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The Poker Aggression Leads To Position

by Rep Porter |  Published: Jan 20, 2016


Today, I want to write a little more about limit hold’em. Specifically, I want to talk about how aggression and position pair together to make a solid preflop strategy. Being aggressive preflop, and by that I mean raising when you come into the pot, leads to having better position after the flop. This, in turn, leads to being able to play more profitably post-flop.

Let’s start by looking at what your options are once you decide you want to play a pot. If no one else has entered the pot, you can call the big blind or you can raise. Let’s look at what happens when you call first. Your remaining opponents are afforded the opportunity to enter the pot cheaply with speculative hands. Often, this has a cascading effect. Once two people call, it gets easier for a third to enter the pot, and then a fourth, and so on.

If this is correct for your opponents, then it has to be taking equity from someone else, mainly the people who are already in the pot. (read YOU) When you raise, a very different dynamic unfolds. Now suddenly, people behind you are throwing away hands they would have otherwise played.

Imagine having a hand like K-J in middle position. If it folds to you, you will usually open the pot with a raise. If a player has limped in front of you, you will at least call and probably still raise. Now instead, a player has raised to enter the pot from early position. Suddenly this hand looks weak. You will probably throw it away. David Sklansky called this idea the Gap Concept. You need a much stronger hand to call a raise than you do to make the same raise yourself. So now by raising, you are creating a dynamic where it is more difficult for your opponents to enter the pot behind you. This will lead to you having better position after the flop on a more regular basis.

The next question is, does this also hold true if someone has raised to enter the pot in front of you? Well, let’s look at what happens if you just call first. Now the people behind you can enter the pot as the third player and have reasonable assurances that one or both blinds will come in as well. This allows them to profitably play many hands. This also allows a fourth or fifth player to play many more hands profitably as well. So similar to when you just limp in to open the pot, when your opponents are able to profitably call with more hands, that equity comes from the players who were already in the pot.

And once again, when you reraise, you create a very different dynamic. The idea of the Gap Concept is even more pronounced now. Your opponents need to worry about the strength of both your hand and the original raiser as well. When the players behind you are facing three-bets preflop, there are a select few hands that they can profitably play. Sometimes one of the blinds will call. Sometimes someone will four-bet. But the most likely scenario is you playing a heads-up pot with the player that you just three-bet. This creates a great post-flop situation. You have position on a single opponent. You have the tempo, meaning they will likely check to you on the flop. This is a position that you can play very profitably from.

The range of hands you want to raise with and reraise with coming into pots is still important. You need to have a hand that plays well given your position relative to the blinds and button preflop. You want to play tighter in early position when there are more players left who may wake up with a premium holding, and you can play far more hands as you move into the late positions. The most important thing in my mind is that, when you have determined that your starting hand is worth playing, you should enter the pot raising.

Some people like to raise with parts of their range and just call with other parts. This is not the best plan. You give away too much information about your hands to your more astute opponents. Other than some unusual cases where several people have already entered a pot in front of you, you should be raising or rearising every time you decide to play a hand preflop. This will give you the best chance to limit the field and put you in a later position (hopefully last position) after the flop. ♠

Rep Porter is a two-time WSOP bracelet winner and is the lead instructor at, whose mission is to help poker players achieve better results through better decisions and that is done by teaching poker in a way that makes learning easy and enjoyable with high quality courses taught by professional players.

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