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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Don't Underestimate the Power of Position in Hold'em

13 May 2006

Okay, so you're in a nine-handed Limit Texas Hold'em game and you're sitting "under the gun" (first player to act after the blinds). You squeeze out your hole cards and find:

K/J

Should you call the blinds, raise or fold? In just about every game you'll ever be in, you should "muck" (fold) that hand from that seat. If you're a fairly new Hold'em player, this may not sound right to you. But if you play a few years and keep track of how all your K/J's do from that seat, you'll most likely find they're a net money loser.

Why? It's not really so much that a K/J won't pay for itself as a Hold'em hand. It's just that there are so many players behind you when you're in an early seat that you never know what you're going to be up against. If anybody back there has K/Q or A/Q or A/K (not to mention K/K or A/A), they will have the better hand – but you'll have to act first on every betting round. Being in this situation tends to make you a small profit when you've got the winning hand, and cost you a lot when you're holding a loser. For that reason, two fairly high cards like K/J, K/10, A/10, Q/J, Q/10 and J/10 are not playable hands from an early seat.

Helpless Situation: As an example, let's say you do call with your K/J right under the gun. Now suppose somebody around the back raises it up. You call to see the flop and it comes:

K-8-7

You've flopped top pair with a fair kicker. So you lead out with a bet and the original raiser pops you again. Can you see the bind you're in? Your opponent came in raising to begin with, and now raises again when a King flopped. If he has the kind of hand he's supposed to have to do that with -- you're beaten.

Now you have two choices and you don't much care for either one of them. You can either fold your top pair right now, or you can just check and call the rest of the way in hopes that your opponent is out of line. Either way, you'll win the minimum or lose the maximum since your opponent will keep punishing you if he's got something like A/K or K/Q, but will check the last round or two if he only has, say, A/8 or K/9. These are the liabilities you want to stay clear of.

In Control: The time to play two fairly high cards is when you're in a later seat, there have been a few folds and nobody has shown strength by raising. Then you can be fairly confident you're not up against any hands that will dominate yours if you connect with the flop.

So this time, let's say you're in the number eight seat. The first three players have folded and the next player calls. The number seven seat then folds and it's up to you. Since most of your threats have already been removed and the one caller showed no strength, now you should raise. If that same K-8-7 flops, not only are you more likely to have the best hand because of what's transpired, but you'll get to bet last all the way to the river. If your hand continues to look good, you can keep firing the bets in there. If things start to feel tacky, you can slow down.

This is the situation you always want to be in when you play Hold'em, and it's hard to be in it when you're sitting up front with a vulnerable hand. Of course, if somebody comes in raising from an early seat when you're around back with that K/J, you'll just quietly fold it because most people play tighter when they're up front – and rightfully so.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey