Poker Essays

Position in Poker

From Card Academy June 2007

You will often hear spiels about location in everyday life, especially when buying a house, or talking about holiday destinations. So what has location got to do with a poker game? You will also often hear players discussing poker position with the terms like, "I was in bad position, so I folded" or "I had position on him so I called." What does this all mean?

Position is actually extremely important in the game of poker and if you pay extra attention to your position during a game of poker, more often than not you will find yourself in more favourable positions than otherwise.

Basically position in poker refers to where you sit in reference to other players on your table, or in the context of hand to hand play, refers to where you are sitting in relation to the button.

Player Position
In most cases, the ideal position to have is to be to the left of a certain player and this is referred to as having position on that player. The reason for this is that if you are on the left of the player, you have the luxury of acting after them, and hence have the added benefit of knowing what they decided to do, before you have to make your own decision. However, for certain types of players, it is often desirable to be seated on the right of that player. The common rule is that you would prefer to be seated on the right of a tight player, and on the left of an aggressive player. In other words, you want a player that plays fewer hands on your left and a player who will play more hands on your right.

The reason for this is that the players to your left will often be the last ones to act after you and it is beneficial if they fold their hands more often than not, so that you can pick up the pot easily. Tight players are often less aggressive and hence you will feel safer putting your money into the pot, without the fear that these tighter players will raise, which will often result in you forgoing your bet.

On the other hand, having aggressive players on your right is great, because you have position on them. These players will often play more hands and raise more frequently, which gives you the option of playing your hand many different ways if you happen to pick up a hand. It is not uncommon for smart players to move to a different seat if it becomes available, because they want to get into a better position on the table. Next time you are seated at a table and have an aggressor to your left and a seat opens up on his left; don't miss this opportunity to move into that seat!

Hand Position
The best position to have during each hand is to act last. Hence being on the button will prove to be the most desirable position in most cases. It is one of the main reasons why the dealer button rotates around the table every hand, so that everyone on the table gets their equal share of the button and no one is disadvantaged. While you get to act last from the big blind pre-flop, this is the only round in which you get to do so, which also happens to usually be the most insignificant round in terms of the size of the bets. You would much rather have 'late position' on the remaining three rounds, the flop, the turn and the river compared to just having the best position before the flop.

The strength in being on the button derives from the fact that you will always be the last person to act on each round of betting after the flop. This means that you have the most information out of anyone for that hand.

Under the Gun
This is a particular name for the position that is first to act before the flop, which is the position directly to the left of the big blind. A particular name is given to this position, because many strategies are used from this very position. Often players who pick up a big pair will limp in under the gun in the hope that someone later down the track will put in a raise, prompting a re-raise from the under the gun position. It is often useful to observe what players do in this position, because knowing what they are capable of from the under the gun position may save you some money down the track.

Early Position
This is the worst position to have on the poker table and often refers to the small blind, big blind and the under the gun positions. These are the most undesirable positions to be in for a particular hand, because you have to make your decision on most betting rounds without a lot, or any, information from the other players at the table. As a result, if you are playing a conservative strategy, you should only play the best range of hands in this position. These include high pairs, high suited cards and the highest rung of unsuited cards such as AK, AQ and KQ. Other hands are usually not recommended, because the risk of being raised, or even re-raised is quite real and you may be wasting money by putting money in the pot.

Another reason not to play other hands is that you may be caught by catching the flop softly. For example you've made top pair with a weak kicker, which may get you into trouble, especially because you are in bad position.

Middle Position
For a full ring game, middle position refers to the first person to act after the 'under the gun' position and three or four positions after that player, depending on whether it is a nine person or ten person table, respectively. While you have the benefit of observing how the early position players have acted before you, there are still quite a few players who have yet to act. Hence while these positions are better that being in early position, they are far from optimal and plenty of caution should be shown in these positions.
You may play more hands such as middle pairs, more suited cards and more marginal hands such as AJ.

Late Position
Late position often refers to the player on the button, the player before the cutoff and the player in the cutoff itself. These are obviously the best positions to be in, because it gives you plenty of information on each betting round, on how most of the other players have acted. Knowing what most players have already done will make your decision to bet, check, call, raise or fold that little bit easier. Being in the best position gives you the luxury of playing all the other hands that you would want to play, that you might have folded in other positions. These hands include suited connectors, smaller pairs, and all suited aces.

This starting hand selection is based on a conservative strategy and a lot of the hands should not be played to a raise and definitely not to a re-raise, even if you are in the best position possible. You should try to use this hand selection as a basis to build your game on and expand as you see fit.

Card Academy

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