Players in early position are at a positional disadvantage, and they are likely to be at a positional disadvantage throughout the whole hand. For the non-blind hands, this means they must be more selective with starting hands than do the players in the later positions. For example, a hand like ATo on the button may look like a good hand to raise with if everyone else has folded. But in early position, the chance that another player may come with a raise or a cold call in is high. There is approximately a 91% chance that any random hand is worse than ATo (see the chapter on Starting Hands). A player who open raises with ATo on the button only has two other players to contend with, the small blind and the big blind. If 91% of all hands are worse than ATo, then there is an 82.8% (91% raised to the 2nd power) chance that ATo is the best hand between the button and the two blind hands. So this is a situation where a player with ATo would be happy to raise since it is likely that he has the best hand. However, if the same player had the same hand in the under the gun position (the first player to act after the blinds), and it was a 10 handed game, then there are 9 other players who could have a better hand. Using the same analysis, if each one of those players had a 91% chance to have a worse hand than ATo, then there is only a 42.8% (91% raised to the 9th power) chance that ATo is the best hand. Add in the positional disadvantage that ATo will have to contend with on the Flop, the Turn and the River, and now it becomes a hand worthy of being thrown into the muck. Also, when ATo is the best hand, it may not have a big advantage over any starting hand except a hand with an A and a lower kicker. But if it is not the best hand, it is in danger of being a big underdog to the likes of AK, KK and TT. So when another player calls or raises, the player with ATo is looking at a situation where he is usually a small favorite or a big underdog. These are not profitable situations in Hold'em.
The blinds have the benefit of seeing everyone act before they have to act in the pre-Flop round, but they have the disadvantage of having to act first in all subsequent rounds as well as having to involuntarily put money into the pot before the cards are even dealt. Many players will call a raise from the blind position in the pre-Flop round because they believe they are already partially invested. Unfortunately for them, this thinking is flawed. The chips they have put up as their blinds are a sunk cost, and should be thought of as part of the pot. The old adages of "do not chase good money after bad" applies here. A player in the blinds should make his decisions based on the chips that are going to go from his stack into the pot, not the chips that he has already put into the pot.
The small blind is in the worst position of all, because he is always at a positional disadvantage to someone else. If everyone folds to the blinds, then the small blind is at a significant disadvantage to the big blind. There are many times when the big blind can call a raise with mediocre cards, but the small blind cannot. The reason is that the small blind will have to put in more money than the big blind, and the big blind is getting better odds. Since the big blind is already in for one small bet, when there is a raise, he is at least getting 3.5 to 1 to call (1 small bet is the big blind he put up himself, 2 small bets from the raiser, and a minimum of half of a small bet from the small blind). If there are other players involved in the hand, then the big blind would have even greater odds to call. However, the small blind has to act before the big blind. He would have to put in one and a half small bets to see a raise, and he would have to act without knowing what the big blind will do. If the big blind folds after the small blind calls, then the call by the small blind effectively gives him odds of 3.5 to 1.5 (2.33 to 1). These odds are worse then were shown for the big blind. If the big blind were to call after the small blind called, then the small blind would be getting odds of 3 to 1. These odds are still worse than the big blind's odds. Also note that if the small blind calls, he is now offering the big blind 5 to 1 to call and see the Flop. If there are many players who have invested two bets, then there is a smaller difference between the small blind and the big blind. It is when the hand looks like it will be contested by only two or three players that the small blind position becomes such a weak position compared to the big blind. This is more relevant in shorthanded games and is discussed in further detail in those chapters.
The big blind has better reasons to call a raise and see the Flop than the small blind does. As mentioned previously, if there is only one raise, the big blind at worst will be getting 3.5 to 1 to see the Flop, and usually better. This means he can play hands such as 98s or 76s that he may not in other positions. His poor position after the Flop can be enough to negate the advantage of only having to put in one more small bet to see the Flop when there is a raise. This can be seen when a tight early position player raises and the big blind holds a hand such as A9o. This is the type of hand that can easily be coordinated with an early position player's hand, since many players will raise with hands such as AK or AQ. If an A hits the board, the big blind cannot necessarily be happy. In such a case, it may be better to play a hand such as JTs, which has more drawing possibilities than a hand like A9o, so JTs would match up better against AK than A9o would.
Even though players in early position are at a positional disadvantage, there are still some strategies they can use due to their position that others cannot. One of those strategies is the check-raise. An early position player can check-raise to get more money into the pot or to try to knock out players if it is a late position player who makes the initial bet on the Flop. Since the check-raise is one of the few advantages that early position players enjoy, they should use it often when they think they have the best hand and there is evidence that a player in late position will bet when it is checked to him.
Another strategy that the first player to act can apply is the first chance to bluff. If there is a hand where all the other players have shown weakness, the first player to act has the first chance to bluff into the pot on a later round. For example, two limpers call, the small blind folds and you check in the big blind.
Your hand in the big blind: T3o Flop: Q-5-2 rainbow Everyone checks on the Flop. Turn: 5
You now have a nice opportunity to be the first player to bluff into the pot. Unless one of the other players was slowplaying his hand on the pre-Flop round or the Flop, being the first to bluff has value.
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