Positioning Yourself for Success
I played $3/$5 no-limit hold'em for six hours last night. This is the most interesting hand from the session.
There was a $10 straddle, two people limped in front of me in the hijack position, and I raised to $50 with . It folded back to the original straddler, who called, as did the two limpers. So we had a $200 pot and the flop came . Everybody checked to me.
You can make an argument for betting eights here — they're sometimes the best hand. But I felt I'd get called by better and make worse fold, so I checked. The turn was the , putting a backdoor flush draw out. It checked to the player on my immediate right, who bet $80.
I saw the straddler drop his cards and turn to his meal. One fewer opponent to worry about. The other guy in front had a very small preflop fold button so I wasn't terribly worried about him. The fellow who had bet was pretty aggressive — I didn't see him limping a lot of kings. Certainly he could have a ten but he could also have a flush draw. Or he could think that I had nothing and wouldn't call a bet.
There was enough doubt in my mind, getting 3.5-to-1 and having the button, I decided to call. The two in front folded as expected.
The river was the , changing nothing. My opponent obviously had a tough decision. I chuckled to myself, "It's hard playing out of position, isn't it?" Finally, he checked, and the resignation in his action told me everything I needed to hear.
I snapped up my eights, he looked at his cards and mucked.
You're thinking, "Lee, that hand wasn't the least bit interesting. Hands like that happen all the time."
Exactly — that's why it is so interesting. This situation comes up frequently and thus makes a huge difference in our results.
The higher the percentage of your hands that you play in position, the easier your poker life will be.
To see why I think this hand was so important, let's visualize a scenario in which everything is the same except the villain and I switch positions so I have to act before him. Everybody whiffs the flop and it checks to me. Wait, I mean it checks to the villain. Maybe he bets, maybe he doesn't. Let's say he bets, the other two-fold, and I decided to call.
Now another overcard comes. I check again. Remember I said this villain was aggressive. If he fires on the turn, calling is a poor option. I might be good this time, but if I get in the habit of calling in situations like this, my results will get much worse.
If the flop checks around, I might — might — decide to bet on the turn, but there's no way I can bet a second time on the river. If he calls the turn and then bets when I check the river, it's me who has the tough decision. I will tell you that the more tough decisions your opponents have, and the fewer you have, the more enjoyable and profitable your poker will be.
I'm not saying that I wouldn't open pocket eights in the villain's actual position (in fact, I would open them). But I am saying that the higher percentage of your hands that you play in position, the easier your poker life will be.
When you get ready to play middling or marginal hands that can lead to awkward situations, ask yourself who's going to have the tough decisions when nobody has very much. And ask yourself if you really feel like playing that hand if you have to play it out of position.
Lee Jones can help you you give your opponents tough decisions. Go to leejones.com/coaching and schedule a free coaching consultation. Lee specializes in coaching low-stakes cash game players.