If you watch or play a lot of poker, you must’ve noticed that the majority of the time there’s only going to be two players in the hand by the time the community cards arrive. A player opens with a raise, one player calls and then it’s heads-up to the flop. If you’re watching good players or playing against them, you’ll realise that most of the hands that they play, they are always the last to act or “in position”. This happens only because playing “in position” is always advantageous as compared to having to act first.
More Free Cards
Imagine that you are playing a heads-up hand “in position” and you have an open-ended straight draw on the flop. Your opponent has a reputation of being a loose player (someone who plays a variety of hands from any position) and he checks the action to you.
When you have position over your opponent, you have the opportunity to take a “free card” if the action is checked to you and you can just check behind to see if you hit your draw. If you’re “out of position”, and you check the flop, there is no guarantee that the opponent will not make you pay in order to see the next card.
Being the last to act postflop helps you to decide how big or small you want the pot to be. If you want to play a small pot and the opponent checks the action to you, you can just check behind. You can always raise if you want the pot to be bigger and you want value for your hand.
If you’re out of position, you can never be sure that if you check, your opponent is going to do the same and let you see a card for free. Neither can you be sure if you raise, your opponent folds or calls (making them doing the pot control).
Being in position is so valuable that it can make you win pots with relatively weaker hands. The chance to act last gives you more leverage when you’re trying to represent stronger hands. If the opponent checks you, hence showing weakness, it’s the perfect spot for you to raise and take down the pot there itself!
Imagine that you raise the button with A♦10♦. You get called by the Big Blind and the flop comes K♠ Q♠ 8♥. The big blind checks the action to you. In this position, if you bet and your opponent does not have an Ace or a King or even a 6, they’ll fold and the strength of your cards becomes irrelevant. In this situation, it is not your cards which helped you take down the pot, it was being “in position”.
Imagine that you are in a 4-way pot with 1500 in the middle. You have Q♦ J♦ and the flop comes K♣ 10♣ 7♠. You are facing a bet of 500 and with your open-ended straight draw, you’d like to call and see the turn. If you are the last to act, it will be an easy calculation to know your pot odds– you’re trying to win 2000 and need only 500 to call, so your immediate pot odds are 4-to-1.
You won’t be able to make this calculation if you were supposed to act second. With 2 more players to act behind you, you cannot make a guess that they’ll call or fold or raise! If you were the last to act and in position, you’d know exactly what your pot odds are and what you have to do!
Knowing your Opponent
Having some kind of information about how your opponent is going to play a given board texture postflop will always help you make better decisions. Having knowledge about the fact that your opponent can always be trying to bluff you, a check means that their hand is weak and a bet means that they’re interested in the pot. When playing in position, a lot of players use their opponents actions and make their decisions accordingly.
This is why seating arrangement at a table is so important. It is always better to have strong, difficult players to your right than in position to your left. You need to be able to take advantage of being in position in order to get the most value out of them. Playing “out of position” has its own advantages (check-raising) or having the betting lead will help you get players out of the hand, however the advantages of being “in position” are much greater as mentioned above.
Position is one of the most important factors affecting no-limit hold’em strategy. Playing with position on your opponents both reduces your risk and increases your chance at rewards. Help your own cause by playing more hands in position, and try not to help your opponents and play fewer from out of position.