A lot of people, especially beginners, tend to ignore the importance of position play in poker.
Playing out of position is like trying to read a book in a dimly lit room. It’s not like you can’t read, but you’ll often read the word wrong.
What does it mean to be ‘playing in position’?
When you are “playing in position”, you are the last player to act in all the betting rounds. Usually, this means you’re playing on “the button”, that is, the player to your left gets dealt the first card, and so on. Being in position, you get to see how every other player acts before it’s your turn to act. Why is this important? Information. Very valuable information. About what? Your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, along with how you should play your hand.
For example, if you see the flop with three other players and it's checked to you, you will easily sense weakness, and you could take down the pot with a decent-sized bet, even though you might have absolute air! But if you’re playing out of position, that is, you are first to act, or in early position, then you have no information about your opponent’s hand and you have to be worried about all the players acting behind you.
Being in position makes you in control of a lot of aspects of the betting round. You can often get a free turn card and a free river card if all the other players are checking to you. However, in early position, you are always afraid of incoming bets, re-raises and jams.
Assume you’re playing a cash game. Stacks are at around 1500 rupees. You're dealt 7♠ 6♣ under the gun and you raise to 150. A player on the button calls and the board comes down T♥ 3♠ 2♣. You make a continuation bet of 200 and the button calls.
The turn card comes the K♠.
Now you’re in a dilemma. You raised before pre-flop and you bet the flop with an overcard on it and were called. The turn card gave another overcard. You are now in early position, that is, out of position against a player who has just called C-bet.
He could have a Ten, maybe even a King, or just a straight draw. The point is, you have nothing. If you had a position, at least you could attempt a bluff at stealing the pot after sensing weakness. But due to lack of position, your situation becomes chaotic, dangerous and helpless.
Now, assume that you’re in the same situation as above, except you are last to act. You're dealt J♥ T♥ on the button. UTG raises to 170 pre-flop and you call on the button. Sometimes, a position raise, that is, a 3-bet from the button is recommended depending on the strength of your hand. The flop comes down 9♥ 8♠ 2♣.
UTG C-bets and puts 250 rupees into the pot. It is very straightforward to either put him on a pair or an Ace high. Due to this available information, you have plenty of choices. You can either flat call and possibly hit the nut straight on the turn, or re-raise and scoop the pot right away. Your opponent checking on the flop gives you full control of the pot. You can either check back and get a free turn card. That turn card may either give you a straight or an overpair (T or J). Backdoor flush is an option too. As you can see, the turn card is crucial. Being in position allows to you control the price of the turn. Apart from a check back, you can raise and make him fold, or you can raise and build your implied odds and win a huge pot if your open-ended straight draw ends up in a straight.
The advantage of playing in position is that it gives you unlimited freedom to check, bet, raise also take a free card or showdown when you want! This article tries to show the drawbacks of playing out of position and the advantages of playing in position. Try to consciously play in position, and you’ll start dominating your opponents!