Don’t get trapped while in position in poker

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Last month I talked about the importance of tightening up in early position, entering pots aggressively and raising to reduce the opponents you have to fight on the felt. Now let’s focus on the situations you’re looking for in late position to help make poker easier and to allow you to win larger pots while losing smaller ones. This is all accomplished through the power of position. The more pots you play in position the larger they’ll be when you win and the smaller they’ll be when you lose. It’s that simple. … as long as you apply these concepts appropriately and consistently.

There’s one key concept about playing in late position that is vital to becoming a better poker player: choosing hands that play well against your early position opponent’s range.
When I’m in late position after an early raiser, all I really need to do is think about his range of hands. If someone raises in the first few spots and I have no other information on this opponent other than his position, I will treat him logically and assume he has a big ace or a pair, likely a big pair.

I only want to choose hands that play well against his range. This means I’m looking for small pairs, suited connectors or suited one-gappers. I don’t want to play hands such as A-J, K-Q or K-10 since his holding likely dominates those hands (e.g. A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-K based off of an early position raise). If I were to play one of those “trap” hands and then hit the flop, I might be in a situation where I’m likely to lose a big pot.

I’d rather have small suited connectors or a small pair in this situation. If I hit the flop (meaning two pair, a set or better) my opponent isn’t likely to have hit the flop with his big cards. In addition, my opponent is likely to pay me off trying to protect his big hand. I can remember when I started playing and would look down at 6-7-suited vs. an early position raiser and think, “Well, I need to fold here; he obviously has a better hand than me.” Man, was I wrong. These are precisely the hands I’m looking for because if that flop happens to come J-6-7, someone with A-A, K-K or Q-Q is likely going to send a lot of chips my way. And if there are two cards of the same suit on that flop he’ll be fighting hard to protect his overpair as players generally get scared of flush draws.

You must stick to connectors with no gaps or only one gap. You also must be playing the suited connectors because you can potentially flop a 15-out draw (straight and flush) where you are a favorite to win the hand. With just an eight-out draw (straight only) you’ll likely not get the right price to draw when your opponent makes a continuation bet on the flop. I also like to play connectors with maximum range (i.e. 4-5 through J-10) as they have three cards on either side to help you make your straight.

There are a lot of other factors involved to help you decide when and where you can play these hands, such as the rule of 5 and 10 and relative chip stack. I’ll go into more detail on these in future columns and you can always e-mail me at lee.childs@acumenpoker.net if you’re interested in detailed explanations or training on these or other more advanced topics. 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.