Late position plays in small stakes games are one of the most optimal ways to boost your overall win rate. In late position, you will have an inherent advantage over your opponents that can not be taken away. The position you have will make it easier to steal pots, extract value, and do just about anything else that you want to. With that having been said, however, there are some plays that are smart and some that are not. This is particularly important in 6-max small stakes games as they are known for their extreme aggression and toughness.
It is truly difficult to find much more competitive games online than small stakes 6-max games. In fact, the next step up would be a mid to high stakes heads up battle. On many sites, this is where the line ends when it comes to table selection, so you need to have the ability to squeeze out every nickel and dime possible.
A late position play and wasting money in late position are two very different things, though some players tend to mix them together. For example a re-steal with a suitable hand would make sense in late position, whereas flat calling a 3-bet does not. While position does give you a big head start, it hardly guarantees that you are going to win the pot. You still need to have the wherewithal to make plays in the proper spots. Since 6-max small stakes are such a specific niche of games, this article will be able to clearly outline which late position plays are optimal and which ones are not.
Good Late Position Plays
Sometimes the best plays are also the most obvious ones. This is largely the case when it comes to making the most optimal plays in late position. For example, you should almost always be 3-betting with your premium pairs. How you define premium is up to you and largely situational, but most people would say that anything better than a pair of tens is worthy of a 3-bet. If you flat call in these spots too frequently, you are only going to be costing yourself money. Sure, you will run into the occasional player who likes to bluff off their stack, but these are far and few between. The easiest and smartest play is to go for the “sure thing,” even though we all know that almost nothing is sure in poker.
Another good play in late position is anything that relates to deceptive aggression. In other words, re-stealing. There is much more to re-stealing than simply raising with a weak hand, however, and this is the trap that many players fall into. The truly important thing is knowing how to make proper bet sizes. If you have found yourself in small stakes games after working through the micro stakes, you should already have a firm grasp on hand selection in light 3-bets. If you don’t already have that down, take a step back and make sure to iron that out first. The real difficult element to gauge in the fine art of light 3-betting is definitely bet sizing.
Though there are no outright correct bet sizing rules that should always be applied, there are some general guidelines that will benefit you when implemented correctly. First, your 3-bet size should be relatively large. A large three bet will always be relative to your opponents (how many and their playing style). There are not many other factors that need to be considered. Your hand is largely irrelevant, and a later game plan is only required if your three bet fails. Now, let’s take a look at some example to illustrate how to maximize on your position with well executed late position steals.
Using $1/$2 NLHE 6-max as the setting, you are seated on the button with Kh 4h.
One player folds, and the next player makes a raise to $8, which is followed by one call. The action is now on you. If you have pinned both the open raiser and the caller as players who are capable of folding, you should then decide how much you are going to raise. $20 would be too small as it would invite one if not two calls. The same can be said for $25. Instead, it would be better to raise to $31. A $31 re-raise gives an incentive for both players to fold, but there is more to it than that. When your opponents fire back at you, it will be quite easily to let go of your hand. If you wind up with either one or two calls, you will be in dominant post-flop position. Barring one of the players leading out on the flop, you will have a great spot to fire $70 on the flop and take down the pot. Every decent player knows that position allows for aggressive plays and re-steals, but only strong players know how to effectively size their bets for the best possible outcome.
Bad Late Position Plays
There are bad plays in late position and then there are very bad plays in late position. It will be more difficult to really screw things up when you have such a huge edge on your opponents, but it is certainly possible. The two most common and worst plays in late position are flat calls of 3-bets and misplaced re-raises. The worst of these two is definitely the former, though the latter isn’t exactly excusable either.
Calling a 3-bet in late position is nothing short of bankroll suicide. These types of situations are when an early position player makes an open raise, another player re-raises them, and you call the re-raise. There are a number of reasons why this is bad, and it is all because you are essentially lighting money on fire. There is a small chance that the original raiser will simply call the re-raise, yes, but it is hardly worth it when considering how many times they will fold or come back over the top. If they fold, you are left playing heads up with a hand that probably wanted to see a multi-way pot. If the original raiser comes back over the top, you will be forced to fold. Neither of these outcomes are good, and they, when combined, are more likely than a call. If your hand isn’t worth re-raising with, just get out of the way. You are all but writing the other players a check when you make this sort of play.
Re-raising with bad hands is another way to light your money on fire. Everyone knows that raising with trash is a poor strategy, but are you sure you know which “good” hands are bad to re-raise with. Before I go any further, it is important to note that this is in sole reference to re-raises and does not pertain to open raises.
3-betting in late position with small and medium pocket pairs or any suited connectors is a definite mistake. These hands rely on deception and built in value to make money. When you re-raise, you are artificially increasing their value pre-flop and deflating their value post-flop. What you should be doing instead is minimizing investment pre-flop and capitalizing post-flop. Yes, flat calling open raises with these types of hands is absolutely the way to go. That way you can easily fold if you miss the flop and face a bet, can lead out if the action is checked to you, or cash in when you hit the flop. Whatever you do, don’t re-raise. In fact, if you are going to re-raise, you are better off letting go of your hand altogether.