Position is very important in poker, and in some other table games as well. The opportunity to make decisions after opponents have acted is powerful.
The house is a favorite in blackjack largely because the house always wins when the player goes bust, even if the dealer later busts, too.
In poker, the last player to act has additional information about the strength of opponents’ holdings.
This is especially important in draw poker, because in addition to being in position for the betting rounds, you’re also in position for the draw rounds.
I was playing $300-600 mixed games at the Bellagio in Las Vegas with well-known pros Eli Elezra and Huck Seed.
We were playing deuce-to-seven triple draw lowball, a variant of five-card draw poker where the object is to make the worst hand possible.
A hand of 2-3-4-5-7 (without a flush) is the nuts, because aces are high and straights are good hands, so the lowest possible five-card sequence is 2-3-4-5-7.
Every player is dealt five cards, there is a small blind and a big blind to the left of the button, and there are four rounds of betting, with a draw between each round.
I had the button, Elezra was in the small blind, and Seed was in the big blind.
I was dealt 3-5-7-Q-A. I like to play more hands from the button than from anywhere else due to the power of position, and thus I’ll raise any strong three-card draw and any reasonable two-card draw.
I raised to $600, Elezra called from the small blind, and Seed re-raised to $900 from the big blind. I called, as did Elezra.
Elezra took two cards, Seed took one and I took two, discarding the queen and the ace. I caught a deuce and another queen.
Elezra checked. Seed bet $300. I knew that since Seed drew only one card and Elezra and I both drew two, Seed would be betting no matter which card he caught. Since I caught the perfect card to add to my hand with the deuce, I raised to $600.
If Seed improved on the first draw, then I was behind in the hand.
But my draw was strong and I had position. In the likely case that Seed didn’t improve, I’d have a better draw in position and could knock Elezra out of the pot with a raise, further improving my equity.
Elezra didn’t fold, and Seed just called.
For the second draw, we all took a single card.
I caught an 8, making a good hand but nothing special (the 11th-best possible hand). Elezra and Seed both checked, I bet $600, and they both called.
For the last draw, Elezra took one card and Seed stood pat. If Seed made a 7, he would have either bet or check-raised.
If he made a strong 8, he probably would have bet after the second draw also. For Seed to stand pat told me that he was likely to hold 8-7-x-x-x at best.
I gladly stood pat behind, figuring that I was only losing to 8-7-4-3-2.
They checked, I bet, and Elezra folded. Huck called and won with 8-6-5-4-2.
Even though I didn’t win, I used my position as well as I could have.
In poker, all you can do is make the best possible decision using the available information. After that, the results are out of your hands.
Bryan Devonshire is a professional poker player from Las Vegas. Known as “Devo” on the tournament circuit, he has amassed more than $2 million in career earnings.