Position is an important element in many poker concepts and strategies. We've dealt with it before in previous lessons, and we'll be dealing with it in future lessons as well. Let's take a little time to go into a little more detail as to why position is indeed so important.
All poker decisions are based upon probabilities. First, we need to have a good overall understanding of the probabilities of poker - when we're the favorite, when we're not, and by how much. The goal is to seek to pursue the advantages that these probabilities give us, and avoid the disadvantages.
Let's assume that we're playing against an opponent, where we'll each cut the deck and whoever has the high card will win. Now, we know that we have a 50% chance of winning, and if we each bet prior to the cards being cut, there will be no advantage for either player. Imagine though, that our opponent always goes first, and after we see what he cut, we'll place a bet and then cut ourselves. Do you think this would be an advantage? Of course, and a huge one. The lower the card he cuts, the bigger our bet will be, and the higher his card is, the lower our bet.
What is happening here is that our position is giving us extra information about the quality of our opponent's hand that we would not have had otherwise. This is providing he doesn't play too tricky, which is one of the main reasons we prefer our opponents to play as straightforward as possible. And we need to be seeking out the games which give us this big advantage.
Let's turn the cutting the cards example to real poker. We don't know what our opponent has, but we do know he plays fairly straightforward. Therefore, based upon his betting action, we will have good information about what to do, similarly to the cutting of the cards example. It's not going to be quite as good, but it will be very valuable nonetheless. It's like our opponent saying - my hand is this strong - can you beat it? If we can, we take the money he bet in this round. If not, we keep him from getting any money from us in this round.
While it's never quite this clear-cut, it is very easy to see why acting after our opponents is going to present a real advantage. This is true in both limit and no-limit, but particularly in no-limit, where extra information can be gained based upon differing bet or raise sizes.
Aside from deciding whether to check or call though, this is going to be a big advantage as well when it comes to raising. When the opponent has the very strong hand, acting ahead of us, he not only won't make money in the round if we don't call, but he can't get extra money from raising when it's justified, unless we raise him first. We, on the other hand, can. If we have a very strong hand, and have him beat, we are going to raise, and thus either capture his money now by him folding, or getting extra.
Let's look at the other side of the coin though - we're first to act in this example. Knowing we are at a disadvantage, what are we to do? First, there's using deception, which we'll get into much more in later lessons. We don't want our opponents to have a real good idea what we have. This can involve betting when we aren't quite as strong, which can not only confuse our opponents but let us take the pot down by a form of bluff, or holding back and seeking to underrepresent our hand, looking to trap our opponent.
However, aside from this, we're going to have to play less hands generally than we normally would. The reason for this is, since we are at a positional disadvantage, we need to be playing better hands to make up for this than we would be playing if we had the positional advantage. We don't have as much information, so we can't take advantage of displayed weaknesses by opponents.
While positional advantages and disadvantages are shared equally by everyone at the table, it's going to come down to how well we deal with both the advantages and disadvantages that will make a big difference in who has the most money at the end of the session. Keep position in mind at all times, and your position money wise will benefit.