Playing out of Position
Out of position (OOP). This means that you will have to make a decision before your opponent(s). If you look at your poker statistics, you should see that you play more hands and win more hands while in late position as opposed to early position. Having position on your opponents is very important. Playing a hand in position (be aware of the difference between absolute position and relative position) gives you a big advantage over your opponent. However, you will also play a lot of hands where you are out of position. You might, for example, sit UTG with , raise it up to 4x the big blind and get a call from the players in the cut off and on the button. After the flop is dealt, you are now the first player to act. This means that your opponents can base their decision on your actions (checking or betting).
In cash games, you have the option to select the table you want to play at. Use this to your advantage. In general, it's a bad idea to sit out of position in relation to good, aggressive players, or players who have a very large stack. You sit out of position if the player is seated in one of the seats to your right. Sitting out of position limits your 'elbowroom' at the table, so you should really pay attention who and where you neighbours are when taking a seat at a poker table.
Reading your opponent(s)
A fundamental skill in poker is to be able to read your opponents. This becomes even more important when sitting out of position. When playing against an unknown player, it is not a good idea to play a big pot with a hand like top pair top kicker without having a read on your opponent. When sitting out of position, it is harder to control the size of the pot, and your opponent is in charge of the action. When playing out of position, you need to pay very close attention to your opponent, look at their statistics and make notes on them.
Missing the flop
Usually the hands that you raise with in early position should, on average, be stronger than those you raise with in late position. Playing suited connectors like becomes a lot more difficult when playing them out of position, compared to playing this hand on the button. Be aware that your opponent most probably also knows that the range of hands you play out of position is much smaller than the range you play position.
You raise out of position with and get one caller. The flop shows . Often in this situation, you will want to fire out a C-bet, because it is very likely that your opponent missed the flop as well. If, however, your opponent starts playing back at you, you should muck your hand as soon as possible. This is a different story when playing the same hand out of position against 2 or more opponents. The chance is big that at least one of them hit something on the flop, so you might want to save yourself the C-bet.
Without paying attention to your own hand, you need to ask yourself if it is likely that your opponent hit the flop or not. On a flop like , it is unlikely that your opponent hit something, so you can place a C-bet here, and maybe even fire a 2nd barrel on the turn if you don't get raised.
Hitting the flop without a big pocket pair
If you raised preflop out of position and hit the flop hard, you will often bet and see your opponent(s) fold. Sometimes, however, you might be faced with a call or even a raise. Depending on the player and the flop, you can decide to re-raise or call and check raise your opponent on the turn. Even if your opponent just calls and you check the turn, your opponent will often bet because you are showing a lot of weakness.
The same counts for more than one caller. When out of position, you will often check the flop, which makes it seem like you missed the flop. If you then check-raise the flop, this is a sign of great strength. You could even go for the check-raise bluff here every now and then.
When making a C-bet that gets called by villain 1 and villain 2, this usually means one of two things: 1. this player flopped a monster and can slowplay his hand. 2. this player is on a draw and is getting good odds to chase.
A monster preflop, but after the flopâ€¦
Playing monsters like pocket rockets or cowboys out of position can be very difficult once the flop is dealt. It can be hard to fold such a hand when faced with a re-raise on a low board. If you get re-raised on the flop and the turn, it might be sensible to lay down your hand. When holding Aces and facing a raise preflop, it can sometimes be a good play to just call your monster when sitting in position, but out of position I would not recommend this play.
A very common play by players in position is to minraise your C-bet on the flop, after you already raised preflop. In order to handle these situations correctly it is essential to have a good read on your opponent. If you have and see the following flop: and your opponent minraises your bet, a good read on your opponent is essential to decide what to do. A minraise can mean a lot of things here. For example:
1. A bluff. You will miss these flops more often than a flop like
2. A draw. There are 2 clubs for a flush draw and a straight draw on the table. Your opponent minraises you to see a relatively cheap turn card. If you check the turn and he then checks behind you, chances are he wan on a draw with a hand like or .
3. A very strong hand, like a set of 9's for example.
If you don't have a read on your opponent, it can be very expensive to find out which of the 3 possible hands he was holding. On the other hand, you can't just fold to every minraise in order to avoid the situation. Pay attention to all the hands your opponents play, not just the ones they play against you. This becomes more difficult when playing more than 1 table.
How can you find out what your opponent is holding? Imagine you're playing a $200NL table and you raise to $8 preflop. You then make a C-bet of $15 on the flop and your opponent minraises you to $30. If you then pop it up to $80, your opponent will often give up his bluff, call with his draw and push with his set. It might cost you some money in the beginning, but in the long run a read like that can be very profitable.
The nicest thing is obviously if you yourself hit the flop hard and your opponent has a nice hand, a draw or is bluffing. Here you can often just call the minraise on the flop and check-raise the turn. This way the pot is already quite large on the turn, and your opponent will often be pot committed on the turn, as long as he wasn't bluffing.
There is no such thing as 1 strategy that works for playing out of position. One thing that is definitely necessary when playing out of position is having a good read on your opponent. This gives you the possibility of building up big pots by check-raising, but your opponent is the one in charge of the action. In general, you should play tight in early position and loose in late position.