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Real Poker: Position: It Can Be A Relative Thing

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Apr 10, 2019


Much has been written about the importance of position. When last to act, you have all the information from your opponents’ actions to incorporate into your decisions. It’s an advantageous spot; and your decisions should be highly informed.

That said, your relationship to other players can have value transcending being on the button. Your situational relationship to a bettor or a likely bettor can either add or subtract value from your holding.

Say a player raises under-the-gun preflop and you’re next to act. Any call or raise you make will assume varying degrees of risks from players to act behind you. Those risks exist every time you’re not closing out the action. Their unforeseen calls and raises might have changed your action had you known they were going to occur. You may get raised and have to fold or call additional chips, reducing your implied odds and your hand’s equity. Additionally, every time you don’t close out the action, you can only estimate how many players will continue behind you. Therefore, the price your hand will receive will be even more of an approximation.

Your price and equity change with every opponent’s action behind you, affecting your odds. Closing out the action, those calculations involved less guesswork. Keep in mind that if the preflop raiser to your right continuation bets the flop with players to act behind you, you’re in the same precarious position. This concept applies to all streets.

Say for example you hold 5-5 in the big blind and an aggressive opponent who has a high continuation bet percentage open-raises and is called by three others. If you call, and flop a set, your set’s value has increased due to the high percentage chance of the raise-opener continuation betting and the chance that other opponent(s) may call his wager. A check-raise will likely produce high equity bets. That fact makes the 5-5 more valuable than if you were to the immediate left of the open-raiser and unsure of the action behind. You’re much less likely to receive high equity action should you flop a set.

Conversely, there are other times when being on the player’s left is an asset. You might want to exploit a wide flop continuation bettor with raise-bluffs by flatting him wide preflop with position and raise-bluffing the flops that tend to miss his range. Or you can position yourself to raise the continuation flop bettor on the flop with hands you wish to “protect.” Or you can isolate a wide-range preflop bettor, shutting out the field behind. Where you want to be in relationship to a player is dependent on their tendencies and your ability to exploit them.

With the pocket fives in the BB you made a more educated, less risky decision. You knew your immediate pricing, and you were better able to assess your implied odds, and to better evaluate how the hand will play out. Being to the right of a bettor allows you to make your decision based on more information than had you been on the bettor’s left. That said, you’ll still need to adjust your decisions based on the given situation, your assumption of risk based on your position relative to the actions you have seen, and your evaluation on how the hand will play. Evaluating how the hand will play is subjective and sometimes wide-ranging. But the information should help you formulate your strategy. And your correct adjustments to those situations will provide you an edge over opponents incapable of making them.

So, don’t just think about your position in terms of your relationship to the button, contemplate how your position will relate to how the hand will likely play and how that will affect the value of your holding. What tendencies do your opponents have that are potentially exploitable that will add or subtract value from your holding? Tighten up your range when assuming risks. Loosen up when your relative position adds implied odds value. These situations require feel. Other concepts are also factors, but as you acquire that feel and adjust to it, you’ll find you’re escaping more tough situations and getting better value out of some positive ones.

It’s an often unrealized concept that comes up often and therefore, used effectively, adds good value to your game! ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters -including purchase, sale or mortgage, his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is