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December 1, 2009

Playing Out of Position in NL Texas Hold’em

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Written by: Chris Wilcox
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Many times when you decide to play a hand in NL Texas Holdem, you will find yourself playing out of position. That is, you are the first one to act after the flop or at least there are still several players to act after you even if you were not quite the first. Everyone knows it is best to play “from” position, or when you are the last one to act. This way you have the benefit of seeing how everyone in front of you has played. You have the most information you can possibly have to base your decision on.

What I  want to touch on today, is how to play when you are not the last one to act. What happens when you miss the flop and catch total air, which you will do approximately 2/3 of the time you play a hand. Many online players first instinct is to check. They are afraid someone else hit the flop and it is never any fun to make a bet and then have your opponent come over the top of you when you have nothing. However, this is exactly what you have to do sometimes to become a successful NL Holdem player.

When you are out of position, the best idea at times, might be to take that position away from your opponent. If you check the flop, he can bet with anything and you don’t know whether he has a hand or not. He could be betting with total air. Instead, take this away from him, bet yourself and force him to make a hard decision. If you have a $500 pot and you make a $400 bet from 1st position, it is very likely that your opponent has to have a real hand to call or raise you here. If he has air, which many times he will, you have just made it very difficult for him to come over the top of you or even call. Some online players will call you when you make this bet. I have something for them: make the same play again on the Turn. 95% of the players that might sniff out your bluff on the Flop will not call on the Turn. If he does you know he has a real hand. I usually do not fire again on the River, unless I can see that he may have been on a busted flush draw. However, firing the Flop and Turn is usually enough.

If in betting the Flop, he comes over the top with a raise, then shut it down and move on to the next hand. DO NOT let your ego get involved and call his raise if you have only air. Make a not that he made a strong play and move on.

One warning; the more players that are involved in the hand, the harder it is to make this play from 1st position. Chances are in a 3-4 handed pot someone will have hit some part of the Flop or will at least decide to stand up to you. This move works much better against a single opponent. It is also not something you can do every hand. However, it is something you MUST do every once in a while to keep your chip stack healthy and your opponents guessing.

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