AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 02.02.2021 · last updated 02.02.2021

Online poker is a complex animal, with each new hand creating a brand new, unique situation, typifying why the game is so fascinating and so rich in possibilities.

The major contributing factor to this uniqueness from hand to hand is Position. This is a part of poker that many players – particularly those new to the game – either underestimate or, too concerned with hand values, barely consider at all. However, not having an awareness of Position is like playing tennis in 2021 with a 1970s wooden racket. And anyone who wants to experience any kind of success in online poker needs not only to understand this subject but also to delve deep into the finer aspects.

Consequently, rather than acquaint ourselves with a few generalisations, it pays to break up a typical table in order to concentrate on specific sections; even specific positions. The premium spot is, of course, the Button, because from the Flop onwards this position affords us the advantage of acting last. Fair enough, but perhaps the most interesting – and misunderstood – position is the Cutoff. Let’s take a look…

The Cutoff, being to the immediate right of the Button, is clearly a good place to play in due to the fact that much of the time we’ll be the last to act and, when the Button does stay in a hand, there’ll still be only one player behind us post-flop.

Bully the Button

First, with the above in mind, we can try to take advantage of our acting before the Button pre-flop by bullying them off the pot. This can be surprisingly easy, given that much of the time players use the Button to either steal the Blinds without seeing any more cards, or to be in a position to do so post-flop with a continuation bet. Of course, the Button will have a strong hand occasionally, and there will be players who might put up resistance but, generally, assuming we weigh up the table dynamics and assess situations on their respective merits, bullying the Button can be a positive strategy. This is especially true at the lower limits where players put so much stock on the strength of their starting hands. Ironically, we don’t need to have a good hand to steal the initiative away from the Button and effectively carry out the very same tactic that they were hoping to profit from, but that’s the beauty of poker! We should use this trick whenever such opportunities present themselves.

Cut them off from the Cutoff

Isolating limpers – who we should see as potential targets – is always a good idea because we should ideally be looking to thin down the field to leave just ourselves and our victims. The Cutoff gives us a great position from which to execute this plan by simultaneously force out the Button. Note that this is a particularly effective example of isolating limpers because we will have position once the Flop arrives, at which point the idea is to immediately apply pressure accordingly.

The Cutoff Bluff

Bluffing from the Cutoff is a rather cheeky way to operate. This is because we’re aiming to pull off the same tactic as we would on the Button but, because we’re NOT on the Button, we’re more likely to be believed. Nowadays, the modern online poker fan tends to be aware of certain aspects of the game earlier in their journey, and to a slightly greater degree, than was the case a decade or so ago. Consequently, while stealing the Blinds and Continuation Bets and so on are still an important part of a poker player’s weaponry, our opponent are going to be somewhat more less believing and thus less accommodating than they used to be.

But it’s a different kettle of fish altogether when bets come from the Cutoff! This position, purely because it’s not the Button, is afforded so much more respect, even though from here we can so easily assume the Button’s identity. It’s surprising how comparatively easy it is to get away with exactly the same ‘bluffing’ tactics and outright steals from the Cutoff that tends to meet with skepticism and subsequent opposition when attempted from the Button. That’s how the convention works, and the flexible, observant and skillful poker player should always be looking at how to explout collective conventional thinking.

The Cutoff 3-Bet

Again, we’re talking advantage of our relative believability here. If it’s folded round to a mid-position mini-raise, for example, and we throw in a confident 3-bet, then this move, given that we’re stepping up a couple of gears knowing that the Button and others follow us, smacks of strength. As always, we shouldn’t make a habit of thoughtlessly 3-betting when in the Cutoff, but it’s another potentially profitable strategy with which to arm ourselves.

In conclusion, the positional strength of the Cutoff tends to be overlooked by the vast majority of players – both in terms of using it profitably and recognising when such tactics are being employed. It’s up to us to take full advantage before our opponents become more aware of this hitherto hidden aspect of the game.

Have fun!

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