How to Use Position to Win at Poker
Your position at the poker table is a huge factor that is often underestimated by amateur poker players. It can make the difference between taking down a pot or losing a hand and also has a great influence on the amount of money won during each poker session.
Before and during each dealt hand, you should constantly be aware of your current position on the table in relation to the button. The seats closest to the left of the button such as the small and big blinds, as well as the next seat following the blinds, are referred to as early position. Going clockwise, the next three seats are known as middle position. The final three or four seats are the players acting in late position, with the button or last seat to act being the most advantageous position at the table on each hand.
Being in early position means that you will be one of the first players to act in the hand with many players behind you to follow. These are the least favorable positions because you don’t have the benefit of having the additional information of how players will act on their hole cards.
Your starting hand selection should generally be more selective than in the middle and later positions. The late position players can loosen up their hand selection depending on how players have acted before their turn. But you shouldn’t play just any starting hands in late position and hinder your game as a result.
Having position over other players simply means that you will be acting on your hand after they have already acted upon theirs. You can use the information given you on whether they have checked, called or bet to make a better decision on how your cards should be played.
For instance, a player who checks or merely calls in front of you may be showing weakness or a desire to play to a drawing hand with the minimal amount of his money risked into the pot. A bet made by you in late position–sometimes without a strong hand–can win a pot right there without playing through to a showdown.
Or as another example of the benefits of late position, let’s assume you are holding a middle pair such as pocket 7’s after the flop in a late position. If the flop also shows overcards higher than your 7’s and players before you are actively betting and raising, you can make an educated guess that your pair is not very strong and you can fold without losing more chips or money.
Late Position Offer More Information
On the other hand, if you are betting from an early position on a hand that you think is good, but raising and re-raising by players acting in later positions forces you to fold, you have lost money because of the lack of information due to having to act in early position.
The later that you are required to act in the hand, the more advantageous is your position because you will have more information regarding what your opponents may be holding or representing.
Play More Hands
Generally speaking, you should be playing more hands in later positions such as the button or the cut-off, which is the position just prior to the button, that you do in early or middle positions. Your inclination should be toward playing a bit wider range of starting hands when acting later.
Also, the cut-off and button are the best positions for stealing blinds because players will have folded before you and no one will be acting behind you. But remember, don’t always play any old hand from these later positions because the small and big blinds may catch on to your steal attempts and act accordingly.
Crucial to Success
Player position at the poker table is often overlooked by beginner players. But it is a crucial factor in each hand dealt because hands can be won on position alone, regardless of the hole cards actually held. The sooner you learn to play your position in tandem with the cards you are holding, the more profitable and successful your poker game will be.
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