Saturday, December 01, 2007

Relative position

It really irks me when I see bad advice passed off as the truth, especially when it comes from a so-called "Noted Poker Authority." I'll comment on an excerpt from the pretentiously titled of "Professional No-Limit Hold 'Em: Volume One." Volume two hasn't been written yet.
Relative position means being to the right of the likely bettor, so you get to see how everyone else responds before you act. Sometimes having relative position can be more useful than having absolute position. For instance:

A player in a 9-handed $1-$2 game with a $100 capped buy-in has been going all-in every other hand for the last 20 hands. No one is standing up to him without a premium hand. He now has $268. You are first on the list to get into the game, and you will buy in for $100. You decide you should call the frequent all-in player for all your chips with ace-ten or better, and any pair of sixes or better. Two seats open up, one on his immediate right and the other on his immediate left. Which seat do you take?

Consider your worst all-in hand, ace-ten offsuit. If you sit to this person's immediate left and call all-in, any of the other players could play as well. If one of them has AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK, AQ, or AJ, you take the worst of it. However, if you sit to the immediate right of the slider, you see what everyone else does before you commit. You can limp with ace-ten offsuit, then get all-in if no one else calls him. If instead someone plays, you can fold.

With relative position, you will often get to check to the likely bettor, then see how every other opponent reacts before committing your chips. That is why, contrary to conventional wisdom, it can sometimes be better to be on the right of a very aggressive player. Most of the time, however, absolute position is more important than relative position.
First of all, relative position does not mean being to the right of the likely bettor. Relative position is your position in relation to the preflop raiser. Whether you would rather have a relative position to the right or left of the likely bettor is debatable. I would prefer to be to the left of the likely bettor in most situations.

Then the book gives a contrived example of a situation in which it would be better to be sitting to the right of the likely bettor. The argument is that you can limp or check to the raiser to see how he and the remaining players act before deciding how to proceed with your hand. Presumably, you would check-raise with stronger hands and fold weaker hands.

This reasoning may work in the example, but how often are you going to be sitting to the right of a player who goes all in every hand? How often will you cold-call out of position preflop and then check when you hit your hand? How often will you make more money from a check-raise or a limp-raise than you would have made from playing your hand straightforwardly?

The example portrays a false reality that doesn't frequently occur in actual play. It's poor strategy to sacrifice absolute position, give up control of the hand and open yourself up to re-raises unless you have a premium hand. We all know how rarely the combination of being dealt a premium hand, getting action and having it hold up happens.

I would much rather be to the left of the maniac. I could frequently reraise him for isolation, bet for value when I hit my hand, bluff him with greater accuracy and get it all in with more information than I would have out of position. The exception comes in multiway pots where you gain more information by letting the maniac bet and waiting to see how others will react.

But most pots are contested heads-up, especially in games where there's lots of raising preflop. In heads-up hands, I want to control the action and pot size, which is much more easily accomplished from the maniac's left.

Limping and checking is usually weak poker. While there are extreme circumstances where a maniac is so aggressive and predictable that you want him to your left, those scenarios are rare.


deliverator said...

Why don't you write Volume II?

kurokitty said...

Plus, wasn't this the dude that said money flows clockwise?

SubZero said...

Good point, don't think this book adequately compensates for the fact that more often than not it's a HU game after the flop when a maniac is at the table. Multiway pots are the exception rather than the norm, and so advice should be tailored to playing 1 on 1, where absolute position is king.
It's good to read everyone's poker book reviews - and keeps me from having to write them!

Dustin said...

I haven't read this book, but other than his inaccurate definition of relative position, which is indefensible, I don't have any problem with this. He's giving a contrived example to illustrate the concept of how relative position can be more important than absolute position. He's not trying to teach strategy here, he's trying to explain a concept. He's certainly not arguing you sit to the right of an aggressive player under normal circumstances, just that in certain situation, such as a guy who has you covered (extremely important, there is no reraising here for isolation, or to get him to fold his bluff, there is no postflop play) constantly pushing all in.

Relative position can be more important than absolute position, this example clearly shows how. It's not going to help you win any games, but it will help you understand how relative position (or more accurately the value of sitting to the right of the raiser) can be important.

And technically I've played against a guy who played 1,2 NL exactly like this, sooo yeah.