New poker players tend to focus on hands, and it’s really easy to understand why: those are things you can control immediately. However, it’s important that you take the time to understand position as well. These two things, in combination, will make up 80% of your decisions before the flop and the understanding of them will make later decisions easier in the game. We’re going to take a look at the various betting positions in a typical hand of poker and talk about how you should look at them.
As you look down at a poker table, imagine that the button is in the 6 o’clock position. The two spots to the left of it – the small blind and the big blind, along with the hand immediately to the big blind’s left – are considered to be in early position. When you’re playing from this position, you want to make sure that your cards are very strong indeed because you’re giving information away to the other players and you won’t know what their relative strength is like until they bet after you. From early position, I personally play very tight. Even something like KJ (offsuit) is getting tossed back. Very high pairs, suited connectors ranging from tens through aces, and that’s about it.
The three (or sometimes four) seats stretching from early position and the final three spots at the table comprise “middle position” in poker games. While you’ve got a bit more freedom from these spots – I would totally play KJ (offsuit) here if the betting before me was a bit soft – you still need to remember that the later positions are going to be able to make a read on you and adjust their play. I’d call and make moderate raises from this position with playable hands unless I held something close to the nuts.
The two or three spots before the button are where poker begins to really get interesting. When you’re seated in late position, there’s a very high chance that you’ll be among the last to act on each round. Loosen up your starting hand selection from this position and begin to play more aggressively. However, don’t get too cocky just because you’ve seen what others have played – you’ll still need cards that can make a good hand.
It’s been described as the best seat in the house and players that are on the button with playable hands need to make the most of it. You’re the last to act on every betting round except for the one before the flop, which means you’ve got the advantage on your opposition.
Take the time to learn how to use table position properly. It’s the one of the most important things you can do to quickly move your game from casual player to someone who consistently shows a profit at the tables.