Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Does position matter when you're planning to move all-in preflop?

Here's my idea: Position matters before making an all-in bet preflop in a tournament because your chances of winning the hand increase if earlier position players have already folded. I'm not sure this thesis is correct, but I want to put it out there.


Experts say that going all-in is the ultimate equalizer.

An all-in bet freezes time and equity values forever. The bet wields the most pressure you can possibly muster.

Most of all, it eliminates considerations of position because your action in the hand is done and your decision final.

Ah, but there's a problem, at least for me. When I initially read about all-in bets neutralizing positional disadvantages, I internalized that to mean that position doesn't matter if all the chips are going into the pot. That may not be correct.

Yes, after you make an all-in bet, positional values lose meaning. But not before you make the bet.

Before you push, you need to consider all the players left to act behind you.

If I hold Ax under the gun and I push a short stack into the middle, the rest of the table has an opportunity to consider their chances of busting me and taking my chips. In a nine-handed game, eight other players with 16 unknown cards may call me with hands of relatively even value or far greater value -- anything from KJ (42 percent) to AK (70 percent) and many middle pocket pairs (70 percent).

If I can try to make my last desperation bet after a few people have folded, I may have already increased my odds of either picking up the blinds or racing against a weaker hand.

For example, if it's folded to me and I push with Ax from the cutoff, I'm facing six unknown cards rather than 16 if I were under the gun. I don't know how to use math to prove or disprove that it's better to be facing 6 unknown cards than 16, but it intuitively appears to improve my chances if I'm against fewer players.

Conventional wisdom regarding 1) the importance of moving in when your M gets low, and 2) being the first one into the pot when you go all-in still apply.

What I'm suggesting seems like common sense: that your proximity to the last position (which is the big blind in the preflop betting round) could make a significant difference in whether you decide to risk your tournament life.

But lacking math or knowledge, I don't know if my impressions are right. Maybe M and first-in vig so far outweigh the importance of position preflop that position hardly matters.

Let me know. Thanks.


troublecat said...

Position is important to me in marginal cases. If you assume that your opponents will call you with hands in a given range, when 9-handed, it is about twice as likely that your bet will be called if you move in UTG as it is if you move in from the hijack. And that's if you assume that only one person will call - the earlier you move in, the more likely it is you end up facing two opponents.

This is why it's a good idea to fold junk aces and kings in early position when your M is still 3 or more (always, of course, depending on the stacks and temperament of your opponents) - you run a greater risk of being double-dominated. If you move in with A3 and you're called by 77 and AT, your equity in the pot is under 10%. You are often in much better shape in this situation if you moved in with a suited connector than an easily-dominated hand.

AnguilA said...

The way you ask the question has a clear answer I think: yes it does.

When you are planning to move all-in you have to take into account if you are first to act or last, because it's definitely different. The more people left to act, the more people that could call.

When they say it's a great equalizer, I think they refer to the fact that after somebody has moved in, there's nothing left to do but call or fold and see if the cards bring the goods for you. And here obviously position doesn't matter.

jl514 said...
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jl514 said...

It also depends on what you're objective is. If it is to steal the blinds or to race. If you want to steal the blinds, and your M is very low, the later your position the more likely it will look like a blind steal, the more likely the blinds will want to call you, even with trash.

Harrington mentioned that position doesn't quite matter, but it's more about if you're first in the pot.

While you're right that 6 cards is better than 16, remember that you started with 16 cards out and the people before you didn't like theirs. Maybe they were sharing some rags, which increases the probability that your friends acting after you will have some paint?

Again back to the original question, if you're really pushing to double up, don't you want as much money in the pot as possible? if you're M is < 2 and that's why you're making this move, ideally you'd like to at least triple up to get out of the red, likelyhood that you'll get two callers from the cutoff? I'd think not as likely as UTG.

My Pro Tip of the Day: Push with Aces and Kings from any position if your M is low. :D

The Dude said...

I suggest using an ICM calculator such as Sit n Go Power Tools. It isn't fail proof, but it will give you a pretty good idea of when to push and when not to. Harrington mentions it in volume 1 if I remember right.

Victor_Enriq said...

I know I'm fishy but what's so hard on this? I thought this was a known issue.

I can remember this on Harrington 2 "...you wish something better than 64o to make a play here but this is what you got dealt... everyone folding to you at the button is too good a chance..." or something like that.

I think the spirit is right there... the more people fold in front of you the better you are. Ted Forrest says Ace junk is a good hand if the rest don't have an ace on their respective hands... that's scenario is more likely if less people are live to play.

One more thing... going all in from early also makes issues for the medium position players... they can't afford to call or move in with many marginal hands for the fear of being sandwiched or dominated by last position players... in turn the may fold better hands.

Another idea comes to mind... due to my last work here in Chile... the fuller the tables are, better is the possibility to have monster vs monster, hence the game moves (by eliminating more players) fasters (for the TDs).

Hope this wasn't too confusing.

Victor_Enriq said...

Uff, I know this is a double post.

I just remember a situation. If you are UTG with a medium hand with a low M in a short table, you may prefer not moving all in, but rather waiting and moving all in in your bb with any hand when is your turn to act... the idea is if you move all in because the blinds are hitting you people are more aware that you may be desperate. What's worse you give people with marginal hands to call down.

If you wait for the bb, then move all in, you have seen all the action preflop. It's a gamble, but in all something to have in mind.