Playing Poker Out Of Position

poker1Poker, as you might have already learned, is a game of incomplete information. Whoever is able to gain more information and complete it better, will gain an edge over a period of time. This article isn’t about edges though. Here we will concentrate on positions in poker, but more importantly how to play when you are out of position.

Introduction

Before we start with strategy talk, lets make sure that you are aware of what the term ‘’out of position’’ actually refers to. See, the best possible position at any poker table is on the button. Why? Because you are able to see what your competitors are doing in both betting rounds, before the flop or pre-flop as well as after the flop or post-flop. You can absorb all of that information and start to make educated guesses on what their hand range might possibly be.
You are not able to make these guesses when you are out of position. Even worse, you are usually one of the first to act, thus giving away valuable information about your hand to your opponents. This is why playing out of position is not as profitable, as playing in position. Even more, many players are losing money, when playing without position. However, they make so much when playing in it that it hardly matters.

Adjusting Your Hand Range

poker-2This is a very basic concept of poker, yet many new players are not aware of it. When you are playing poker, you should adjust the range of hands that you are playing. You should play only strongest of your holdings, when in early positions, such as under the gun and middle position. Vice versa, as your position gets better, you can start to play a wider range of hands.
How come? For one, refer to the first paragraph. As your position at a poker table gets better, you gain way more information. There also are fewer players left to act after you. This means that the chance of someone actually holding a strong hand before the flop gets way smaller.  With all this said, you should start to widen up the range of hands that you enter the pot with. After all, there always are money in the pot even if none has entered it – from the small and big blinds.

Calling PreFlop Raises Out Of Position

poker-table-3This is something most new players struggle with. Lets say that player who is in the UTG position makes a raise before the flop and you are on the small blind. Everyone folds and the action is on you. How many hands would you play in this situation? Usually most people would convince themselves to call with almost anything remotely playable, such as any suited connectors, gappers and hands consisting of a high card. After all you have invested money in the pot and why not see a flop, right? WRONG! Lets analyse the situation from a poker players point of view:

  • Player in UTG position raised. This is usually a signal that he has a strong hand, given that he is a competent player. UTG is the worst position at the table, thus we can assume he plays only the strongest of his holdings. For purposes of this example, lets assume that his range is JJ+, AK
  • You are on the small blind. While you have some money invested in the pot already, you will be playing out of position the whole hand after flop, turn and river are dealt. You will have to make the decision first and even if you flop a monster, it will not be all that easy to get a whole lot of money of your opponent. Don’t forget that there also is a player left to act behind you.

Do you really think that you can outplay your opponent often enough to make this call before the flop with a trashy hand correct? Unless you are blindly selfish, I assume that you already understood that in this scenario, you should only play very strong holdings. Most of the time, you won’t be calling, but taking the advantage in your hands by re-raising (three-betting).

“Threebetting” Out Of Position

poker-table-2Times when threebetting light was considered an advanced aspect are long gone. Now all players at microstakes are threebetting and fourbetting light, even though most of the time they don’t really have a clue what they are trying to achieve. When you are just starting out, I would suggest to only re-raise for value, when you are out of position. This is due to several reasons:

  • You are not yet experienced poker player. When you re-raise out of position and get called, you build a big pot with mediocre holdings. You’re only asking for trouble.
  • If you get called before the flop, you will be first to act post flop. Are you convinced that you’ll be able to get your opponent to fold every time you miss, which will happen very often.

This isn’t to say that you should never threebet as a bluff, when out of position. If you have developed some reads on your opponents
and they constantly fold to re-raises, unless holding aces, you can start taking advantage of it. See, poker is a game of adjustments, but we are trying to help you develop a sound strategy framework here.

Check Raising

Lets briefly touch this topic too. Check raising is a powerful tool, when you are playing out of position. After all, if you always fold after checking, your opponents can start to take advantage of it by always betting.  This can be balancing by checking, when the board is very likely to hit your opponents range. These boards will be the ones that are referred to as ‘’dry’’ among poker players.  The reason for doing this on these board textures is quite simple – it’s very likely that your opponent has gotten a piece of this board and with checkraising, you force him to invest more money into the pot.
poker-table-1
Most players are also unlikely to attack a board that is hard to hit. Lets say a board like K42 might not be a good one to check/raise, as your opponent would actually expect you to make a continuation bet on this board almost all the time. When you don’t, you’re basically telling him that your hand is either something like 88-QQ or that you are trying to check raise him.

The Sum Up

Lets recall what we have learned today in a simple bullet points:

  • Playing out of position is way harder than in position, because you have less information about what your opponents are going to do.
  • You should play only the strongest holdings, when out of position.
  • Don’t threebet bluff out of position, unless you have a good read on your opponent or you feel proficient in your skills.
  • Checkraising is a great tool for balancing your poker game. It’s very powerful when playing out of position, especially in re-raised pots.