However repetitive it seems when reading about poker strategy, the importance of ‘position’ should never be underestimated. It’s one of the game’s major fundamental factors, and should be given serious consideration when contemplating our actions in specific situations.
One such is the subject of calling a pre-flop raise when out of position. The implications of Position here really do highlight the difference in carrying out the same play in different circumstances. Being in position affords us numerous key advantages, while being out of position can lead us into all sorts of trouble.
First, when we call a pre-flop raise out of position, not only do we not know how much it will cost to see the Flop, it’s quite possible we might not even get there! Let’s say we’re in a typically aggressive game and we’ve been dealt 67 suited in Middle Position and someone has opened with a standard 3BB raise. This is an excellent example of how Position plays such a crucial role in determining whether to get involved in a hand. Were we in the Big Blind here, despite this not being ideal positionally for the rest of the hand, we could call because doing so closes the action, so at least we get to see the Flop. Meanwhile, being on the Button with a biggish stack also makes a case for calling with this kind of hand; in the unlikely event of a reraise coming from the Blinds, at least we’re in position for the rest of the hand.
But in Middle Position it’s a different kettle of fish altogether. We have no control over what might follow our call. Having to invest more chips should one of the players to follow up the stakes might not seem too much of a price to pay, but the prospect of being awkwardly positioned post-Flop – and with such a hand – is such an unattractive one that it’s difficult to justify calling. Even reaching the Flop for the one call brings about a brand new situation that effectively leaves us in limbo, especially if we catch a bit (but not enough) of the Flop.
As I so often say – sometimes the obvious-looking, simple course of action is the most appropriate or, in this case, actually avoiding the action and conserving our chips (and energy!) for a better opportunity is the prudent option.
A crucial and misunderstood contributor to success in poker is knowing how to steer clear of potentially troublesome situations, and it’s in fact rather easy to weigh up the pros and cons of an action and come to a ‘safety first’ decision.
Our example, above, of calling a pre-flop raise OOP with low(ish) suited connectors is a mistake so often seen, especially in tournaments. If we not only reach the Flop but hit, say, middle pair, we’ll then see the problem compounded by calling a further bet. It’s the nature of online poker in particular that another bet will follow on the Turn, at which point our hand simply isn’t strong enough to continue, so we fold. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ might be a popular line in life, but it tends to be bad advice in poker…