Chapter 23: Understanding Position in Online Poker, Part II
In the first part of position, I gave the basics of how important it is at online 6-max poker. In part two, I’m going to tell you how to exploit position for bigger profits.
You’re going to do that by abusing the button. The button is the king in shorthanded hold ‘em. Love the button. Get to know the button. Raise the button.
In every session you need to evaluate how you use the button and find ways to play more hands on it. It is just that valuable in online poker. Once you’ve played ten thousand or more hands, you should open your database in Poker Tracker and click on “positional stats.”
Your stats on the button are going to be higher than any other position. If you follow my preflop chart, you’ll have a solid foundation for open raising on the button. If you are feeling adventurous, you certainly can raise a wider range than I recommend.
Your stats on the CO should also be higher than they are on UTG and UTG+1. Somewhere between your UTG and button stats is good.
Just open raising a wide range on the button and CO isn’t all we’re going to do to exploit the benefits of being in position. There are a number of fairly consistent techniques I use on the button:
Abusing limpers. This is a fairly basic tactic that works best at the lower limits where limpers are fairly commonplace. If there are any number of limpers, you can raise a wide range of hands on the button, as wide as what your button open-raising range could be. It’s just that profitable as every time you take down the pot is a 4 to 5 BB victory. When you get called, you’ll have to refer to the continuation bet chapter as a guide to know when to bet. It’s important to be careful when you flop top pair with dominated hands like A7 or T7 when you isolate with them since if you get a lot of action you’re likely to be behind with such a weak kicker. Play for pot control postflop. Once you move up to higher limits, there are fewer limpers and other players have an idea that you are raising to isolate the limper and may play back lighter. That shouldn’t stop you from abusing limpers, though, as limpers (who are usually pretty fishy) are harder to come by.
Abusing CO openers. When the CO opens, whether it’s a fish or a TAG, their hand range can be fairly wide. There’s something about the CO and later that just opens people up. When we have the button against the CO we can abuse this wide range and call or 3-bet a wide range of hands ourselves on the button. It’s important when you call in these spots that you open up your semibluffing range postflop. If you start calling with hands like 75s and KTo on the button against the CO you can’t rely on hitting a big hand postflop to make you money. You need to be stealing more pots.
For example, I’ll raise any gutshot and any middle or bottom pair if I call with a suited connector on the button against a CO raiser. Let’s say I’m playing $1/$2. The CO is a good TAG, but a little on the tighter side and straightforward. He opens to $6. I call on the button with Td9d and the flop is 9s4cKd. This is an awesome flop to semibluff! It’s rare for him to have gotten a piece of that flop. Just compare my preflop chart on the CO to this board. He’s folding such a large amount of the time. He leads out $10 and I raise to $32. He folds quickly.
I wait until I have something in this spot to have back-up equity just in case he does have a hand and calls. Imagine our opponent had KcAd in that spot. He’d most likely just call the raise. The turn is the 9h. Bingo! We’ll be taking all his money.
It’s important when you get called on these semibluffs to not put any more money in on a bluff. Your opponent is showing a lot of strength by calling this raise and a continued bluff is pure spew unless you have a read on your opponent that he can call the flop and fold to a large turn bet.
Playing hands like this helps for when you actually hit a big hand on a flop like this, like a straight, two pair or trips. Your opponent will never know if you have a big hand or just a gutshot and this makes you infinitely tougher to play against.
It’s important to note when I flop a good but not great hand, such as top pair, a flush draw, or an open-ended straight draw in this situation that I just call their continuation bet. If you raise their continuation bet and they 3-bet you all-in, you’ll have to fold and these hands are too valuable to do that with. If you raise middle pair, a gutshot or the nut straight, you know what to do against a 3-bet.
I will 3-bet any of the hands I call here as well. I 3-bet about 20% of the time and call 80% of the time.
Not being exploited in position
Part of understanding position is avoiding its pitfalls yourself. It’s important to understand how big of an advantage a good player has over you when he’s in position.
An example of this is how much I win UTG compared to the button. UTG, I’m playing only my good and great hands, yet my UTG win rate is much less than the button. Too often, I get calls from players in LP who either flopped a bigger hand against my bigger pair or I miss with overcards and have to fold to these players when they play back at me.
The most obvious way to avoid being exploited out of position is to not call too much in the blinds. There are some instances where you should call out of the blinds, as explained in Part VI under “defending your blinds,” but being overly tight in the blinds will never be a big leak.
Another way to counteract being out of position is 3-betting out of the blinds. You will be taking the initiative back and putting the pressure on another player. Not having the initiative and being out of position is extremely difficult in no-limit hold ‘em. Be careful of good players who will take advantage of you 3-betting a lot of hands out of position by calling your 3-bets and playing aggressively postflop.
People don’t like it, but sometimes it’s best to be overly tight and surrender what may be the best hand, when playing against a tough, aggressive player when you’re out of position. An example of this is when you call a pocket pair like 5c5d against a tough TAG who has opened the button. The flop is JcTc2d, you check, and he bets. Let’s face it. We’ll have the best hand sometimes against hands like 7h6h, Ac4s and others. But we just have to fold it. A tough TAG will know you have a marginal hand and will attempt to bluff you later too often. Also, with pretty much any hand, he has good equity in this spot. Notice that AdKh has ten outs. Notice that 8s7s has ten outs! We must simply surrender to the good player.
 By back-up equity, I mean that I want some chance to win the pot when I make a light semibluff. That chance can be hitting a gutshot, hitting trips or two pair or hitting an overcard.