If there was only one poker-related strategy or tip you could learn, I would tell you that one thing should be poker table position. Once you have an understanding of position in poker, what it is, the advantages and how it’ll affect your holdem strategy, you’ll have to try not to make more money.
What is Table Position?
Table position in holdem (in most poker games, really) refers to two things.
The first is your seat in relation to the dealer button. There are 3 sections or positions that you can be in:
- Early position (EP) – The first 2-3 seats to the left of the dealer button.
- Middle position (MP) – The second set of 2-3 seats following the EP seats.
- Late position (LP) – The last set of seats following the MP seats.
Since the dealer button moves one seat to the left, the positions at the poker table are always changing. Keep in mind that if you play at a 4 or 6 handed table that there will be fewer seats in each position.
The second thing is your seat in relation to your opponents. That will change every hand too. But the basic idea is this:
- If you are on the right of your opponent then you are out of position. Players out of position act first on every betting round.
- If you’re on the left of your opponent then you are in position. Players in position act last on every betting round.
It is possible to be in and out of position in the same hand because of multiple players.
Your goal should be to play in as late of position, and in position, whenever possible.
Why Playing in Position is Important
Being in position at the table is beneficial to you. It gives you advantages that you wouldn’t otherwise have being out of position.
What kind of advantages?
More information – Being last to act in a betting round means you can see what the other players do before you have to act. They bet, you know they like they’re hand. They check, maybe not so much.
A generalization, sure, but you get the idea.
You don’t get this information playing out of position. You have to act first, and that’s harder not knowing what your opponent might do after you.
Bluffing equity – Playing poker in position gives you bluff equity. In other words, you can bluff (successfully) more often. Because you can see what your opponents do before you act, you can sense weakness. Then pounce on that weakness and pick up some easy pots. You see it all the time. The action checks around to the guy on the button, who bets, and then picks up the pot.
This is equity you don’t have out of position for the same reason(s) I explained above. Out of position you don’t really know how weak your opponent is. And you don’t know what your opponent will do if you bet into them. This can cost you a lot of chips.
Pot control – While you can’t control what chips your (out of position) opponent puts into the pot, you can control whether you call or bet. This means you can check behind your opponent or call his bets to keep the pot small to medium size, or bet / re-raise to build it up. Ultimately you have control over the maximum size of the pot.
Less awkward – This is an accumulation of all the points above. Being in position gives you control. Hands are less awkward to play because you have information, can pick up easy pots, fold in more obvious spots and control how big/small the pot gets.
If you don’t believe me, try playing the same hand, even a hand like AK, both in and out of position. It’s a night and day difference.
How Position Affects Your Holdem Strategy
Your position at the table will (or should) affect your holdem strategy in a number of ways. Here are the adjustments I recommend you make.
- Open fewer hands in early position. Since you’ll be out of position more often, you want to play hands that are easier for you to play post-flop.
- Open more hands in later position. This is where some of that bluff equity comes in. The blinds will fold often enough for your steals to be profitable. Even if they call they’ll be out of position post flop.
- When your opponents open from early position you should be less inclined to play back at them since their hand range will be stronger. Your range of hands should be smaller than the range of hands you’d open from where your opponent is seated. This is also known as the GAP concept. You’ll break this rule from time to time, but that’s when you gain more experience.
The most important thing to take away/think of when it comes to table position and strategy are hand ranges. Because it’s harder to play out of position, opening hand ranges are naturally smaller. In other words, players will stick to stronger hands like pocket pairs, ace-high type hands and broadways. As you move around the table, and there are fewer chances that you’ll play out of position (if called) and there are fewer players to actually call you (increases your chances of getting folds/picking up the pot), the wider your hand range can be. The more hands you can play. If you can take this point away, along with the importance of position in poker, strategies to use will be easier to figure out.