Position in Hold'em Poker


Continued from: The Object of the Game in NLHE

When we talk about position in poker we are referring to a players' position relative to the dealer button. The dealer has the strongest position in No Limit Hold'em because he is last to act in all betting rounds. It would be difficult to over-emphasize the importance of position. If you don't grasp this concept it will be very difficult for you to succeed in NLHE in the long term.

Position in Hold'em

The fewer players at a table, the more advantageous it is to be in late position. Let's go into some reasons as to why it is best to be in later position.

  • 1) You will know what strength has been shown by the players acting before you, allowing you to better gauge the relative strength of your own hand.
  • 2) There are fewer players to act after you, making it less likely that you will be facing a raise that could put you to a difficult decision.
  • 3) You will have better position on the players who are in the hand in all the later betting rounds as the hand is played out.

The list goes on and on. The bottom line is this: "Being in late position will allow you to save money on the hands you don't win and gain extra profit on the ones you do." Therefore, late position makes it possible to play a larger range of hands for long term profit than you could play in earlier position. I'm going to use some examples to more clearly define this concept.

Let's say you're UTG ("Under the Gun"), first to act after the BB ("Big Blind"), and you decide to just call the blind (limp in) with a mediocre hand like KQ. The player to act after you raises three times the blind and the next player re-raises. Now what? You muck your hand and lose your BB call. Let's say you stubbornly call the raise and re-raise; now the flop come 8d 10h 2s; now you're first to act. It seems unlikely that this flop helped anyone, but you don't know that it didn't. Even if it didn't you're probably still behind an Ace high hand. Maybe someone just made three 10's. What are you going to do? You're going to check, and your late position opponent is going to bet, and you're going to fold. You see, the player in later position doesn't need to make his hand to win; he just needs you to not make yours. And in all probability, you're not going to.

Remember, most of the time the flop will not pair any of your hole cards. You're almost even money to pair one of your hole cards by the last card, also called Fifth Street or the River. That's why it's better to play made hands like a pocket pair (PP) of Jacks or better in early position. Had you been in late position you would have thrown away your KQ after a raise and a re-raise, and you would not have lost your initial investment.

Another example: you are in late position with KQ; everyone has folded to you so you raise. Now if the blinds fold you have won the pot uncontested. Let's assume as an example that one of them decides to call your bet because he thinks you may be betting just to "steal the blinds". You really don't mind his call because you are likely to be ahead in the hand. And even if you aren't, the flop will probably not improve his hand, forcing him to check to you; you can bet and he will fold. Now he wishes he'd have just let you take his blind and not called your raise to (defend his blind). Notice that KQ is a marginal hand (at best) in early position, but becomes a profitable "raising hand" in late position.

♣ Continued at: Position & The Gap Concept

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