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

In Part I of this series, we listed 14 ways our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Lab explained that late position – especially on the button – had a distinct advantage. And we discussed how, in some situations, you could gain the late-position edge by raising from a middle position.

Today, let’s examine another aspect of betting position – other than gaining late position.

After arriving at the casino, you sign up for a seat. Soon after, you are directed to an open seat at a table. We all know that there are different styles of play. Often you will find a very aggressive player at your table; he bets, raises and re-raises almost every other hand, perhaps even more frequently – a “maniac.”

You may be seated to his right, which is not a very comfortable position. You call the big blind to see the flop and, lo and behold (surprise!), the aggressive player seated just after you raises. Now it will cost two bets (more if there is a re-raise) to see the flop with a hand you would have folded to a raise.

Also, it is getting costly to stay to see the flop with your marginal drawing hand. The raise would have been OK if you held a made hand preflop – pocket aces, kings, perhaps queens – or even a premium drawing hand. Instead you hold a marginal drawing hand, one that must improve significantly to have a reasonable chance at taking the pot on the showdown.

If you fold after the raise, you have contributed one small bet to the pot. Better yet, if seated to the left of the aggressor, you could have folded after his raise and saved that bet. (Small bets saved add up to lots of chips over a session.)

Solving the problem

There’s a way to solve this dilemma and gain the edge. Knowing that the aggressor is likely to raise, so long as you are seated before him, play only those hands that can stand one: Play conservatively.

Better yet, keep an eye open for a player who is about to leave the table. If he/she is seated closer to the left of the aggressor, tell the dealer that you intend to move into that seat. (You need to speak up and put your “dibs” on that seat before another player does.)

Having moved to the aggressor’s left, you are now in a position to see how he bets (raises) before acting. That information is extremely valuable. You can use it in two ways:

1. Fold your weaker hands, including marginal drawing hands that you would like to play – but only if there were no preflop raises and it was a multi-way pot with three or more callers to see the flop.

2. If you have a made hand or even a middle pair, raise (or re-raise) after the aggressor acts in order to “reduce the size of the playing field.” (RSPF). It is best to play your made hand against three, at most four, opponents for optimum return on your investment. If all fold behind you, that’s OK too. Now you have isolated the aggressor. Chances are he doesn’t have a very strong hand – plus you have position over him.

(Next week: Examining other ways to gain the edge.)

Comments? George “The Engineer” can be reached 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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