How to Play Position in Poker

How to Use Position

If you’ve played poker at all, you’ve probably heard that position is important. Most players know that position is powerful, but few know how to use that power or even why position is powerful.

The primary reason position is powerful is because you get to see what your opponents do before you act. The power of position is superior information. Here’s how to use that information to your advantage.

Using Position to Extract

Position is perfect for slow playing big hands. Let’s say your opponent raises from early position with AK and you call with JJ. The flop comes KJ2. What line should you take?

You know your opponent will bet, but should you raise or call? Calling is the best option here. While some players will stack off with top pair/top kicker, smart players will be more careful. Your opponent is very likely to bet again if you call.

You call and the turn comes 8. Your opponent fires another barrel. What now?

Most players would raise the turn, but this can be a mistake. A smart player is aware of the Beluga Theorem which says that if your opponent raises on the turn, he usually has top pair beat. Against a smart player, you should call again.

You call and the river is a 2. What now?

That deuce is unlikely to help either of you (and we know it didn’t). Your opponent has every reason to believe their hand is still the best since you haven’t shown any aggression.

Your opponent bets again. What do you do?

Obviously you have to raise. The only hand you’re afraid of is KK or deuces turned quads. Both are highly unlikely so you raise. There’s a good chance you’ll get paid off since it’s hard for your opponent to put you on trip Jacks.

Using Position to Isolate

You can use your position to isolate loose players. Here’s an example:

A loose player limps in middle position and you raise with ATo. It’s a marginal hand, but it figures to be ahead of the limper’s range. Your opponent calls.

In this situation, you’re hoping to spike an ace on the flop. Loose-aggressive players limp a lot of Ax hands and there’s a good chance you’ll have your opponent dominated and win a lot of money.

Using Position to Bluff

You have superior information when you’re last to act and you can use that information against your opponent. If your opponent gives up on a hand or looks like they’re trying to control the pot with smallish bets, you can take the hand away from them by putting in a nice raise.

Using Position to Strengthen a Marginal Hand

This move is also called 3-betting light. Here’s an example:

You have 88 on the button and your opponent raises from middle position. This opponent has been very active and raises a lot of hands. Your image is tight-aggressive and you haven’t been very active lately. Now is a good time to strengthen your hand range in the eyes of your opponent.

You 3-bet. Now your opponent probably has you on QQ+ AK. Even loose-aggressive players will have a hard time playing against you post-flop without a hand. In addition, your hand will be well disguised when you flop a set.

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Be careful not to get drunk on the power of position. These moves are good to make occasionally, but not all the time. If you start abusing your position, you opponents will notice and start to exploit your over-aggressive poker tendencies.