Senin, 13 Oktober 2014

Playing Strong Out of Position

As you play tournaments, you’ll notice patterns as to how people play their hands in certain situations. It’s cutting off our nose to spite our face if we fall into these general patterns. Predictability is the death knell of any aspiring poker player. Being able to mix your game up and shift gears on the way to the final table will add profitability. Mixing up your game will also make it more fun when you’re playing, as you’re not doing the same thing over and over.
Let’s take a couple of different scenarios into account to see how we can play hands differently, in order to keep our opponents off balance. Many players think of playing out of position (in the small or big blind) as having a decisive disadvantage. I’m not going to say that it’s advantageous by any means, but it’s not as negative as some might believe it to be. I like to think of playing from the blinds as playing from “betting position” — as I’m the first to act on all streets other than pre-flop. By playing more hands out of position we’re able to lead into the raiser (donk-bet), check-raise, as well as check-call then lead the next street. Breaking down each option, we’ll see that just because we are playing “out of position” doesn’t mean we aren’t able to take down pots effectively.

Donk-betting into the raiser has gotten a bad rap over the years as a fishy way of playing hands, but there are times when it can work in your favor. Especially when dealing with tight aggressive opponents who don’t like to call very often (rather, they like to almost always be in control of the hand), we’re able to lead into them on certain boards. Remember also that there are boards that we can better represent out of the blinds, like paired-boards and boards with all low cards showing. Pre-flop raisers will have Broadway-type cards a high percentage of the time, so even if we missed with a hand like ace-rag, we’re able to take the pot down the majority of the time by betting into the raiser.
Keep in mind that if you’re not out of position, you’re not able to check-raise. This shouldn’t be understated as check-raising is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal when sitting at the poker table. Players predominantly check-raise with flush draws and strong hands like a set, but rarely check-raise as a bluff. All the more reason it is necessary for us to work in check-raises as a bluff. Also, we’re able to check raise with a hand that we are unable to call multiple bets with. For example, if we have ace-jack and it comes QJ3, we might decide to check-raise the flop in the hopes of winning the pot right then, rather than be put in a tough spot on the turn and river if we decide to check-call the flop. We’re also able to use the check-raise as a way to resteal from players betting post-flop in position. Let’s say we are in the big blind and there are four players in the hand, if the flop gets checked around to the button who puts out a small bet (if we decide it’s simply a bet designed to steal the pot) — we can check-raise and take the pot down a high percentage of the time.
Another method of accumulating chips is by check-calling the flop and leading into the raiser on the turn. Again, keep in mind we don’t have to have a holding that is technically “winning” at the time — we just need our opponent to fold. The vast majority of the time when players check-call then lead the next street, they have a strong hand (just like with check-raises), so we’re able to represent these types of hands by using this same methodology. Also, if we’ve check-called the flop and a flush or straight hits the turn, this can be an ideal time for us to represent strong hands on scary boards. Especially against “thinking players” — we’re able to deceptively represent strong hands in what seems like a very straightforward manner.
In the day and age of small pre-flop open-raises (where the typical tournament open-raise is less than 2.5x), we’re able to more effectively call and play out of position if we’re willing to make moves after the flop. The biggest mistake players make is calling out of position and only continuing post-flop if they hit the board. Tournament poker essentially comes down to our ability to accumulate chips and we need to be able to play out of position in an efficient manner in order to succeed.