Mistakes to Avoid Playing Out of Position – Expert Tips by Fedor Holz
Last Updated: November 5, 2023
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One of the first things you learn when you first take up poker is that position is king. Playing in position gives you a big advantage over your opponent(s), allowing you to gather more information about the strength of their hands.
And with poker being the game of incomplete information, every little bit counts.
Every small edge you can get can be invaluable.
In the ideal world, you would only play hands in position, but this is not feasible if you want to be a winning player. Sometimes, you have to play out of position as well.
By default, it will be harder to make profitable plays in this scenario, but by eliminating some of the common mistakes highlighted in this article, you’ll significantly improve your results in the long run.
3-Betting Too Loosely from the Big Blind
In addition to position being one of the most important aspects of poker, it is also commonly accepted that an aggressive approach is more profitable.
This is true, of course, but sometimes, we take aggression too far, as is clear from my own hand history that was analyzed by Steffen Sontheimer.
It is from a $5/10 cash game, and the action begins with the villain raising $20 from UTG+1. I decided to go for a 3-bet with A♦5♣ and make it $96.
As Steffen explains, this is something that has probably crept up into my game from tournaments, where stacks are much shallower, and we want to raise hands that block the strongest of holdings, such as pocket aces and pocket kings.
In cash games, however, with stacks being deeper, we can expect the villain to call much more frequently.
This puts us in a tough spot, having to play sub-premium hands across many different boards out of position.
This is exactly what happens, as the villain calls the 3-bet, and we proceed to the flop of 8♦6♥4♥.
Player images courtesy of PokerGO
It makes sense to continue on this board, as we still have the nut advantage with all of our overpairs, and we want to make it expensive for the villain to see the runout with hands containing a 5, a 7, or a 9.
With that in mind, I bet for $115, a bit over half of the pot, and he calls.
The turn is the A♥, giving us the top pair but bringing in all sorts of flushes. So, the check is the standard play in this spot, and when the villain bets out for $141, which is 33% of the pot, our only correct option is to call.
The river falls the 4♠, and we now have a bluff-catcher. After the villain jams, when we check to him, we need to decide if he has enough bluffs in his range to merit the call.
How We Got Here?
When the villain moves all in on the river, he is representing Ace-King or better. He would play any ace + K♥ combo this way, as well as the flopped sets.
As for the bluffs, he could have hands containing backdoor straight + flush combinations, such as J♦10♦ or 10♦9♦.
Then there are hands like pocket 7s and pocket 5s that he gets to the river with sometimes, but how often does he go for it on the river with these hands?
It is a close decision, but it feels like there aren’t enough bluffs in the villain’s overall range.
So, in the end, I fold the hand, which Steffen recognizes as the right play, but I end up losing a sizeable pot that could have easily been avoided by keeping the big blind 3-betting range tighter.
If you’d like to learn more about the dangers and mistakes of playing out of position, check out the video above, where we go into a more detailed analysis of the hand.