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Poker Bluffing From Late Position

Bluffing From Late Position

The title of this article is certainly worthy of a very long discussion. In fact, there are many excellent books that cover the subject in great detail. Yet, I see so many players who fail to take advantage of late position that I thought an article that kept the concepts simple would be in order.

From late position, the game really opens up. You can play a lot more hands, increasing your chances of hitting a flop and making a strong hand. Since the hands you can play from late position vary greatly, the strength of your hand will often be well-hidden. For instance, say you are able to limp in from late position with the 3-4. The flop comes 9-3-3. A player in middle position with a hand like a pair of tens or A-9 will feel confident that he has the best hand and you stand to win a lot of money.

The beauty of playing from late position is that it will be very difficult for your opponents to define your hand. Because you are forced to only play strong hands from early position, it is easier for opponents to narrow the range of hands you could be playing when you enter the pot from early position. In late position, opponents will know that you could be playing a wide variety of hands, which opens up a lot of opportunities for you.

For example, say you are in late position with 8-9 in a $5-$10 game. A tight-aggressive opponent open-raises from under the gun for $30. You call, since you have position. The flop comes 3-5-7. Your opponent bets the flop. There is a great likelihood that this flop did not help your opponent at all. However, your opponent knows that you probably know that. So, if you raise, he may think you are trying to steal. Instead of raising here, just call the bet.

If you did have a strong hand, you would probably just call here, so your opponent is likely to believe you. Now, say the turn brings the 4. Even though that card did not help you, your opponent may believe it did. There are now four cards to a straight. Any player holding a 6 would have a straight. There is a much greater chance that you would be playing a six from late position than he would from early position. In this scenario, it is highly likely that your opponent will check the turn and fold when you bet.

Those kinds of situations occur all the time and the player in late position is the one who can best take advantage. Here is a good tidbit to keep in mind: For any player who starts with an unpaired hand, the odds of making at least one pair or better on the flop is less than 33%. That means that if you are in late position against only one other opponent, there is a very good chance for you to make a move.

Let’s look at another possible scenario. Say two players limp in front of you. You make a standard pre-flop raise from the button with A-4. The conditions are right for a bluff, i.e., you haven’t been bluffing often, the players are relatively tight, there’s no one with a huge stack, a very small stack, or on tilt, and your table image is conservative. The 8-Q-2 flop completely misses you, but it’s checked to you, indicating (unless someone’s slow-playing) that no one has a queen. This is a good spot for a bet of half to 3/4 of the pot. Some would call that a continuation bet, but it’s at least equally valid to call it a bluff because there’s a good chance that you don’t have the best hand.

Again, here’s where position works for you and against your opponents. They probably called your pre-flop raise with high cards, pocket pairs, or suited connectors. It’s very unlikely that anyone flopped two-pair. Apparently, no one has a queen, and how can someone with 9-8, 8-7, J-T, T-9, or A-2 suited have called out of position? Of course, if someone raises, you fold. If someone calls, they may be slow playing and it might be a good idea to put on the brakes.

The bottom line is that if you want to create an edge for yourself, you have to use position to your advantage. If you don’t, poker becomes a zero sum game for you at best (assuming you are up against other players failing to use position), and, much more likely, a negative sum game for you (assuming that other players are using position to their advantage).

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