

So being in this situation out of position, when we check we risk not having any money put in the pot at all on this street. So this doesn’t necessarily mean that we want to bet though, as it depends on the tendencies of our opponent in question. As well, just because we start out by playing passively by checking, doesn’t mean that we can’t seize the initiative back if he bets, meaning putting in a raise.

Using Our Opponents’ Aggression Against Them

As a rule, players tend to play pretty aggressively in position, especially if they have the lead, meaning that they put in the last aggressive action on the previous street. So if you ended up calling, then he is said to be in the lead. I’ve no idea why players pay so much attention to this in fact, or any at all for that matter, but that’s a topic for another day. Anyway, we have a player who if checked to, will bet all sorts of nonsense. So we may not have to bet here, and in fact, can look to trap his bluffs by check raising him if we want to.

So in comparison with betting, the check raise has the extra benefit of getting a bet out of our opponent in situations where he has a hand and isn’t looking to continue on very far with it. On the other side, this does expose us to losing more than the bet if the opponent is prone to raising a lot, and typically if we check raise fold, we’re losing three times as much as if we just bet and fold, so we want to pay attention to this when we’re up against more aggressive opponents. As a rule, the more an opponent tends to raise or re-raise, the better the range we are going to need to raise ourselves.

Seeing How They React To Our Leading Out

People react differently to so called donk bets, meaning we don’t have the lead on the previous street and are leading out here. The fact that this is considered by most players to be a mistake and thus the donk bet tag tells you something about how much players misunderstand the potential benefits of such a tactic, but we’re not going to fall prey to the same distorted thinking. So we’ll lead out when it’s the best move to make, which is going to be against players who will fold too much to it, and particularly those who will tend to check back as well.

So our giving a free card is a mistake when it would have been better to bet instead, and therefore it’s a strategic thing and not an innate problem as most players believe. Against the players that I typically play against at the higher stakes, they tend to like to bet a lot in position, so I tend to give them the opportunity to do so. I know they are doing this lightly more often than not, so I then look to how often they follow up with their bets on subsequent streets and will often take a passive line throughout the hand if I am going for value. If they tend to shut down, then I’ll look to seize the initiative more by check raising, where they are going to have to decide now whether they want to play on or not, and if they do, it will cost them some more money.

At the same time though it often makes sense to bet into very aggressive players with position on you if you’re looking to build pots, meaning going for value. If they are willing to raise you light here, that’s a perfect situation to be in actually. Once again, we’ll be looking at their tendencies, both now and later in the hand to decide whether we want to get more money in there now or just call for now and look to build the pot more later. The real key here though is that, by contemplating our decisions properly, we’re putting ourselves in the drivers’ seat more and not just letting our being out of position force us into playing badly.

So It All Depends On What Our Opponents Like To Do

So there will indeed be instances where we end up giving away free cards when we should be looking to build the pot, and we wouldn’t really be faced with this problem if we were in position, when you look at the overall picture of our being out of position, this really isn’t a big deal at all if we’re looking to play well and take advantage of all of the tools at our disposal. In fact we should be able to outplay our opponents so that we’re profitable out of position as well.

This has always been the case for me, and while I do make more money in position, it’s only because my opponents play more passively and thus play worse out of position, but I make a good profit in both situations regardless. This is very unusual by the way but it’s because I don’t just roll over and say don’t hit me please like so many other players do, even very good players overall.

So it will take some time to get really good at playing out of position but even if you’re just starting out, it’s never too early to not be caught up in the misconceptions that are so prevalent here when it comes to the effect position has on your results. So keep in mind that you don’t have to play like a weakling or play scared out of position, and in particular, you don’t need to be afraid of running into the aggression that your opponents are likely to throw at you. Of course you’ll have to learn how to handle aggression properly, and we’ve touched on this in earlier sessions, but to further help you with this, I’ll talk more about that in the next lesson.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series