Understanding position in poker and adapting your game accordingly is essential. Your position relative to the dealer button plays a significant role in determining which hands you will play and how. What makes position so important is that it defines the betting order for all betting rounds, and therefore, the amount of information that you have before acting!
What is position in poker?
Position in poker is your placement in the table relative to the dealer, or button. It determines the order in which players get to act in every betting round. In every hand, the dealer button moves one place to the left and position changes.
Preflop, the action starts with the player at the left of the big blind. For all the subsequent betting rounds, the betting begins with the player at the left of the dealer button and proceeds clockwise until it reaches the dealer.
When are you in position poker?
Being in position against a player means that you get to act after him, so after having observed the way he acts, which gives you a considerable advantage. So, preflop the worst position is being under the gun as you get to act first, and the best is the big blind. For all other betting rounds, the best position is the button and the worst is the small blind.
The player on the button gets to act last for most betting rounds, so he has a significant advantage over his opponents. The same holds to a lesser extent for other players in late positions. Therefore, being in the button is considered as the best possible position.
On the contrary, the worst possible positions are considered the blinds, as in all post-flop rounds they get to act before the other players.
Why is position in poker important?
When someone in position gets to act, he has already observed how his opponents have played. So, he has extracted some information on the strength of the hand of the other players! Even if this information is not conclusive, it gives him a clear advantage. Position helps players maximize their profit when they have a strong hand and minimize their losses when they have a mediocre or weak hand.
You are on the button with A♦Q♠, and the flop comes Q♦9♠8♣ , you have a medium-strong hand, top pair top kicker. There are three more players in the hand and you are last to act.
The first player opens the betting. The second player in middle position makes a big raise, and gets called from the third player! By the time the action comes to you, you know for sure that someone has you beat or even dominated with a set or a straight.
You can now let go of your hand without losing any more money. If you were seated in early position, you would have probably bet or called an initial bet; then, after aggressive betting, you would have been forced to fold your hand.
This example demonstrates how you can get away from difficult situations and save money only thanks to having good position. The added information we have in position allows you to make more informed decisions before acting.
Being in late position can also help you exploit weakness and pull off occasional bluffs or semi-bluffs. For example, let’s say that you are facing a single opponent on position. The flop comes dry and your opponent checks, indicating that he might have missed the flop. You now have the opportunity bet to try to pick up the pot regardless of your hand!
Good players understand the value of position in poker and adjust their starting hands accordingly. In general, when they are in early positions, they mostly play their very strong hands. On the contrary, in late positions, they loosen up and can play many more hands. Let’s take a look at the different positions by category.
In a full table (with nine or more players), the four first players after the dealer are considered to be playing in early positions. Preflop, the player after the big blind, also called under the gun, will be first to act. For all subsequent betting rounds, the first player after the dealer will act first.
The players in early positions are bound to act “out of position,” with little or no information on the other player’s strength and, therefore, have a considerable disadvantage. When you are in early position, you should play fewer, so mainly premium hands. This way, the value of your starting hands will balance your positional disadvantage.
Also, you should avoid playing hands that are difficult to play post-flop. Playing AK is easy as you will know where you stand post-flop, either you hit or missed the flop. Playing TT or JJ out of position with one or two overcards on the board will leave you guessing whether your opponent hit or missed the flop. So, try to avoid getting into difficult situations out of position when you can.
The players that are seated between early and late positions are considered to be in middle positions. When you are sitting in middle position, your starting hand requirements can become a little less strict. Your situation is considerably better now. Most probably, during betting, you will hold a positional advantage on some of your opponents. This means that you will be acting with some information at hand. However, you will still have a disadvantage to anyone sitting after you, so you must remain cautious.
The two last positions, the cut-off, and the dealer (or button) are called late. They offer the best possible conditions. The cut off and, even more, the dealer, get to act having seen all the action before them. So, they have a maximum of information to use to their advantage!
When you are in late position, your starting hand requirements are considerably looser, as your positional advantage is now quite significant. Many hands that are not playable in early or middle position can become profitable.
in a nutshell
The position in poker plays a vital role. The best positions are the late ones, as they allow you to act after most players have already acted, giving away some information on the strength of their hands. This information you possess gives you a significant advantage and allows you to loosen up your pre-flop requirements. On the contrary, when you are in one of the first positions, you must play fewer and better hands to make up for your positional disadvantage.
Do you have any questions about position? Or more tips to add to this post? Let us know in the comments section below!
Once you feel ready, you can test your skills with our Basic Poker Strategy Quiz 🙂