Last is Sometimes Best when playing Poker!
When you’re playing a game of online poker, there is no doubt about it; being last is sometimes best. Take a look at any game outside of poker, particularly game shows that involve some level of skill. The contestant to perform the task last often shows the best finish. It’s a hard logic to argue. If someone has the opportunity to see what everyone else has done before them, not only do you have a much better idea of the daunting task in front of you, but you’ve been completely educated by the failures, and mistakes of your competitors. In addition to that, if you are in a multiple round competitive game, you’ve gained a wealth of education in regards to your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.
Poker is no different, because regardless of what the layman may assume, all those who play, know that poker is a game of skill. This knowledge may be old news, and should be to the experienced poker player, but for the benefit of those who have never taken this into consideration, and especially for beginners in the poker world, let’s break this simple message down into some detail.
Not to pick on the true beginners, but here’s a side note to you. It’s less important to be positioned after you. The more you play, the more you’ll realize you can build your poker strategy based on the other players at the table. Beginners are more likely, and apt to make mistakes; rookie mistakes, fishing for draws, or not knowing to the best thing to do with a bad beat (potentially decent hand = bad result.) Whatever you want to call them, they’re simply mistakes based on lack of experience. The experienced players at the table, even the ones playing before you, will try and bring out your bad play, so as you gain experience, the first skill you want to develop is an admirable level of patience. Read as much as you can, but more importantly play as much as you can. Try to work your way into a late position at a table with more experienced players, and you’re getting a free education. Practice makes better, because if you feel you’re close to perfect, you’re perfectly close to getting beat.
Playing late in the game allows you to receive everything after everyone else. As the cards come, you don’t even need to look at them. Not until you have taken notice of everyone’s reaction to their own. Does someone have an immediate poker tell? This is something you’ll take a mental note of, and check for consistency in later rounds of betting and in the next game. In this position, you are truly the cultural anthropologist of the poker world; a true observer and participant. The later your position plays, the quicker you can take note of these things.
Take for example your desire to set up a bluff. Being in a later position against experienced players is going to require some thought, opposed to a last ditch effort I’m hoping to hit on the river, type of bluff. (If you ever find yourself in that situation, you should get out of the game. Unless you are simply playing with people who have never played before, chances are, your bluff will just lose you more money.) You’ve been checking and calling all game, and all of the sudden you just nailed it big on the river? Not likely. You’ve got the opportunity to see your cards and realize the odds are not moving in your favor, however, if you see everything happen in front of you and make the case for your bluff early on, nobody has any reason to believe anything other than you having a strong hand. If No-limit Texas Hold ’em is the game, you can check-raise pre-flop through the turn, and your bet at the river will look like a logical move; as if the river has only potentially strengthened your hand. Other experienced players will have realized you’re watching them closely as you play after, and you’ll have probably helped put several into the muck at this point anyway. It’s just much easier to play it cool and remain aggressive when playing from a more comfortable position.
Exceptions to table position might be in the Omaha Hold ’em games, especially the Hi/Lo variety. The thinkers game; you’ll find yourself bluffing a lot less, and solely relying on the nuts and what you’re holding. That’s not to say that you can’t find a way to work things to your advantage being seated late in a ring, but you’ll see so many more players fold pre-flop based on general game style play. With this in mind, regardless of position, keep your eyes on your competitors and stay focused on your task at hand, which is to win, and at the least, improve!
Hopefully this information has only made prior knowledge more concrete, yet it’s always something to consider. Poker is a game of adaptation; survival of the fittest. A mix of patience, aggressiveness, having the table knowledge and the wisdom of when to use it; these skills will help you get the job done. If you’re placed in a strong position, you absolutely must take advantage of it!
Okay, now put it to practice!