Good online poker decisions depend on multiple factors. These include the overall dynamics of the game, your hand strength, the behavior of your opponents and — most importantly — your position at the table. Whether you are playing heads up after the flop or find yourself contesting a multi-way pot, a great deal depends on whether you are in position or out of position (OOP.)
Being in position in poker means you’re the last to act post-flop. This gives you the benefit of knowledge of your opponents’ holdings and decisions, so you have more information to work with when it’s your turn to make a play. What is “out of position” in poker? It’s simple. All poker positions that aren’t in position are OOP to varying degrees. That doesn’t mean you should fold every hand until it’s your turn to act last, but it does mean you should exercise caution. Let’s take a look at some of the most common poker mistakes that players make when they’re out of position in poker.
Beware of Boredom
OOP errors can begin as early as the decision to get involved in the action before the flop. One of the biggest poker mistakes that beginners frequently make is simply to play too many hands when they’re OOP. Poker can be a dry experience if you’re folding hand after hand and it’s only natural for players who get frustrated to open raise pre-flop because they want to get in on the action. This can be a very costly error!
The fact of the matter is that you shouldn’t open pots from early position without good reason (it’s an unspoken casino rule never to bet real money without good cause.) The best reason would be if the hand you’re holding is likely to be stronger than any others at the table. Of course, it can take a long time before you’re dealt strong enough cards. If your holdings are only medium or weak, you might still consider open raising in order to balance your pre-flop raising range. Don’t overdo it, though, or you’ll run the risk of being forced to play an awkward hand from OOP post-flop.
Don’t 3-Bet the Farm
A pre-flop problem players sometimes have is the inability to fold to aggressive 3-bets after open-raising from early to middle position. Say you’re in middle position with an unsuited king and jack. You’ve spotted three tight players to your left, so you decide to test them with an open raise — but the cut-off 3-bets and it folds back to you. Unless you have a premium hand, it’s best to let this one go. If you’re stubborn and decide to call, you may find yourself playing OOP post-flop with a hand that’s difficult to work with unless the flop is completely in your favor. Folding can also help from an image point of view when you open from middle position with a strong starting hand that you actually want to be re-raised.
Don’t Be Docile
If you’re playing OOP after the flop, it’s normal to play somewhat passively, checking and calling to control the pot so you don’t get raised out of too many hands. What you don’t want is to fall into the mindset of playing passively by default. Sometimes it’s correct to make more aggressive plays, such as donk bets (leading bets from out of position post-flop,) so as to induce raises or as a block bet to prevent your opponents from making larger raises. A passive play habit can blind you to such opportunities when they arise. Worse yet, it could get to the point where you’re submissive even when you have position on an opponent. Always look for chances to pressure your opponents when it makes sense to do so, even out of position.
Don’t Check-Raise Too Little
One of the opportunities that submissive play can rob you of is check-raising. This is a deceptive play where you check early in a betting round in the hope that someone else will open so you can raise them in the same round. Whether you do it strong-handed or as a bluff, a check-raise is a power play that puts your opponent under pressure, often causing them to fold if your check-raise is sufficiently aggressive and they miss the flop. If your opponent has position on you, check-raising can also be a great way of taking the initiative away from them post-flop.
Don’t Check-Raise Too Much
The trouble with check-raising aggressively against opponents in position is that it’s possible to overdo it. This can foster the kind of reckless mindset that causes you to play too many hands out of position. It can also become a very predictable and, therefore, exploitable pattern. If you’re not careful, your opponents will know they can simply check back to see further streets for free. Worse still, if played wrong, your check-raise could encourage them to re-raise big, in which case all you’ve achieved is to help them bloat the pot. That said, you can check-raise with confidence if you think you have the best hand and want to get more money into the pot or as a bluff to get a weak-handed opponent to fold.
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