Know your Positions: The Importance of Table Positions in Poker

Knowing your opponent’s decision before you make your own is a significant advantage in a game of partial information. When playing a poker game like Texas hold’em, the more knowledge you have, the better decisions you can make with your hand. Your poker strategy must take into account your table position.

Understanding poker playing positions is necessary. When playing flop games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha, you need to recognize that the odds are stacked against you and make the most of the strength of your position.

Poker Positions Work
The dealer button is the first thing you should look for when you sit down at a poker table. Using this tiny white disc, you may determine your own table location by seeing who the dealer is (where you are in the betting order).

The small blind and big blind are the first two positions to the left of the dealer. To get the activity rolling, they begin the betting with a predetermined sum.

The game then proceeds clockwise around the table, with each participant selecting a slightly different approach based on where they sit. Simple is the key concept. Play powerful hands early in the poker game, solid hands in the middle, and a few more cards late. You can get help with this from our poker hand guide, but first, let’s go over the various poker situations and what they all imply.

Blinds in Poker
Two poker table places known as the blinds are required to place mandatory bets at the beginning of each hand.

The player immediately counterclockwise from the dealer button is known as the tiny blind. 13 to 23 of a huge blind must be paid by this player.

The player two spaces clockwise from the dealer button is the large blind. One huge blind, which is posted prior to the start of play, must be paid by this player.

The Button – Dealer (called as LP)
Everybody wants to remain “on the button” in flop/community games like Texas Hold’em! It is the poker position with the most advantage.

In every round of betting for that game, the dealer always gets to act last after the flop. You now have the benefit of being able to see how each player in the hand has acted before making a choice. This gives you a sizable advantage and allows you to play marginal hands.

Early position
Because they are the first to act, the player to the left of the large blind is referred to as being “under the gun” (no pressure). This seat and the one after it are known as “early position,” and depending on the size of the table, they are the most challenging to play since you never know what the other players will do. So, theoretically, you should only play the best hands (pair of two 10s or higher, ace-king or ace-queen).

The first few seats are fairly decent poker positions since you can observe what the other players are doing. Here, you can expand your toolbox by learning a few more pairs and suitable connectors. You should raise with any pair in the next seat, which is referred as as hijack (and is sort of a halfway house between middle and late position).

Late position
The cutoff and button are the finest late positions in poker because you can observe what other players are doing. You can have an ordinary hand and still “steal the blinds” if everyone else has folded (win the pot straightaway). This opens up a wide range of additional cards for raising, including all suited connectors and any ace where the other card is of the same suit.

The Cutoff – Co: Directly to the Dealer’s Right
You can afford to be more daring in the Cutoff seat. From this position, you can force the button to fold by aggressively raising. By engaging in such a play, you are attempting to “purchase the button.”

The HiJack – Directly to the Cutoff Right
The reason that Button & Cutoff steals are so often is how this seat gained its moniker. The phrase was created because the position allowed for the “hijacking” of the actions of the two later seats by taking the blinds in front of them.

Fold, call or raise?
You have three alternatives in poker: fold (throw away your cards), call (make a stake equal to the previous one, or the big blind if no one has raised), or raise. You can bet any amount while raising as long as it is at least twice as much as the preceding wager.

Typically, you would increase your wager to three or four times the prior amount if your cards were worth playing. Why increase? Well, first and foremost, to increase the pot and earn more money. Another goal is to induce players with poor hands to fold (fewer opponents mathematically improves your odds of winning, whatever your hand). It’s best to call if someone raises in front of you unless you have an extremely powerful hand, such as a top pair (jacks or higher), ace-king, or ace-queen (in which case raise to three times the previous bet). Go all-in if they raise once more and you have two kings or two aces. Call if it isn’t.

It really comes down to raising or folding if no one has raised. This will give you more options after the flop as a cash game player and help you win more hands. Things are a little difficult after the flop, but the same concepts still hold true: you can get away with doing things “on the button” that you shouldn’t consider trying “under the gun.”

