Get into the poker ring with just one opponent

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In my October 2008 article I discussed three key concepts for making poker easier: put yourself in good situations, have a plan for your hand and play according to your opponents’ hand ranges. In my next few articles I’ll expand on my approach for making the game easier with more key concepts: using the power of position and aggression.

Almost everyone has heard or read that position is important. Pretty much every strategy book has space allocated to the importance of position and how it gives you more information to make better decisions. You probably agree with this, but the question is: Do you understand playing hands in position is absolutely the most critical element to making the game easier and to your long-term success? If you do understand and believe it, are you implementing it consistently when you play? I know the true answers to these questions because I know most players simply don’t really understand its importance, or even if they do, they don’t consistently implement it.

The first step is to strongly tighten up your starting hand requirements in early and early-middle position because you don’t want to play out of position. This means you play big pairs and AK. Dump small pairs, AQ, AJ, KQ. You must have premium starting hands in early position to help overcome the edge opponents will have if they call with position. You want a hand you can withstand a fight with if you meet resistance preflop. Your opponents likely know something about the power of position as well. That means if someone reraises your early position raise, they’re essentially telling you THEY have a premium early position hand. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to give up preflop or call and play a bigger pot out of position with a mediocre hand. Either way, you’ve decided to commit chips out of position with a mediocre hand, and this makes the game hard, not easy.

You need to limit the number of opponents you’re playing against and increase the chances of winning and force out players with better position on you postflop. Aggression and premium starting hands are the keys to overcoming positional disadvantages. If you were in a boxing match would you want to fight one opponent or three or four in the ring? The answer is obvious and you must approach poker the same way. If you limp in and let several others cheaply in the ring with you, you just made it too hard to win. You’re going to miss the flop about two-thirds of the time. Even when you hit it, you won’t hit it hard enough to feel comfortable playing a big pot against several opponents, especially if they have position and are putting up a fight.

Don’t force yourself to have to make a hand to win. When you’re first into the pot come in raising. This forces others out of the ring. The later the position the fewer opponents you’ll have to force out and the more likely you’ll be successful.

I challenge you to tighten up in the first four spots and when you do come into the pot, come in raising to take control. I assure you these factors will have a significant impact on your results. Decide to Win!

— Lee Childs is founder and lead instructor of Acumen Poker. He also is an instructor with the WPT Boot Camp. Check out his site at www.acumenpoker.net.