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Sunday, December 27, 2009

COTW #3: Pre-flop Positional Awareness

1. How position effects the Hands we play – Generally speaking we should be playing more hands and playing them more aggressively as our pre-flop position improves. Money flows clockwise around the poker table, from the blinds to the button. So it makes sense for us to see more flops and take the initiative more when we are in late position. Save EP for hands that can take some heat.

2. Who are the four players around us – We should be aware of our position at a given table vs different types of opponents. However, I think we should pay the most attention to the two players immediately to our left and right. Why, because these players will be in the blinds when we are in LP, and will be in LP when we are in the blinds. We are going to be involved in a lot of decisions based on our reads and stats on theses four people. These people are the ones who we are going to decide to steal from and the ones we will be make blind defense decisions about. We narrow or expand our Steal/Defense range based largely on how these people play. For example, we are probably not going to be stealing from the button with any two cards when the big blind runs something like 30/15 and enjoys playing back at LP raises, but against a fit or fold 10/5 it’s a +Ev play. While we want to be looser and more aggressive, especially from the Hi-Jack seat to the button, we need to remember that the blinds, because of their forced antes, have the last say pre-flop.

3. Can we manipulate our post flop position? – We hear this called an ISO raise a lot of the time because we are trying to drive players with better position than us out of the pot so we can concentrate on one or two players who have limped. What we are trying to do is the classic raise pre-flop, take it down post-flop with a Continuation bet. What many people have a hard time grasping is that, like stealing, we can do this, in certain situations, with any two cards and have a positive expectation. The play can really be all about position and have nothing to do with the cards we actually hold. Now, I don’t advocate going nuts with this, especially since most micro tables, at least at NL25 and below, very rarely offer this spot. We need to start thinking like this more though when we have hands like 57s in the cutoff and it’s one or two weak/tight limpers to us and we are pretty sure the button/blinds will fold if we make a raise. This effectively makes us the button post-flop and gives us the initiative also, thus opening up several ways for us to win other than having to actually make a hand.

4. Punish those who open limp from the small blind – I’m now raising any two cards from the big blind against small blinds who limp in when it’s folded to them. Most of the time they just fold or fold to the flop c-bet that comes about 100% of the time.

5. If we have bad position change tables – This gets a bit into the last “Concept of the Week” but it’s worth repeating. If we have players to our right or left that cause us to change our pre-flop play significantly, especially LP play where we make our money, leave the table or try to change seats. Don’t let your ego get the best of you and try to beat the guy who keeps three betting your steal attempts. Let it go.

By CaptVimes

Other informative posts regarding the topic from the thread:

Q: I wish you would have delved a little further into the types of hands that should be played in MP and LP. Like I have trouble identifying if 67s is a better hand than an AT, and if that changes based on position.

A: 67s v AT...
67s > AT OTB v a normal EP raiser
AT > 67s OTB v a normal CO raiser
our positional choices can often times be based off of other people's position, and subsequently range change.

There are some standard rules about how to tackle a raiser against whom you have position. A solid and well-known one is the 5-10 rule.
The 5-10 rule: Against a pre-flop raiser against whom you have position, you should call with any decent speculative hand if the cost is less than 5% of effective stacks, and fold if the cost is >10% of effective stacks. Between 5-10%, you need to make a decision based on the guy you're playing, the range he is playing based on his opening position, if and how many limpers are between you and him, the likeliness you get called or re-raised by someone (especially if they have position on you), and your own hand.

decent speculative hands: The best are, in order, lower pocket pairs (say 88-22, though some would include 99,TT in this), suited connectors such as T9s-54s, T8s-64s, Axs

The ordering is down to this reasoning:
lower PP: They either flop monsters (sets) or not, so are very easy to play from that point.

suited connectors (no-gap and 1-gap): If they don't connect to a solid flush/straight draw or 2-pair hand, easy to fold. note the change of a one gapper hitting is a solid percentage less than a no-gapper, but the 'hiddenness' of the hand makes it more profitable when it does hit, imo.

Axs: These are transparent, but can be profitable against an aggrotard, or a raised pot with several limpers. Keep the pot small if you hit the ace, a tight player's range will have a lot of bigger aces in it.

