Using Position To Manipulate Players

Guide To Winning Poker (31)

  • Our main advantage in position is an illusion
  • Most online players are under this illusion though
  • If a player isn’t, then they are almost always a bad player who is easily beaten anyway

A Lot Of The Advantages Of Position Are Imagined Ones

From reading my series of articles on how to effectively play out of position, it’s easy to see that a lot of the advantages of position result from the reluctance and even fear of playing out of position against players. This is especially true if the opponent is experienced, and it seems that the more experience a player gets, the more fearful they become playing out of position.

There are players who have moved their game up to the point where they start to understand more about the true dynamics here and grasp the fact that there is a great deal that can be accomplished out of position, but we’re talking about great players here, and you don’t even see that many of them online. Those who know this aren’t really teaching much of it though, so there really isn’t much good stuff on position anywhere on the internet.

However, I’ve been giving you that here, and I really don’t think that there is a certain high level that you need to reach in order to look to play well out of position. Players do wimp out a lot from thinking that their decisions will be made more difficult out of position, and while that’s true, this to me sounds like laziness rather than sound poker strategy.

Even A Good Basic Understanding Is Better Than A Confused One

So while many of the people reading this have probably not developed their poker skills to any great extent, although the hope is that if you follow my advice you soon will, you really don’t need to be an expert to grasp the dynamics of positional play. Even a bit of an understanding is better than none. So if you just realize that you need to try to learn new ways of playing rather than just rolling over way too much, that is a good start.

So some of the things that we can do out of position to help ourselves is to look to put pressure on our opponents from here rather than the other way around, to know how to handle our opponents’ aggression, and to not be afraid to play on when we likely have the best hand or anytime else it would be profitable to do so.

Any time we feel that we have a better hand than our opponents do on average, this should embolden us, regardless of what position we happen to be in. We may want to require a bit higher hand strength out of position than we would in position, but this is really related to how our opponents play, and not really the position itself.

So for instance since opponents play more aggressively in position, we can make more money from our good hands, but this also involves having our losing hands cost us more money as well. So we want to look to limit those a bit more at least, but not to the point where we are playing too nitty and throwing away clearly profitable situations.

In Position, We Want To Take Full Advantage Of All Of Their Confusion

So we know how players will generally react to in position aggression, which is to generally play tighter, and often quite a bit tighter. They may in fact check fold so much that we can just fire at pots pretty much any time we want, and while we often want to not go to the well too much here, as we often risk causing them to adjust and play better, with position things are different.

Our opponents are often not under the delusion that we keep getting hands here with betting out almost all of the time. Instead, it’s not our hands that we are betting, it is our position, and they are willing to accept that and lay down most of the time for this very reason.

This of course presumes our opponents are “sophisticated” enough to respect our position in such a way, but in that case we can keep doing that to them as long as it is profitable for us. While even donkeys can be goaded into adjusting to our play if we overdo it, these players have the idea about their positional disadvantage so entrenched that they usually won’t even consider adjusting too much.

There Is Usually A Nice Profit Just From Their Folding Too Much

So the most you might see from these players is their check raising more often if we bet out a huge amount of times, but we don’t even have to care about that if they are still folding way too much, as they invariably still will. When we have a real hand we can play back as appropriate, but we can let them have the pot every time they do this and still turn a handsome profit.

If we fold every time to their check raises, they may do it a lot more often, but in reality we are going to have real hands often enough in addition to betting with our air that they won’t be disposed to ever check raise us enough to make our loads of betting unprofitable. We still will need to play well when faced with their aggression, as we always need to do, but their check raising exposes them to more risk as they are putting more money in the pot, so if they use this as their tactic to ensure they don’t fold enough, we are in a position to make even more money off of them.

Checking Every Time Out Of Position Is Simply A Bad Idea

Checking every time, like players tend to do, already gets them in more trouble than they are able to get out of regardless of how they play the rest of the hand. If people are worried about less pot control out of position, checking every time definitely makes all their dreams come true here. The idea behind check raising is to not only use aggression to get us to fold, but to also exercise more pot control, but if opponents check raise too often, they can easily get themselves in even more trouble.

What keeps them generally from check raising even an optimal amount of the time, let alone too often, is their general fear of the position that we have on them. A lot of players also do not properly understand the power of calling, and in fact see it as a weak move, so this further increases their tendency to fold.

It’s Like We’re Being Given Free Money A Lot Of The Time

So the first thing I look at when I’m playing an opponent is his or her check fold rate. I want to see how many times a player will give me free money on the flop, as well as looking for similar tendencies on the turn and river as well. Too much folding on the flop is nice, but it’s even nicer if they do it on later streets after they have put even more money in the pot.

If you are going to look to exploit too much folding on other streets, unless you are quite experienced, I would proceed with a little more caution here looking to take pots down on the turn and river. While you can work your way up to being able to decide this with stats alone, there are some real distinctions to be made between streets simply checked back by opponents when the player would have folded anyway, and cases where they have a real hand.

So what I would advise for now is to look to get confirmation from observation that a player does call too much or bet too much and fold later. We currently don’t have the ability to track this stuff, so we have to use our own heads here to be safer.

As a good guideline though, what we want to see is players who are looser on earlier streets folding a lot later. The looser, the better, and with tighter players who you see less calls, bets, and raises with, they will have a hand enough of the time that multi street bluffing would have to be used with much more restraint.

Playing Against So Called Donk Betting

It is actually correct to donk bet a fair bit of the time against some players, although as always this depends on the opponent. I would never just check everything though even against a maniac, as you can build the pot more with the right hands against these players by betting into them first.

As a rule though, donk betting, other than the occasional one, is generally done by donks. It’s not that the bet itself is donkish, but donkeys are the ones that usually do a lot of it, and don’t do it particularly well.

So when we are faced with a lot of donk bets in position, we almost always have a live one on our hands, a player who really doesn’t know that this is considered a play by a donkey. So as is almost always the case, donkeys don’t really know that they are donkeys.

So if we were experiencing a lot of donk bets from a truly good player, this would really be a cause for concern. It takes quite a bit of skill to do donk bets properly, skills which actual donkeys do not have. So mostly they are just telegraphing their hands, which is information we will definitively use against them. They say, hey, I’ve hit a pair on the flop, so that means a bet is in order.

So This Gets Us Back To Frequency

Based upon how often a player donk bets, in addition to how often they check raise, we can get an idea of what they are doing this with. The first thing we need to do is make sure that we are not folding to these bets too much in order to give the donk a profit with them. So we take how often they are doing and we can use the two thirds rule here. So if they donk out half the time, we can continue on two thirds of half the time, or one third of the time, on the value side of things.

If we can rebluff them, we can go after them even more often, although a lot of donkeys aren’t bluffed easily, so be careful with this. As a rule, the more they donk bet, the less they are doing it with, and the more likely we can bluff them off of it. Donks generally lead with real hands or good draws though which means about 40% the time, and aren’t really prone to doing a lot of folding. However, we can use this to our advantage if this is the case by bumping them when we want to build the pot.

So it’s a matter of their either folding to our raises too much, in which case we raise more often, or not folding enough to them, in which case we get more selective with what we do it with and look to make bigger profits when we do have the goods. So once again, aggression pays off for us, and it’s certainly true that we are in position and do enjoy a natural advantage unless our opponents are very sharp, and very few online players at any stakes are this sharp that we need to worry about this.

So to sum up, if they respect your position that you have on them, take full advantage of this, and if they don’t respect it, which you generally only see from bad players, use their bad play to your advantage.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series