Everyone knows that position is important, but many don’t understand the importance of relative position. It refers to your position relative to a raiser and the next streets likely bettor. If other players have to react to the bettor before you do, you have good relative position. If you have to act before they do, you have bad relative position.

With poor relative position, you assume the risk of being rerasied by opponents yet to act, don’t have information about what they will do and lose opportunities to trap them.

Say you hold two fives pre-flop in NL hold’em and an aggressive continuation bettor immediately to your right raises. Your hand has less value than if Mr. Aggressive-Continuation-Bettor was five players in front of you and two of your opponents had called in-between. Reason being, when Mr. Aggressive-Continuation-Bettor bets, you have the opportunity to trap the in-between calling players for high-value bets should you flop a set and raise.
Another scenario where relative position takes on major importance is in limit hold’em volume pots. Unlike NL, you want to “protect” your hand, or more precisely lower your opponents’ odds to call. In cases where you’re looking to protect a one-pair hand, you might want to flat an aggressive continuation bettor pre-flop in order to raise on the flop and protect your hand. By doing so, your opponents are forced to call a double bet with the threat of additional raises. If they do, their price is reduced. If they fold, their pot-equity is removed.

A positive to being in poor relative position is the fact that you can sometimes bluff-raise the raiser when he continuation bets weak. This shows a high level of strength and forces other opponents to call the raise cold.

There are many elements to relative position, too many for this short tip. But, always consider how your hand plays relative to your opponents’ position and whether you should you adjust your strategy. Tighten up your hand selection, particularly with hands that prefer post-flop volume, when you’re immediately behind an aggressive continuation bettor. Make more post-flop raise-bluffs. Loosen up when your odds are increased by having players between yourself and the continuation bettor, even more so if they are prone to call frequently.

Do it effectively, and you’ll trap more customers when you flop a hand and get trapped much less!