The Importance Of Position – Part 2

Guide To Winning Poker (16)

  • Against similarly skilled opponents, players should not lose more hands out of position
  • This happens because players out of position play too weak tight
  • It’s not difficult at all to not get pushed around out of position

Too Much Folding Out Of Position Is Definitely A Disadvantage

In the last session I started talking about out looking at position to get a better idea of what really happens here both when we’re in and out of position. I left off making the observation that players tend to win less hands out of position and thought that was interesting. Once again the only way that this could be possible is that players are folding better hands, and thus making mistakes, and more mistakes than the person in position is. It doesn’t really make sense just to say that players lose more hands because they are out of position, as any time you fold the better hand it’s always a mistake to do so.

If we look at Sklansky’s fundamental theorem of poker, he clearly and correctly points out that whenever an opponent gets you to fold the best hand, it’s a mistake. This, and the fact that it’s also a mistake not to fold a weaker hand, comprise his theorem. This isn’t anywhere near the great revelation that some people think it is by the way, as it’s just common sense, but common sense used in a pretty elegant fashion I must admit. In any case, folding the best hand cannot ever be seen as the correct move, regardless of what position you are in.

This Isn’t As Obvious To People As You May Think

You might think that it’s strange that I’m beleaguering this point but believe it or not this is a very difficult concept for a lot of players to grasp, and we’re talking even some players who have a pretty high opinion of themselves and tend to do very well overall at online poker. They will still tell you that it’s natural for players to win more hands in position and it’s due to the power of position. It can’t be due to that though, although it certainly is due to how players play out of position, and that’s the real cause here.

In other words, they tend to fold too much and fold incorrectly a lot because they believe they are at a disadvantage. When they have the best hand or are likely to have the best hand how can they really be at a disadvantage though? However, when they assume they are at one, and play accordingly, they certainly have disadvantaged themselves. It’s not the same thing to say position has disadvantaged you and you are playing at a disadvantage because you think you are.

When we look at the cards players tend to take to the flop in and out of position, then this all becomes even more apparent and noticeable. It’s completely standard that players play better cards out of position than in position, and this is true whether it’s heads up, full ring, or anything in between. This makes perfect sense in fact to do so. Now given this, the expectation would then become, all other things being equal, that out of position players would win more hands then they lose when they see the flop, not less. For instance if we just dealt the cards out and see who had the better hand, by starting with better hands, out of position players would win more hands than they lost, with certainty in fact.

These Players Have Created Their Own Disadvantage

So what is going on here? Well it all comes down to one thing, and we know this with absolute certainly in fact. Players out of position allow themselves to be bluffed more often. It’s impossible in fact for anything else to be the case here. Whenever you fold out the better hand, that’s what we call getting bluffed out of it. Of course this includes folding good hands when the opponent is playing a made but weaker hand strongly, but that’s really the same thing.

However, if we are any kind of poker player, we should be aware that bets from someone in position mean less, and often a lot less, than a bet from players out of position, and thus we should conduct ourselves accordingly and not be so eager to fold. So all of this really results in our applying incorrect ranges to the aggressive actions of our opponents when in position, and giving them more credit than they deserve generally, to our detriment. Using the excuse of this is what happens or should happen when out of position is a terrible excuse and one that makes absolutely no sense in fact.

A lot of these hands that are given up on out of position occur when neither player has made a hand, and the out of position player ends up checking and folding theirs. As I mentioned though, out of position players tend to have better hands going into the flop, and this is especially true with hands that come down to high cards, as is the case with hands that miss the flop.

We Don’t Have To Play This Lame Though

So if I’m playing an ace high hand, and my opponent will continuation bet every flop, then I’m certainly not going to be giving him these pots. I don’t care if he has position on me or not, this to me just means he’ll be betting with the worst hand most of the time, and any time that’s the case, it will clearly be profitable for me to not fold and look to continue. So in this case it’s just a matter of whether it’s better to raise him or just call, and I’ll be looking at how he plays to decide this.

So we bring Grinder in on this discussion, and he laughs heartily, telling us if we try that against him he’s going to use his position on us to make us pay. That’s got me smiling pretty good myself, so just to protect ourselves let’s look at what weapons he can throw at us to make us not want to do this.

So we ask Grinder what his plans are here, and he repeats that he’s going to use his position on us. So we ask what specifically that will involve, and he thinks for a bit, and then says well he’s going to put pressure on us. So we tell him that’s great, we’re in a situation where we are ahead more often than not and we certainly welcome putting more money in the pot when that’s the case.

There’s No Need To Be Afraid Of Over Aggression By Opponents

In fact we say that we hope he bets all three streets every time here and we can then just call along and win more showdowns than we lose, and really don’t have to think about the whole deal any more than this if we don’t want to, although we do want to look for variations in his game to pick him off further, like bet sizing tells and the like. Once again though that doesn’t even matter here, and we ask him if he has anything else he can hit us with. So he just gets mad at us and starts calling us names and tells us we don’t understand the game. So we play him, we do this to him, we win his money, and he still thinks his understanding is superior, in spite of it failing at the table.

We have absolutely nothing to fear in fact when we’re in situations where we have the advantage, which means the likely best hand at showdown. He can shove every flop on us and it will be to our advantage to call him down most of the time and in fact beat the living crap out of him. It all comes down to using our powers of observation to put his moves on average hand strengths, so that we can know whether we should continue or not.

Players Generally Don’t Like To Play This Game Of Chicken Though

However in practice, very few players even attempt to do this properly, and just end up playing way too nitty out of position and folding way too much. What makes this worse is that a great number of players play way too transparently in position, for instance some will continuation bet 100% of the time. Nothing could be easier to range out for us, and we can then play our own cards and play on when we beat a random hand and be certain that this will be a profitable move. This will have us losing little when we have little and winning a lot when we have something, and that’s the perfect situation to be in as a matter of fact. While it’s true that most players don’t play so obviously in position, almost all of them are actually making themselves far too easy to exploit, provided that we’re paying enough attention and are looking to plan our attacks properly.

At best, the player in position can argue that when he has the best hand he has the opportunity to make more money with it through the use of pot control, and while this may be true, it has nothing to do with win percentage. So that’s the first misconception that we can lay to rest, and in fact the expectation should be that we will win more hands out of position than our in position opponents, once again by playing a better range and minimizing our mistakes.

I should point out here though that part of the reason why we win less hands is that our opponent will tend to not fold as often as is ideal, and thus end up going to showdown more often than he or she should be. However this isn’t the real reason behind the discrepancy and in fact even with this accounted for, on the whole we still should win more hands out of position than not, unless we’re playing against idiots who don’t know how to fold in position. In that case we’ll happily take stack after stack from them and let them win a few more hands than we do but for much smaller amounts.

So in the next session I’ll start to look at the other side of the coin here which is being subject to larger losses when out of position.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series