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(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article of a three-part series from “The Engineer” on Gaining The Edge over poker competitors.)

In any competition, be it sports or business, it is important to have an advantage – an “edge.” That’s assuming you are “playing” to win.

In poker, what are the best ways to gain that edge over our opponents? During our Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Sr. Center, we attempted to identify the “10 Best Ways.”

We listed 14.

Here’s the list, more or less in order of importance:

1. Using betting position

2. Starting hand selection

3. Using the “Four Basic Rules for Winning”

(as described in my first book, The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners; see ad elsewhere in GamingToday)

4. Bluffing tactics (Use the Esther Bluff!)

5. Value betting

6. Selective raising

7. Table selection

8. Evaluating and “reading” your opponents

9. Using the Poker Odds

10. Using your “image”

11. Avoid the “Dirty Dozen” nefarious poker mistakes

12. Doing the “Two-Step”

13. Gaining information from your opponents

14. Predictability

Using betting position was the most favored of the ways for gaining an edge over your opponents.

Betting position is where you sit in relation to your opponents at the table. Most players know that you can open with a weaker hand from a late position, especially on the button – and vice versa. The later your betting position, the more information you have and less vulnerable to raises after betting.

In a late position, assuming there have been no raises and there are three or more callers (limpers), your 9-8 offsuit is worth a call to see the flop. But it wouldn’t merit two bets, had there been a raise. That would be too big an investment.

The same applies to other marginal drawing hands such as small pairs or medium suited connectors.

(Note: Consider using the Hold’em Algorithm to help identify appropriate starting hands preflop based on position and other factors. See advertisement elsewhere in GamingToday.)

Late position gives you a definite edge because you declare after your opponents. You see what they do before having to decide. The more information you have, the better decisions can be made. Fold that marginal drawing hand if the pot has been raised or if only two opponents are staying to see the flop.

In a middle position, often you can still gain the edge. Let’s say the texture of the game is passive – little raising preflop. Two or three opponents limped to see the flop and now it’s your turn. You have a marginal drawing hand – perhaps a pair of 5s. Your raise here is likely to force out the players behind you.

Now you are effectively in last betting position. Not only is edged gained based on position, but those who limped and then called your raise, have respect for you. They check to you on the flop. If the flop has no high cards, your continuation bet takes the pot when they fold.

Most likely your opponents called with small or medium pairs, perhaps one or two honor cards.

With a flop of medium/low cards or even a pair, chances are they didn’t improve their hands. If the flop happens to give a monster hand, you can slow-play to build that projected winning pot.

If you don’t connect on the flop after the limpers check, you have two options:

1:Bet out in the hope of taking the pot then and there if they both fold.

2: Check to see the turn for free.

Our upcoming columns will examine another way to use position and other ways to gain the edge.

Comments? George “The Engineer” Epstein can be contacted at [email protected]

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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