Posted by Charles, March 25, 2013
Position in poker, whether the game is played in a casino cardroom or at the online cash tables, is something you absolutely must know about.
What Is Position?
Position in poker refers to the placement of an individual's seat in reference to the dealer button. As the dealer button - and the blinds, by extension - makes its way around the table, a player's position will shift from strong to weak and back again as the button nears and eventually passes them. Strong position, also referred to as late position, is defined as those times when a player is furthest away from the button, meaning they do not have to act until all other players have acted. Weak position refers to players just outside of the blinds (i.e. the first to act).
How to Play Late Position
Now that you know what position is, it's important to understand why strong position gives players the upper hand. First and foremost, strong position will give you information about the strength of your opponents' hands. This information affords you a number of options when deciding how to play your hand. If no one came in for a raise, for example, you can assume there are a number of moderate to weak hands at the table, which could allow you to steal the blinds with a well-placed bluff or strong bet. Conversely, if one player bet twice the pot only to see a re-raise and a call, it may be best to muck your mid-strength hand without committing any chips.
Late position is also often the best opportunity to bluff, as the only players you have no intel on are the blinds, so you can be fairly certain of what kinds off hands you are going up against in the hand. It's important to note that you should always factor in the play style of your opponents before attempting a bluff, even in position. If you're up against people who like to slow play big hands, then coming over the top holding a 10-6 offsuit will do little but shift your chips across the table.
Similarly, don't play strong position every time. If players recognize this pattern, the jig will be up, and your bluff attempts will fall flat. As such, pick your spots and use position play to swipe blinds from time to time.
Making It through Middle Position
Playing from middle positions (as you will for most of the game) can be a bit trickier, as there are players behind you who have yet to act when it comes time to commit chips to the pot. Though not as bad as players with early (weak) position, players in the middle are subject to what's called "squeeze" play. In these situations, you may have a mid-to-strong hand (a weak Ace, Queen Jack, a middling pocket pair, etc.) and be enticed to call a bet from early position, but afraid of a raise from a player further down the table. These plays can be tricky and can lead to some scary decisions, but it is an inescapable part of poker and one you'll have to deal with inevitably at some point in your poker playing experience.
Eking out Early Position
Early (weak) position is an unenviable place to be at the poker table. In addition to being forced to act without any information on your opponent's strength, early position prevents you from knowing the full size of the pot - a factor that may have affected your decision-making process if you had known it going into this round of betting. The position, which is also known as being "under the gun," will challenge your nerves to be sure, but it is far from a hopeless situation.
Remember to play your opponents as well as your cards, as leading out with a big enough bet to steal the blinds will be a necessity during poker tournaments. At the same time, if you have a strong hand, early position allows you a unique opportunity to trap your opponents by smooth calling or making a value bet.
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