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How Many Players Are Left to Act?

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How does the number of players left to act in pre-flop play influence your decision-making process? Why should you take stock of how many players remain, the types of players you’re up against, and how your position affects your overall strategy? The answers to these questions (and more), are coming right at you in a brief, but brimming with intel, tutorial. 

There is a great deal of strategic thinking that goes into every decision you make in poker, from the time you get your cards to the outcome of the hand, everything requires careful consideration. That’s where rules of thumb—like the ones outlined here—come in handy. Use them to blitz your way to the top of the leaderboard. Or, you know, just stay out of the red.

Many Players

A full table is not the time when you want to test your speculative hand, there are too many variables working against you. Too many players mean more cards dealt and the greater the possibility that someone has a better hand than you. If your hand is not surefire, especially if you’re ‘out of position’ and one of the first to play; it’s probably best to fold ’em and live to fight another day.

However, whether you’ve got a stellar hand or a speculative one, if you’re ‘in position’ (last to act) you’ve got an advantage over the blinds. From this vantage, you’ve got the benefit of extra information and more time to formulate your approach, making any hand a playable one. An added perk to having position is when you raise, you’re more likely to flush out the blinds who likely have garbage cards.

Of Players

Aggressive/Tough: If you’re out of position and have aggressive players behind you, it’s a safe bet that they’re probably going to raise your call, and if you have a speculative hand, pressure you to fold. You have to be sure of your hand if you want to tackle a tough player that has position, otherwise play it safe and fold.

Passive/Weak: This is when you become the aggressor and play every hand, trash or not. Passive players are predictably safe and won’t put up much resistance for the pot if they have a speculative hand. You know when a weaker player has aces in the hole when they start raising instead of checking. When you’re up against a check player, this is when you want to bet and drive them to fold.

Position Matters

Pre-flop play is vital to your success, it narrows the field so when the river cards are drawn there are fewer players. This results in less winning combinations that could beat your hand (good or not); resulting in a less contested pot. The more players you can push to fold, the better. The river is what pays dividends with flop equity (suited or connect with the board) or high cards, and if your hand is enriched by the river, the more you can extract from your opponents that missed the board. It’s always easiest to steal an uncontested pot if you’re in position. Never discount the edge your position gives you—in position power plays are where most of the big money is made.

Remember, every pot is worth it, even the 5 big blind because at the end of the night when you’re tallying up your wins, it all adds up.

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