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ADVANTAGES OF LAST POSITION

To suggest how important it is to be last, let's take a situation from seven-card razz. Suppose you started off with a good three-card low, and you think your opponent did, too. Now you catch a king or even a queen, and your opponent pairs up on board. Without a pair, you clearly have the best low hand if play were to stop immediately, yet you should not bet. The open pair makes it likely that your opponent will be last to act on every betting round, and that fact more than makes up for your slightly better first four cards.

Why is it so much better to be last? For a variety of reasons. If you are in last position with only a fair-to-.good hand and the first player bets, you can call without having to fear a raise behind you. Players in early or middle position have no such comfort. If they call with a fair hand, they risk having to throw it away or pay a big price to continue when there's a raise behind them.

If you have a big hand in last position, your advantage is even greater. To see how much so, compare it to being first. In first position with a big hand, you might try to check-raise. But if no one bets behind you, you have lost a few bets from players who would have called a bet from you, while you have given a free card to players who wouldn't have called.

On the other hand, if you come right out betting in first position, you cost yourself money when a check-raise would have worked. Even in middle position with a big hand, you have difficult tactical decisions. If no one has yet bet and it's up to you, you must decide whether to bet or risk sandbagging. If someone has bet in front of you, you must decide whether it is more profitable and tactically correct to raise, inevitably driving out some players behind you, or to call in the hope of some overcalls behind you. In last position, you have no such problems. If no one has bet, you can, and if someone has bet ahead of you, you are at liberty to raise or to slow play after knowing how many players are likely to remain in the pot.

If your hand is mediocre, it is still advantageous to be last. On the first round you can call the small opening bet without fear of a raise. On later rounds players ahead of you may check better hands than yours, which allows you to check behind them and get a free card. However, if you checked that same mediocre hand in an early position, an opponent might bet a fair hand behind you, denying you a free card and probably forcing you to fold.

When the pot is down to two players, positional considerations still apply, perhaps more than when there are several players in the pot. In last position you can bet a big hand when your opponent doesn't and raise when he does. With the same hand in first position, you'd have to decide whether to try a check-raise or bet; when you check with the intention of raising and your opponent checks behind you, you cost yourself a bet; if you bet when a check-raise would have worked, you also cost yourself a bet.

With a mediocre hand against one player, it's also advantageous to be last. If you can't call a bet, you still may get a free card when your opponent checks. In first position, you are not at liberty to give yourself a free card. Finally, if your hand is somewhere in the middle good but not great - it is better to be last. It's true you will bet in either position, but in last position you have the edge of being able to call when your opponent bets. In first position you might bet what is a calling hand and find yourself raised by your opponent in last position.

The only real threat to a player in last position is the possibility of a check-raise. Consequently, in games where check raising is not allowed, being last is even more advantageous. Once players ahead of you have checked, you can feel reasonably confident they are not sandbagging with a big hand.

 
 
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