Thou shalt play position in poker

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Editor’s note: This is one in a series.

My most recent column on aggressive play stated that position is a close cousin to aggression. When I taught poker classes at Pima Community College, the subject of position came up in every class and at all levels.

I teach my students that position is to poker as water is to life. Also of note: One of the first books on poker I read was Mike Caro’s fundamental Secrets of Winning Poker. From Page 47, “If you could put a weather satellite up in space and peer down at a poker table, you’d see a dominant pattern.

The chips would swirl round and round the table in a clockwise direction.”

As a player, I knew position was important, but his summation was an “aha moment” for me if there ever was one. Playing position poker is a key fundamental from which a winning poker player simply cannot stray. It should be obvious to any player that his hand selection decision must be tied to the basic concept of his position.

If we’re playing trap hands from early and middle position, this is a grave leak. In short, take a hand such as A-J in a full ring game or in a tournament and enter the pot with a raise from under the gun: The player will find himself in serious trouble if he gets called. With eight players remaining to act, the odds of running into a hand that dominates your holding are too strong. To make matters worse, the raiser will find an uphill battle because he was called by a strong hand that can withstand a raise, plus the opponent has the advantage of acting last.

If a player tracks his hands by position, he will find a huge leak if he’s not playing position poker. Another leak that jumps out at me that’s certainly tied to position is players who defend their blinds too often.
Amateurs and pros get themselves in a bind by justifying a call from the raising hand because they feel they are getting the right price. One thing is for sure: Unless you are a super strong postflop player, you must err on the side of the fold. Again, if you call, you enter a pot out of position. Over the long haul, this will cost you chips.

Cheers to Caro, who reminded us that chips flow toward the button. This is as sure as the tide, moon, sun, and the stars. Do not mess with Mother Nature.

— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima Community College. Email him at pokermoses@phxpoker.com.