Playing poker correctly for your position is vital to playing successful winning poker. Here is basic outline of why position is one of the most important parts of a winning game, combine this with solid hand selection, post flop play and your ready to get started.
Position means how far you are round the table in relation to the dealer (button). The later to act and furthest from the dealer and blinds the better your position.
The dealer has the best position because he is the last to act on every round of betting except the first. You have seen what everyone else has bet and how, this is a big advantage.
Being the first to act is a big disadvantage – your betting in the dark – say you have a good hand before the flop and had raised, then the flop doesn’t help you – what do you do ? If you go with the hand and keep betting you could be re-raised by any of the players following you. If you check because your hand hasn’t got better you are sending a clear message that your weak and others will bet you off the hand.
Now if you look at the same strong pre-flop hand on the button (dealer) or in late position (the last couple of player) it becomes all together a different situation. The players before you will be scared of you because you bet pre-flop and then even though you haven’t hit the flop you can still bet them off when you’ve been able to sense weakness.
Therefore the earlier your position the better your starting hand needs to be to get involved in the pot. Following this logic the later your position the more starting hands there are that become playable.
Why Table Position is Crucial to Your Game
You should now be realising that one of the most common mistakes a new poker player can make is not learn about poker table position and how it relates to just about everything you do at the poker table.
Many pros will be the first to tell you that it is extremely important and one of the first things that should be mentioned when explaining a hand.
“I was in early position so I had to fold” or “He re-raised from the button” etc
It is simply that important to the expanding game of a new player.
Simply put, table position is where you may be sitting in relation to the dealer button. As the dealer button moves, your position changes and so different situations and opportunities are created. Crucially it affects the range of playable hands in specific positions.
Poker is a long term game of information. Obviously you can not see another players cards so you have to soak up information such as betting patterns, starting hand ranges, and other tells, like a sponge. And table position will affect you directly because all of this strategy adjusts as the dealer button moves clockwise around the table. To put this into perspective, one minute you can be sitting at the worst seat at the table, the small blind, and the next very hand you are in the best seat possible, the dealer button. And the dealer button is the best seat at the table because you will be the last person to act in every betting round allowing you to see all the action, or information, before you have to act.
Since some light has been shed on what position is and why it is important, you now need to know where you are sitting. “Halfway around the table” is not good enough. So how will you know where you are sitting? Very easy. Just imagine that the table is split into 3 sections with 3 players in each (Or 2 for a 6 handed table). Starting with the small blind you would count over 3 seats from the dealer button. This is known as Early Position or “EP.” Starting with the fourth seat from the dealer button and ending with the sixth seat is known as Middle Position or “MP.” And last, seats 7-9 are known as Late Position, otherwise known as “LP.” For the purpose of this article, we will refer to everything as position and seat number from the dealer button. For example, if you are on the button you would be LP+9 (late position and 9 seats from the dealer button) or if you were in the Small Blind you would be in EP+1. To better explain this, please take a look at our picture below.
As you can see from the picture above, poker table position is a very clear cut idea and hopefully this sheds some light on how important it is. Another important factor in table position is the starting hands you play.
Poker Starting Hands
Why should you be concerned with starting hands in relation to table position ? As mentioned above, poker is a game of information. The more you have the better. How much experience do you hope to gain sitting in EP ? Not a lot, right? For example, lets say you are in EP+3 and decided to play your favourite hand, the 10-J of spades and limp in for the minimum. Everyone folds down to the Big Blind who puts in a raise of 3 times the Big Blind. He has told you with a simple bet that he thinks he has a better hand. You look down at your favourite hand and realize that he is probably right and folds. Although it may not have been a lot, you still lost chips and accomplished nothing. Now if you were on the button on this hand, the roles could have been reversed and the 10-J of spades could have been playable.
Provided below is a starting hand guide. Now please be aware that this is only a guide and these hands may change due to your specific playing style.
AA-JJ, AK, AQ suited
AA-88, AK-A9 suited
AA-22, AK-A9 suited or off suit, Suited Connectors
It is also important to keep in mind that these hands are based off the fact that you are first to enter the pot. If you were not the first to enter you would have to consider the Gap Concept which basically states that you must have a better hand to call a raise with then if you were to make the first raise yourself.
Knowing the basics of poker table position and a few starting hands is really the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to learn such as betting, slow playing, and using the positions you are sitting in to your advantage. All of these are affected in some way by poker table position and this is the reason why beginners should spend time learning what it is and how it relates to the game.