Poker Position and Strategy
In a poker game, you may have heard a lot about position and how it affects one’s gameplay during a hand. Poker position refers to a player’s seating position on a poker table in relation to the dealer button. The dealer button is a small disc that moves clockwise one spot to the left on the table after the completion of a hand. It indicates the player who is the dealer for the current hand in play.
Therefore, all player positions in poker can be identified by the location of the Dealer button. That being said, a player can occupy several positions in a poker game. These positions are important because they can affect a player’s strategy and decision making during a hand.
Here, we will talk about each player position and their significance in a poker game. Let’s begin.
Types of Position in Poker
In a poker game, the seating positions of players are identified by the location of the dealer button. As the dealer button moves one spot clockwise after each hand, the position of each player moves accordingly.
These positions are typically classified into three groups: Early Position, Middle Position and Late Position. Let’s check them out one by one.
Early position refers to the players who post the Big Blind and the Small Blind. It also includes the first two to three players who are seated to the left of the big blind and must act first in the betting rounds.
The player position to the immediate left of the big blind is called ‘Under the Gun’. (UTG). This position can also include the player next to the UTG in games that include more than 6 players.
Middle position refers to the players who are seated between the early and late positions. It includes the next two or three seats to the immediate left of the early positions (Under the Gun). In a full ring poker game (more than 6 players), there can be up to three middle positions known as the Hijack, Lojack and MP1.
As the name suggests, these are the players who act last in the hand. In a nine handed game, late position includes the dealer, and the two players to the immediate right of the dealer (cutoff), and the hijack seat. In short handed games including six or fewer players, the hijack would fall under Middle Position.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Position in Poker
The position a player holds in a poker game can have a major impact in decision making and strategy. That's because there are many advantages and disadvantages of playing from different positions. That said, experienced poker players often play most of their hands from late positions, some from middle position, and very few from early positions.
Let’s find out the reasons for choosing to do so.
Early position in poker is considered the most vulnerable of all positions because players in these positions carry the least amount of information about their opponent’s hands. This can make it difficult to make strong and confident decisions. When in an early position, you are more likely to face raises and re-raises from those in late positions and often end up in tough spots.
Additionally, being in early positions gives you lesser control over the pot. You are the first to act, therefore, you do not have the luxury to witness how other players act before making your own move.
When you have a strong hand, you may choose to bet or raise to build the pot, but at the same time, you risk scaring off your opponents or being outplayed by players in late positions.
So, unless you have a premium hand such as AA or KK to bet on, choose to check or fold your cards if someone raises you. The best strategy in early position is to play very tight and strong hands only.
Middle position in poker is tricky and can be advantageous or disadvantageous depending on the specific situation and the type of players involved in the hand. If we speak of benefits, you certainly have more information here than in the early position and can still win big pots if you hit a strong hand. You also have the opportunity to bluff or semi-bluff strategically depending on the available information in front of you.
On the other hand, those playing from a late position can still outplay you. Therefore, you need to be more cautious with marginal hands. If a player raises you in an early position, it becomes more costly for you to stay in the hand. As such, developing a strategy in the middle position can be tricky as there are still players behind you who are yet to act and it is likely for one of them to have a stronger hand.
All in all, this implies that while you have more flexibility and information compared to being in early position, you must still play with caution and be wary of players who will act after you. So, if you have someone playing aggressively before you, play tight. If those acting after you are playing tight, become more aggressive.
Without contest, this is the most advantageous and fun position for a player for several reasons. Firstly and most importantly, you have more information in late position on most of the players who have acted before you. This allows you to make informed decisions and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Secondly, there are times when you are drawing hands on the board, you would rather avoid paying to see the next card post flop. When you are in a late position, you have the opportunity to see more free cards if your opponent checks to see the next community card. By getting to acting last, you also have the perfect opportunity to bluff with any hole cards if your opponent shows weakness.
Thirdly, playing from a late position allows you to control the size of the pot. If you wish to play a small pot and your opponent checks, you can check as well and see more free cards. If your opponent raises, you can simply call and close the action. If you want to build the pot, raise it when it is your turn.
Last but not the least, playing from a late position allows you to steal blinds frequently. When the action ends with you, you can raise to try and steal the blinds from those who may have weaker hands.
Strategy for Different Poker Positions
By now, you may have a general idea of the importance of using table position in poker to your favor. However, playing in position to your advantage involves several strategies and adjusting them depending on the specific situation and the type of players involved in the hand.
Let’s breeze over the most favorable strategies you can apply when playing from various positions in Poker.
- Playing in an early position requires utmost discipline and patience. Be patient and wait for premium hands to save yourself from costly mistakes and preserve your stack for success in later positions.
- Play tighter from an early position since you have the least amount of information about your opponent’s hands. Be more selective, tighten up your range and only play strong hands.
- Following this thought, raise with premium hands in early positions such as AA, KK and QQ and narrow the field of play. This will help you to churn more value from your hand and protect it from potential draws.
- In the middle position, you can afford to expand your range of hands a bit. It requires a balance between playing a wider range of hands and avoiding weak hands that can land you in trouble.
- Proceed with caution and be more selective with your hands to avoid getting caught in tricky situations. When in the middle position, play only strong hands that have the potential to win the pot. Be aware of your opponent’s actions in late positions and tighten up your range if they show aggression. Be prepared to fold if you are caught in a big pot.
- When you are in a late position, you have the most information about your opponents. This is your chance to take control of the pot. Depending on the strength of your hand, you can choose to encourage your opponents to put more money in the pot or simply call and keep the pot smaller.
- When in late position, do not miss the opportunity to steal blinds from players in early positions who might be carrying weak hands. Raise pre-flop to apply pressure on these players to fold and steal the blinds without even seeing the flop.
- In late position, you are the last one to act, therefore, you are free to widen your range and play more hands from late position and manipulate the game. You can expand your range of hands here compared to earlier positions.
- Last but not least, look for opportunities to bluff in late positions when those in early positions show weakness by checking or folding. Size your bets based on the likelihood that other players will call. However, if there are aggressive players who might raise you, drop the idea. Similarly, if there are tight players who are unlikely to fold, bluffing here might not be the best strategy.
To conclude, using table position in poker to your advantage demands a combination of careful observation, strategic thinking and willingness to adjust your game based on your table position.
We know that the Dealer button moves clockwise after each hand allowing each player to enjoy equal opportunity to play from all the positions. This bluntly discloses the fact that position does matter in poker. By mastering the use of table position, you can fairly increase your chances of winning in any game of Poker.