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Dec 7, 2007

Taking Position

The dealer position (known as the "button") is the best
position at the poker table.

The reason is because when you're on the button, you get to
act LAST after the flop... giving you the chance to see what
your opponents do first.

This lets you get a "read" on your opponents at the table...
and decide who has a strong hand, who has a weak hand, who's
bluffing, and so on.

OK, so that's common knowledge.

What's also common knowledge is the fact that LATE
POSITIONING is preferred over EARLY POSITIONING... because
once again, you get to see what your opponents do first
before it's your turn to bet, raise, call, or fold.

Of course, being on the button is BETTER than just plain
late positioning... because the button GUARANTEES that you
will be LAST TO ACT post-flop.

OK, now here's what is NOT common knowledge...

Once you understand positioning and its enormous
implications, you can begin "improving" your positioning and
setting yourself up for more pots each game.

The technique is called STEALING THE BUTTON.

It's simple... it's practical... and right when you're done
reading this newsletter you can immediately start using it.

Stealing the button is LEVERAGING your late positioning when
you're NOT on the button... but getting all the same
benefits as if you WERE on the button.

Remember, the dealer position is SO POWERFUL because it
means you're LAST to act post-flop.

Being SECOND TO LAST to act isn't nearly as good, especially
considering there's usually only three or four players to a
flop at an 8-man table.

So what you do is make a reasonable pre-flop RAISE when
you're in late positioning... and therefore force the player
on the button to fold.

Having done this, you'll be last to act after the flop...
the same as if you actually were on the button. (Hence the
name, "stealing the button").

OK, let's look at an example so you can see what I'm talking
about:

Let's say you're sitting two seats to the RIGHT of the
button at a 10-man table. The game is $1-2 no limit Holdem.

Two players limp-in... and you look down at your cards:

J-9 of clubs.

I call hands like these "semi-connectors"-- they're not
quite connected... but almost.

The great thing about semi-connectors is that they're a
"hidden hand". When they HIT (straight, flush, two pair...)
your opponents NEVER see it coming.

You decide to play your Jack-9 suited. Now remember, there
are two players BEHIND you that will act post-flop if they
both call the blinds.

So it's YOUR JOB to make sure they DON'T limp-in.

The solution is to crank up the pressure...

You make it $15 to play. Nothing crazy (after all, you don't
exactly have a monster). You simply want to force the two
players to your left to FOLD... which will happen most of
the time.

Of course, they won't always fold... because sometimes
they'll pick up a big hand. But odds arethey'll fold.

The RESULT, of course, is now YOU have the button.

Well, not the button exactly... but all the advantages that
it brings.

Sure enough, the two players to your left fold, and Josh--
who's in the big blind-- is the only caller.

The flop comes out:

10h-8d-Ks

No flush possibilities for you here, but BINGO, you've just
flopped an open-ended straight draw.

This is the type of flop you hoped for.

Now it's on Josh to act first. And this is where your
positioning is so important. Not only do you get to see what
Josh does first... but you also have the CONTROL in this
situation.

Since you made the pre-flop raise, Josh will likely check
the flop to you... giving you the opportunity to play
aggressively and take down this pot.

No matter what happens after this, you've set yourself up to
win this pot. Sometimes Josh will pick up a real hand and
come out firing... but usually not.

Sure enough in our example, Josh checks.

You throw out a $30 semi-bluff. This is a bet you should
make even WITHOUT the open-ender... because you made the
pre-flop raise.

Josh mucks it, and you rake the chips... leaving the table
wondering what you had.

That's how you "steal" the button. It's a simple, surefire
way to gain control at the table by improving your
positioning.

There are five main steps you need to know...

1. You need a playable hand.

If you're going to bluff, make it a "semi-bluff" by raising
with a hand that can hit... something like semi-connectors.

I personally don't like raising with 7-2 offsuit or crap
like that. It seems to me like an "ego raise" more than a
logical play.

Remember, the key is to gain that extra bit of control and
power by acting LAST after the flop.

2. Force out the player on the button (and possibly the
player to his right).

The whole point to stealing the button is to ACTUALLY STEAL
THE BUTTON. If you make a wussy raise that doesn't scare
anyone, you've failed.

If you're one seat to the right of the button, you want to
raise enough to force the player on the button out. If
you're TWO seats to the right, then you've got to force out
both players to your left.

One of the "secrets" to this process is to ALWAYS pay
attention to the pre-flop betting patterns of your opponents
on the left.

If you're sitting on the right of "Tight Tim" who only sees
flops when he's got pocket pairs, then you can steal the
button quite often.

On the other hand, if you're on the right of a LOOSE player,
you won't be able to steal the button nearly as much.

So pay attention.

3. After the flop, your opponents will usually check to you.

Notice if someone bets into you, beware. That's a red flag.
Usually players will check into you since you raised
pre-flop.

When players check into you that gives you the power to
either BET and try to steal the pot right there... OR... get
a free turn card by also checking.

While I normally recommend a bet, you can check to mix it up
once in awhile or in the case that you're getting
short-stacked.

4. Don't get pot-committed.

Remember, stealing the button is a simple technique that
improves your position and sets you up to have a BETTER
CHANCE at winning the hand.

Don't get stupid. Don't get stubborn and bet any amount in
hopes of bluffing out someone with a real hand.

Like I said, you need a playable hand to steal the button in
the first place.

Don't become pot-committed... Never bet so much that it's
PAINFUL to fold your cards after the flop.

5. Sometimes you don't need to raise to steal the button.

Often the blinds will be high enough where you figure simply
CALLING the big blind will get you the button (this is
especially true when you're to the right of a tight player).

Also, someone in front of you might raise the pot enough
that all you have to do is CALL THE RAISE and you'll get the
button.

OK, so that's the process...

Here are the two types of situations where you DO want to
steal the button...

DO STEAL THE BUTTON WHEN:

1. You sense weakness and want to steal the pot on a bluff
or hidden hand.

2. You have a good hand that you want to play post-flop.

On the other hand...

DO NOT STEAL THE BUTTON WHEN:

1. You have a poor hand and you sense someone else has a
strong hand.

2. You think someone to your left will call a raise no
matter what (that defeats the purpose).

The MOST IMPORTANT lesson you can get from all this is to
realize that winning poker depends on ALL THE LITTLE THINGS.

Stealing the button is just a little technique for setting
yourself up for better positioning... it's not a "game
changing" strategy that will double your poker profits or
anything.

But when you combine it with ALL THE OTHER LITTLE THINGS--
like establishing the right table image, throwing out feeler
bets, representing the flop at the right times, buying free
cards, picking up betting patterns, spotting tells, and
more-- then you will become a DYNAMIC and POWERFUL poker
player...

AND THEN your poker profits will double.

A lot of amateurs base their games on the "big hands" and
might get lucky once in awhile. But over time, the REAL
MONEY always goes to the GRINDERS... the guys who know how
to CONSISTENTLY take down pots.

It takes a lot of discipline, don't get me wrong.

But you can do it.