One of the strategic issues that many beginner poker players don’t realize, and this was an issue that took me a long time to understand, so don’t be embarrassed if you are among that group, is what exactly table position is and how important it should be in how you play. Most decent poker players have at least an inkling of what you’re talking about when you discuss table position, and their instincts may have them play well on the table based on position concepts, but knowing and understanding clearly what table position impact is crucial to making the next level as a poker player.
Position is where you are in relation to the dealer in a poker game. If you are to the left of the dealer, you are in weak position. If you are to the right of the dealer, you are in strong position. This is because a player has position to the players on his right as he gets to act after them. This means that the dealer button is the strongest position on the table, because that person is always the last to bet and can see how everyone else acts first. The players to the left of you, have position on you because they act after you. This is why the dealer button is critical, since that’s where all position is based off of on any given hand.
What many players don’t realize is that even ‘strong’ starting hands have varying value. If you have 8-8 or A-J off suit on the button and no one, or only one, player called, then you have a strong hand. If you are the first to act (often called ‘under the gun’) you don’t know what everyone else has or how aggressively they are going to play it. This makes these hands somewhat nominal early, while from late position they are much stronger.
Understanding how early position makes strong hands weaker, and late position makes marginal hands stronger, can even give you tells on how to play your opponents on any given table. If a player who looks conservative suddenly raises under the gun, he must have an extremely strong hand, and unless you have an absolute dominant hand, you should fold and get out. In addition, many players while raise to steal blinds every single time they are in position. If you notice this pattern, it is often worth calling, checking, then re-raising any small bet to see if you can trap them.
In summary, there are three main points to remember as generalizations about poker position:
- By having late position you have a much better idea of how much it will probably cost you to keep playing in this pot.
- The later your postion, the more chances you have to play a marginal hand and catch something.
- Late position helps you read other players and get extra profit from when your hand hits.
Keep these three things in mind and you’ll know all you need to play position well.