In this edition of the Color Up Poker Blog we’ll go over position and its importance in the game of Texas hold'em poker.
The word position in poker means your current seat relative to the blinds. For example, when you are the seat right before the small blind, your position is called the button. Your position will change with every hand dealt and so must your strategy.
First, let's discuss the different positions and what they are called. For simplicity let's assume we are at a ten-handed full table.
First we have early position. This will be when we are 1st through 3rd to act. It will also be referred to as Small Blind, Big Blind and UTG (Under the Gun). Next we have middle position, which is when we are 4th through 6th to act. Perhaps the best position to be in will be late position. This is when we are 7th through 10th to act. The second-to-last position is also referred to as the cutoff, and the last to act is the button, or the position right before the blinds. The button is the dealer – “the button” is for the dealer button in a home game, although of course in a casino or online game someone else does the dealing for you.
I will explain each position in order, but revisit blinds last as we face unique challenges in those positions. Blinds are technically considered early position, but pre-flop they are last to act because they’ve been forced to bet by the blind. In all future betting they are early position.
When in early position we will need a very strong hand to open with. The reasoning is that we will have 8 other players left to act behind us. This means that there are 8 chances that someone will reraise us, therefore our hand needs to be stronger than any other spot while playing.
A decent range of hands to be opening in early position would be AQ-AK and 99-AA. This range is not set in stone but it is a good place to begin if you are just learning the game. After you practice and you develop your skills, you can begin to open with a wider range.
An important note to point out is that since we know you will need a strong hand to open from early position, we can assume that when someone opens from this spot they are more likely to have a stronger hand then normal and should adjust our play accordingly.
When playing from middle position we can start to open up our range a bit. If it is folded to us then I would recommend an opening range of any pair, and suited Broadway cards and AJo-AKo. In tighter games we can open a bit more with hands such as 9Ts. And when the game is a bit looser with a lot of raising and 3 betting going on, I would tighten up some.
If we are facing a bet when in middle position we will need a slightly stronger hand to call than someone who is first to act. Since we can assume that an early position open will be a strong hand, in theory we will need a stronger hand than normal to call. You can use a rough guideline of AJs+ and TT+.
Late position will be your most profitable. When acting in early or middle position we are most likely going to have to play the hand out of position which means we will be first to act and have a tougher time making decisions.
In late position we will almost always be in position and acting last on every hand we hand we play from these spots. Therefore our hands are easier to play since we will have more information due to the fact that our opponents will either check or bet, representing some sort of strength or weakness.
Also, we can steal the blinds liberally when it is folded to us. In some cases I will raise any two cards if the blinds are on the tighter side. This shows us an immediate profit by winning the blinds uncontested. On the flip side, if the blinds are loose and 3 betting a lot, we will need to tighten up some and play accordingly.
Late position will be your most profitable, and with that being said the last person in the late position will have the most advantage and will be the absolute most profitable. The button, or dealer, is the last person in late position.
All the advantages that apply to the other seats in late position get trumped by the button/dealer. You can afford to play far more hands when you are playing on the button because you get to act last on every round after the flop. Hands down the best position at any poker table is the button/dealer.
This is the absolute worst spot to play a hand. We will almost always be out of position and will need a very strong hand to continue when facing a raise. I will mention that since we steal from early position as much as possible if we’re in late position, it is safe to assume our opponents will be doing the same to us when we’re small or big blind. Therefore, we can sometimes 3 bet as a bluff to resteal and pick up the dead money when our opponents are bluffing. This is a bit complex and will take some learning but is a must to learn when moving up in limits.
To learn more about Texas hold'em position and other poker terms pick up the Hold'em 101 deck of poker flash cards. And to read more blog posts that tackle the topic of position click on the Position tag.