Here is a quick summary of five reasons why playing in position is preferred in no-limit hold’em and why positioning in poker is so crucial.

More free cards
When playing drawing hands, there are situations when you’d want to forego paying the fee to advance to the following postflop street. If your opponent checks to you while you are on a draw and checks behind to see the next communal card, you have the option to take a “free card” if you have position over them.

Let’s say you chose to play suited connectors and the flop reads q-Clubs-9-Diamonds-2-Clubs with your 8-Clubs and 7-Clubs. Since they must move first, your adversary chooses to check.

You could place a wager, but you can also check back and draw a “free card” to determine if your flush can be completed. However, if you were the first to act, there is no guarantee that your opponent won’t bet and force you to pay to stay in the hand if you check.

Pot control
Acting last on every postflop street typically gives you more control over the size of the pot you play.

If an opponent checks and you want to play a tiny pot, you can check behind. If your opponent bets, you can simply call to end the hand. When the action is on you, you can bet or raise if you wish to play a bigger pot.

You can’t check while you’re out of position and trust that your opponent will check and give you easy access to the next card. You also cannot wager and be certain that your opponent would either fold or just call you (thus keeping the pot small).

More bluffing opportunities
Being in position to outplay your opponent is so valuable that it frequently compensates for having a bad hand.

In other words, even if your actual hand strength is weak, acting last gives you much more negotiating power when attempting to represent stronger poker hands.

The large blind calls your raise from the button, the flop reads a-Clubs-k-Diamonds-6-Hearts, and your opponent checks. Your actual hand strength will become somewhat unimportant if you wager and your opponent folds without having an ace, king, or maybe even a six. It doesn’t matter if you have a-Diamonds-10-Diamonds, q-Clubs-6-Clubs, or 7-Diamonds-2-Clubs; in poker, it’s position that counts, not the cards themselves.

Calculating pot odds
Let’s say you have a four-way hand with the cards k-Clubs and 10-Clubs, the flop is q-Diamonds, j-Diamonds, and 5-Clubs, and you are the second player to act.

The first player takes the lead with a bet of 500 and there are 1,500 in the middle. You want to call with your open-ended straight draw and watch the turn. If you were the last to act, you would know exactly what your immediate pot odds were; since you need only call 500 and are attempting to win 2,000, your odds are 4-to-1.

You cannot do this computation while players in front of you are still in action. You don’t know if the other two players will just follow suit (improving your odds of winning the pot even more) or if one of them will raise the stakes, forcing you to spend even more to stay in the game (making your pot odds potentially much worse). However, if you were in a position to act last and knew your odds of winning the pot, you might know them in advance.

Knowing your opponent’s action
The ability to predict how your opponent will play a specific postflop street before you have to decide how to play it is the biggest benefit of possessing poker position, and it covers all of the other benefits as well.

Knowing that your opponent can always be trying to trick you (watch out for poker tells! ), a check typically signifies they are not too excited about the board, while a bet displays interest, makes you more knowledgeable. Strong players frequently consider an opponent’s action when playing from position when determining how to play each street.

How to Use Table Position Strategy When Playing
The pros and drawbacks outlined above demonstrate how location has a significant impact on your preflop strategy. However, postflop is when you can significantly more effectively leverage a positional advantage to maximize profits.

Make an attempt to sit on their immediate left knowing that you will earn most from poor players. This will guarantee that you have a positional edge over them for the majority of hands, both preflop and postflop.

If you have a hand like second or bottom pair and are the last to move, you might typically think about calling a single continuation bet with the intention of reevaluating on the turn. However, you can use this information to make a safe fold if you see a bet followed by two callers from tight players. After the bet, being the first to move puts you in the awkward position of assuming what the other players will do. It is exceedingly unlikely that you have the best hand if you call with a poor pair and two other players answer.

Understanding how table position affects strategy is important when holding a draw. Draws are less profitable when you are out of position, and you should factor this into your decision making when using pot odds and implied odds as you may be forced to fold before you get to see the remaining cards.

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