Since this question is often asked by inexperienced players, I decided that it was worthwhile to devote an article to the intricacies of position. Most players (and even beginners) know it's better to be the last one than the first. But why is this so?
Actually, it's not so difficult to answer this question. And although we can speculate about the nuances of position for a very long time, the 95% advantages that the latter position gives are contained in the following three factors.
- Being in the last position gives you a much better idea of how much it will cost you to continue playing.
- Although this is not always the case - in the end, each of us has been in a situation where, while on the button, we tried to stealthily influence the pot, only in order to force one of the blinds to raise the bet. But in general, players in later positions have a much better idea of how much it might cost to see the next street than players in early positions. For example, imagine that you are in early position and receive T 8... Most players who act for sure will fold at this point, as they have no idea if they will be able to see the flop inexpensively. If, however, the same player is on the button, he or she will be much better able to see the value of the flop since most of the players have already made their calls.
- For the same reason, you can play more hands from late position than from early position. When you “know the price,” you can make more informed decisions, and in poker it is the informed decisions that “make their bread”. Remember: there are practically no situations when it is not profitable for you to have more information about the strength of your opponent's hand than he does about yours. And it is the last position that is the situation in which everyone is not averse to being.
- The further you are in position, the more chances you have to strengthen your hand with a minimal (but somewhat profitable) set of cards.
- Sometimes you get a monster on the flop, sometimes nothing at all. And sometimes you buy a flop somewhere between these extremes. And when you buy one of these flops (and chances are you will hit quite a few), you have a chance to see more cards for less money than if you were in early position. Consider the following option: you have 7 5 while on the button, the four players in front of you did not raise their bets. You enter the game. The flop comes 9 6 5... Everyone says "check", and now it's your turn to make a call ...
- You should most likely place your bet. You do this for the following reasons: firstly, you may have the best hand right now, implying that you better not take a free card for such hands as Q. T... Second, if there is only one caller behind you, a subsequent raise on the turn can split the pot. And thirdly, if there are a lot of callers, you will have the option to check after the turn (provided that everyone else has also checked before you, which often happens at this stage), in which case you can see river. Note, however, that if you were in the big blind with the same hand and the same number of callers, you would not have been guided by these reasons in order to bet. Since no one has yet made their call, you cannot have as much information about your opponents' hands as you could in late position, that is, it is more difficult for you to understand the place of your combination among others. Provided that you check and someone else bets, you only have a closed (but hardly correct) call. But note that you won't be able to see the river for free, as if you don't bet the turn and check again, your opponent will likely bet again.
- In the first example, if everyone checks to you, chances are you can get to the river for one bet. In the second example, however, you will not have this opportunity, since you cannot know if everyone else will say "check" or not. Your hand is much more difficult to play in early position, as no one has yet discovered their strength or weakness.
- It is much easier to take advantage of a combination on hands in late position than in early position.
- To better illustrate the third idea, let me tell you about a hand I played a while ago. Two players called, I was on the button with A 4... I called, the small blind did the same, the big blind checked. The flop came J 3 3... The small blind bet and everyone else folded. Now everything depended on me, I called the bet and the turn gave 8... The small blind fired again, I raised and he folded.
- Why did I play this way? I'll try to explain. But first, let's talk a little about the art of reading the opponent's hands. I was pretty sure that if he had a flop of three of threes, he would be playing slow play, so I decided that he had no set. In this regard, there were only three options left: he had either a) top pair with a closed jack, or b) an unfinished flush, or c) nothing. If he had a jack, and I raised, then he would most likely have supported my bet after the flop (just like the bet that followed the turn), that is, it would cost me two maximum bets to see the river. If he had an unfinished flush, the trade would have gone the same way (he would have called the raises both after the flop and after the turn). If he had nothing, he would have folded after the flop. However, if I had only raised after the turn, it would have cost me 2 1/2 times to get to the river, in other words, I would have spent only 1/2 of my maximum bet more than if I had raised after the flop.
- If he had an unfinished flush, he would have been smaller than mine, which means I would have made him pay 2 1/2 bets to see the river, which is half the maximum bet he paid if I raise after the flop. Also, if he had nothing, I would have taken another max bet playing this way instead of raising after the flop (if I raise after the flop, he folds while paying only 1/2 of the max bet for his play, but if he shoots again after the turn and folds after my raise, he pays for his bluff 1 1/2 of the maximum bet). Note that in both of these scenarios I get more by raising only after the turn, while in only one of them I need to pay more for it. Last but not least, by waiting for the turn to raise, I can make him fold with hands like 5 5 or A Qbecause my anticipation looks like I've trapped him with a set of threes in my arms.
The above conditions prove the need to wait for the turn. What would happen if I had the same A 4 but in the small blind, and my opponent has the same hand, but only on the button? Provided that I semi-bluff (which is probably the most optimal in such a situation) and bet after the flop, he raises with a jack in his hands and bets after the turn, which means that it would cost me 2 maximum bets to get to the river. ... If he had an unfinished flush, less than mine, then before the river he would have paid only 1 1/2 instead of 2 1/2 max bets (assuming he supported the bets after the flop and the turn). And if he doesn't have anything, he folds, and I don't get the 1 1/2 max bets I won against him when he bluffed in the blind.
If he has a jack, playing this hand the same way I played from the button would cost me 1/2 of my maximum bet in the blind. In the other two cases, I will win much less in the blind than on the button. And this is exactly the kind of situation where being on the button is very profitable: if you are a little master of the art of reading hands, or at least you can count the possible cards in your opponent's hands, you will find hundreds of options where you can win more or lose less than if you were in your opponent's position.