Position, Position, Position is to poker what Location, Location, Location is to finding property. It is a key theme that we’re constantly aware of, and one which we appreciate increasingly with experience to the point that we often prioritise it over a fundamental factor such as the actual value of our hand! We could even go as far as to say that adhering strictly to positional considerations is an imperative part of any would-be successful online poker player’s approach to the game. That’s what so-called golden rules are about, after all – taking advantage of tried and tested conventional wisdom to forge as close to an optimal strategy as we can.
But poker, as in life, isn’t as simple as that! Inevitably, there are always going to be circumstances in which factors are not necessarily aligned as we’d expect them to be. Given that online poker is complex enough as it is, it’s worth being aware in advance of as many special situations as possible – away from the table so that we’re not being acquainted with them out of the blue, or finding ourselves reinventing the proverbial wheel.
One such scenario is the significance of position – or, as it can turn out, being out of position – in the case of a pre-flop raise and subsequent so-called continuation bet when three or more players see the Flop. The following example is seen very often, so is well worth bearing in mind, especially when – at least initially – the logic can seem rather counter-intuitive.
Because the subject of position should be, deservedly, of paramount importance, it’s only natural that we correctly afford it the utmost respect when making a decision and formulating a plan and so on. Consequently, most players automatically assume that it’s always necessary to have position regardless of the situation, and it’s easy not to put much additional thought into any ostensibly extraneous circumstances.
Let’s take a look at the classic case of the pre-flop aggressor and how our position and that of a third player in relation to them can influence how a hand pans out. We’re on the Button, and we and the Big Blind are the only players to call a pre-flop raise from someone in mid position. Already, we have what could understandably be seen as an advantage of sorts in our being in position against both remaining players. What usually happens next when the Flop comes in this common scenario?
Continuation Bet Roleplay…
Anyone with even a modicum of experience in online poker – especially with the masses of recreational players at the lower stakes – will have noticed that we tend to defer to the pre-flop aggressor in this situation, effectively giving them the floor to continue in their role. Indeed, it often seems like there’s an obligation for the caller to check and, interestingly, the pre-flop raiser to come out with another bet to keep the momentum going and hang on to the initiative. So, the BB, being first to act, kindly obliges with a check and, after the almost predictable continuation bet, it is our turn to act.
On the face of it, with the apparent luxury of position on both players, this particular factor points to our having an exploitable advantage in an often key part of the dynamics of this common situation. However, the reality can even be that we are in a potentially awkward spot here! The aggressor having done their part in this little drama by betting, leaves us next to act, but rather than us being in position at this moment, it’s the BB who, in this post-flop betting round, has that luxury. Moreover, we’re sandwiched between the player who – for all we know, might well have the string hand they’ve been representing form the very beginning and, acting after us, the BB who deemed it justified to call the original raise (admittedly for less than would be the case in another position, having already put extra in to the hand in the form of the BB).
So, to reiterate, the BB, who technically sits in the worst position of the three protagonists, is currently armed with the power that finishing the betting affords them, complete with all this information regarding the commitment that their opposition has demonstrated, and with it the useful information that comes with it.
From our conventionally advantageous position on the Button, meanwhile, we’re not yet much wiser about the strength, if any, of the pre-flop raiser’s hand because this bet could be a classic C-bet with air or a genuine pumping up of the pot with a strong holding. And to compound our problem, we’re equally in the dark about the BB – were they in auto-pilot, simply checking a missed flop, or are they sitting on 2-pair or a set and cheekily letting their neighbour do all the work for them in building up a tasty pot? To sum up – we might well have position but, ironically, we find ourselves stuck in the middle, making a decision in the dark.
This is a perfect example of the pits and falls of online poker in that, even when we appear to have an important factor in our favour, we can nevertheless find ourselves in a difficult situation which can so easily become a seriously negative one.
Incidentally, this scenario also highlights how, conversely, being in the Blinds doesn’t always mean doom and gloom, and we can manipulate a situation to our potential advantage even if it seems that we are poorly placed to have an impact on a hand.