Hold ’em is a game of position. Your decisions have to be governed by where you are sitting relative to the dealer button. The closer you are to that button the fewer hands you should deem worth playing. The further you move from the button the more hands you can play. And when you are on the button you can play hands that are lower than the top 5 groupings (see part 1 for the groups). The reason for this is simple. The further away from the button in Hold ’em (and Omaha for that matter) the more information you have by the time you act.
Let’s give an example. You are sitting one behind the button in a limit game at Casinoslots. You hold 56 suited. In the first scenario there is one raise and three callers by the time you have to act. There are still three players to act after you (dealer – small blind-big blind) and you have a drawing hand. A drawing hand is a hand that will need to improve if you are to win the pot. Because there are already four callers the “pot odds” are favorable so you should play, especially as your action will influence those who still have to play. The likelihood is that the small blind and big blind will simply call as well if they decide to play. That means there will be seven bets added to the pot before the flop, and the chances of you improving to win the bet are equal to (or even better than) the amount you stand to win relative to what you have invested.
But look at the same hand in a different context. You are sitting one behind the button with 56 suited in the same game. There is one raise and no callers by the time you have to act. Now your “pot odds” are very different indeed. You have no protection from the other players. If you call the raiser it might be a heads-up hand and you are almost certainly playing catch-up against the raiser. It’s one thing to try and catch up when there is a big pot to play for (you might invest $10 to try and win $120, which is the same as playing a 12-1 shot). But trying to win a heads-up pot would be the wrong play (here you might be investing $10 to try and win $30, and you are not a 3-1 shot to win with only 56 suited). In this situation you should fold.
In both situations you have excellent position, so you have enough information to make a smart decision. Imagine you were first to act (immediately to the left of the big-blind) and held the same hand. How can you know if your bet is justified in relation to the pot odds when the whole table still has to play? In this case those little cards are poison to you, because if you play you might be in for three bets before you know what’s happening. You have to lay those crads down because your position does not warrant playing a low drawing hand.
If you are going to play a hand like this from the wrong position it is probably best to raise as long as you are the first to do so. Isn’t this contradictory to our earlier advice? No, because our intention in raising is not to build the pot it is to win the pot right there. We want everyone to fold, and if they don’t we still have a drawing hand that might improve. We also will have the first action (most likely) after the flop, as the rest of the table checks to us. We might bet the hand again in a second effort to chase everyone out, or we might have improved our 56 suited. But this type of aggressive play is only recommended as an exceptional strategy, and not as the norm.
Remember that if you are the type of player who only ever raises when he has the “nuts” or a great starting hand (group 1) the other players will figure you out quickly. That’s another reason why it can be profitable to mix up your play and raise the heck out of that 56 suited every now and then.