Positional awareness, when linked with poker, means as much as knowing what position you are in relative to your opponents at the table. Hereby we distinguish between early position, middle position, cut off, button, small blind and big blind. This arrangement can be used for full ring tables as well as for 6-max tables.
In this article we will briefly discuss your own position-play before moving on to the things you need to focus on in terms of your opponent's position.
Your own position-play
There have been numerous articles written for PokerNews that have mentioned the importance of position. There have been articles about the
. If these articles don't ring a bell I would recommend you read them first before continuing with this article.
In general, all of these articles reach a similar conclusion; when sitting in early position, your range of hands with which you open-raise is usually a lot tighter than the range of hands you raise with on the button. When taking the other players at the table into account, it is (always) better to be acting after your opponent, as you now have more information about the actions of this player. Being aware about the importance of position and knowing how to use this information to your advantage is one of the most fundamental factors when playing this game.
When going into greater detail on this subject, there is poker software that can help us find leaks, gather information about our own playing style and about that of our opponents. Nowadays it is pretty standard to be using a program like HoldemManager, which I will be referring to every now and then during this article.
When analysing your hands, there is a helpful statistic in HoldemManager that can help you with your positional awareness. This function is simply called "positional awareness". This function will show you a ratio of the percentage of hands you raised preflop (PFR) when on the button compared to your PFR% in early position. The table below shows an analysis from numerous player databases, with the focus on the positional awareness ratio compared to the winrate of the players.
As you can see from the table, a low score for positional awareness (les than 1.77) often results in a negative winrate. Therefore, if you raise less than 1.77 times as many hands on the button as you do in early position, this is probably a leak in your game. This means that your are, relatively speaking, raising too many hands in early position or not raising enough hands on the button. A combination of both is very likely.
Apart from this general statistic that compares your early position play with your button play, HoldemManager also allows you to filter by position, thus obtaining a detailed preflop raise percentage for every position.
Apart from your preflop raise percentage for every position, you should also focus on your 3-bet percentage, your squeeze percentage and also your steal percentage. We will discuss these in more detail throughout the article.
Your opponent's position-play
It remains very important that you are always aware of your own position in a hand but also of your opponent's position. The advantage of raising UTG is that, in general, players play back at it more lightly. If you 3-bet an UTG raise, this will usually get a lot of respect from your opponents. One knows that the player UTG opened, which usually implies that this player is holding a strong hand, so a 3-bet will often be interpreted as a sign of great strength, especially when this happens in the blinds, as you are now out of position against the UTG raiser.
Your 3-bet percentage should be highest on the button and definitely higher than in the big blind. The difference compared to the small blind should be even greater, as you are always out of position here. When 3-betting on the button, you usually do this with strong hands and a range of medium/implied odds hands. Your opponent then has a couple of options of which none seem favourable, especially not with a medium hand:
• Folding; you lose the money you have already invested
• Calling; you will be playing the rest of the hand out of position
• 4-betting; you will often have to fold when your opponent pushes, results in more variance and is very dependant on the gameflow.
When your 3-bet percentage is higher in the blinds than it is on the button, you are either 3-betting too little on the button or too often in the blinds. Again, it is often a combination of both. If your opponent has a higher 3-bet percentage in the blinds, then you can start calling with a wider range while also being in position, or you could even decide to 4-bet these players. For your squeeze percentage, where you 3-bet a raiser and one or more callers, the same can be said as for your 3-bet percentage. Be aware, however, that squeezing will take place in the blinds more often, especially on 6-max tables, as you need at least 2 players to put money in the pot before a squeeze play is even possible.
For steal attempts, where you raise in the cut off, button or small blind before anyone in front of you put money in the pot, you should also make sure that your steal percentage is highest on the button, then the cut off and then the small blind. When playing against an opponent who has a high steal percentage in the small blind, this is most likely a leak and you can exploit this by 3-betting or calling more in the big blind.
First of all, you should start by analysing the regulars on the limits you play and look for any of the leaks mentioned above. Open your HoldemManager database, and where you would usually check your own statistics, now look at your opponent's statistics. Make sure that you have a big enough sample from a player to make sure your conclusion is based on reliable statistics. You should have at least 2,500 hands from one player in the database, since you are looking for his statistics per position. When playing 6-max you need information about six positions, so you already need six times the sample you would normally use in order to say something about the statistic for every position. Especially for things like 3-bet percentage and squeeze percentage you will need a large sample to obtain reliable information.
Check out the statistics from the player per position and make notes about what you find out.
Apart from analysing the database to spot leaks in your opponents game, the HoldemManager HUD is your good friend. When going over a statistic in HUD with your mouse while playing, a pop-up screen appears that you can customise yourself. These pop-ups can be very helpful when trying to find out whether or not an opponent has positional awareness or not, although the default screens used for this in HoldemManager are only helpful to a certain extent, as they contain too much information at once. For example, the pop-up for your PFR% includes five statistics per position, one of which is VPIP. The advantage of these pop-up screens should be that you immediately find what you are looking for instead of having to look for the right information first.
Therefore, it can be very useful to commit one afternoon to customising these pop-up screens until they show the information you want them to show. Make sure that only the helpful information per statistic is shown. Especially when playing numerous tables it can be very important to quickly find the information you are looking for. Apart from showing too much information, sometimes these pop-up screen don't even show the correct information. For example, the default pop-up screen per statistic have no information about a player's squeeze percentage, and even the squeeze percentage pop-up doesn't show this information. So, as helpful as these statistics can be, you will need to invest some time to optimise the pop-ups to make them more efficient.
You should always be aware of your own position-play. Take a look at you positional awareness every now and then and analyse the HoldemManager database. Make sure to also do this for your opponents. You will be surprised to see how many players have an UTG preflop raise percentage that is higher or equal to the button raise percentage. This sort of notes are priceless. Also take some time to customise your HUD and the pop-up screens in HoldemManager to save yourself time when having to make a decision.