Other considerations:
How much other action there is, and where in the range of 5%-10% you are. For example if you are facing a tight raiser under the gun with a full stack of $10, and you have $7, and the cost is 60c to call him, your percentage is 60/700, 8.5% - pretty close to 10%. I'd probably still play the PP if it's likely to be just the two of us, but a fold is okay here too. If there's a limper after him, I definitely play the PP, and maybe the suited connectors. If there's more limpers, I widen the range to Axs.

You have to remember this is all for in position (typically the CO where you think the button will fold, or the button).

There are further variants to this, such as the 3-6 rule, where even more speculative hands like offsuit connectors, can be playable for <3%>6% effective stacks, but decide if it falls between, but you should first get familiar with, and have firmly embedded into your game, the 5-10 rule.

Also, remember the likeliness of making money with this depends on the type of player you're playing (eg TAG/LAG/Maniac/calling station/rock), and THEIR OPENING POSITION.

Your implied odds go down some way for the same type of player if they are raising in MP2, say, compared to UTG, because their range is wider. Wide ranges mean it's harder for them to have a top-notch hand, and it's harder for you to put them on hands too - most important though is, when you hit, the odds of them having something they'll play back at you go down.

A few things I like to add;
First its good to determine if you villain is positionally aware, this changes your options a lot. If we have a 11/8 UTG that is not positionally aware his range is much different that an 11/8 that is positionally aware or is extremely positionally aware. This will change how profitable your speculative hands can be, and when its good to 3bet. The first 11/8, I may choose to 3bet a hand like 97s if I know he is capable of folding to a cbet, but the second his range is so tight a 3bet will not get any FE, but he is more likely to stack off to two pair/str8.

Another thing about using position to your advantage is picking up abandon pots and reading regs in multi-way raised pots. The first one is explanatory, you can pick up a lot of abandon pots when you are last to act; the next one is exploiting the tendency that regs will play more ABC when its multi-way pot and they are OOP.

Since position matters a lot and even more so with thinking, positionally aware opponents, should that change your 3betting attempts as a steal or a flop c-bet steal?
If they can't adjust to this, this is HUGE +EV. Say a standard ABC poker reg is raising 3x bb from middle position, I put him on 22+, and any broadway with a heavier emphasis on the Ax hands. so what does 3betting do to them? It puts them in this choice that says "my opponent has a good hand, does my hand hold up well to his hand?". I think he only calls here with AQ+ and pocket pairs, raises most of the time with JJ+, and folds everything else.

So when my opponents are only calling with this range, I need a range that counters his well (with fold equity in the equation). I like to 3 bet here with all the premium hands AQ+, 88+, suited connectors, connectors, and suited gapped connectors. Not this exact range and not every time of course.
The reason I do this is because if I only 3bet premiums and he only calls premiums, there isn't going to be a big +/- EV difference. Say we 3 bet with AK and high pp's only... what happens on an a45 two toned board? With high pocket pairs, you aren't going to get value out of it. with AK, you are going to bet for value but only really get money out of AQ and split with AK (negative value after considering rake). also if you get check/raised, you are never in a good position. He either has AK or a set there so at best you are tied. The only thing that makes this 3 bet really +EV is fold equity on the flop.

When a majority of your winnings comes from c-bets and fold equity, this means you should open up with hands that are going to get stacks or continuously pick up small pots with positional aggression.

Now say the same scenario as last time happened but this time, you have 67, 3 bet, and he calls. flop again comes a45. you c-bet here when he checks and you float when he bets. When he checks, he usually has a pocket pair and is afraid of you "AK" or he has AQ+ and is going for a check/call or check/raise so he doesn't scare away your "TT-KK". When he donks out, he either has Ax or is just making some weird play thinking you might fold w/o an ace.

The turn is the street where people tell you what hand they have. When he checks again, I bet with or w/o a hand picking up a medium sized pot. If he bets the turn, I need to analyze whether he is committed to his hand and how that compares to the odds of me hitting my draw (implied odds).

The point I'm trying to get across is position allows you to supercharge speculative hands. you can give them up cheap still but also, when you hit something, it isn't expected and you are getting stacks. Aggression is a positionally aware person's best friend.

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