Poker Table Position
Position is a factor that is greatly underestimated by many beginner poker players. Your poker table position can be the difference between winning or losing a hand and can have a big influence on how much you win during your poker sessions.
Before playing a hand in Texas Hold'em you should always be aware of your table position relative to the button.
- The seats nearest to the left of the button are called early position or EP for short.
- The seats nearest to the right of the button are called late position or LP for short.
- The seats in between these will be called middle position or MP.
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Poker table position diagram.
- The seats in Red are early position
- The seats in Blue are middle position
- The seats in Green are late position
The red seats are less favourable than any other seats at the table because on any given round in the current hand, you are likely to be one of the first to act. This means that in early position you should be more selective about the hands you play, because you will have less information on your opponents at each stage of the hand because you are first to act. So you will need to be playing your cards and not the man when in EP.
The blue seats have positional advantage over the red, but the seats in green have position over them. This means you can afford to play a few more hands in these positions as you do not have as many people left to act behind you. However, if all of the players in the red seats folded, that will mean that you will be the first to act on each round. So bear that in mind when deciding whether or not to play your hand.
The green seats will prove to be one of the best seats in this particular hand. There is a high chance that you will be last to, or one of the last to act on each round. This is where you can loosen up your starting hands even further but not so much as to hinder your game. Just remember, just because you have position, does not mean that you should play poor starting hands.
The yellow seat is the best seat in the hand, because on every round except for before the flop, you will be last to act no matter what. This is why you should look to play as many hands as possible (within reason) from the button, as you have a big advantage in the hand when you are last to act.
How to use table position in poker.
If you have position over another player, it means that you are acting after them on each round.
This means you can use the information they give you by the way they check or the amount they bet to inform your decision on what to do. For example; if you have position over your opponent and he checks, this could be a sign of weakness. So you could use this information to bet out and take the pot because they have shown weakness.
Poker table position example.
Lets say there are a number of players in the pot, and you hold a mediocre hand like middle pair on the flop.
If there is a lot of betting and raising before the action gets to you, you can be sure that you hand is not as strong as you hoped and so you can fold it comfortably without losing any chips.
On the other hand, if you were in early position you may have made a bet with a hand that you thought was good, only to find that there are much stronger hands out there that will re-raise you and force you to fold. Therefore you will have lost chips due to this lack of information on your opponents from playing in early position.
The later you act in a hand, the more information you will have available to you about your opponents.
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The cut off.
The 'cut-off' is the position just before the button. This would be the second best place to be in a hold'em game because if the button decides not to play, then you will be the last to act on each hand. The button and cut-off are very useful positions for stealing the blinds as there are less players to act behind you, which makes it less likely that they are holding a good enough hand to call a raise with.
In general, you want to play more hands in position than you do out of position.
This doesn't mean that you force yourself to play any old hand when you have good position, and fold awesome ones in bad position just to try and strike the right balance. Instead, it simply means that you should be more inclined to play slightly weaker hands than normal IP, and more inclined to fold slightly stronger hands OOP.
Take KJo for example:
- In early position I would be reluctant to play KJo. It's on the low end of the "good hands", and the fact that I have poor position makes it an unattractive situation. The hand isn't strong enough to counteract my positional disadvantage.
- In late position I would raise this hand almost every time if there were no raisers before me. I may also call raises with this hand if I have position on the raiser. I have an advantageous position combined with a decent starting hand, so the situation is good for me.
As a beginner player it's tricky to get to grips with the hands that are okay to play in LP, but are not good to play in EP. How are you supposed to learn the subtleties of which starting hands to play in which positions?
Trust me, you will pick it up as you go along. It will take time, but the more experience you get under your belt the more you'll start to understand it. If you're completely new to the game however, there's no harm in sticking with the premium hands and entering pots with them irrespective of position – that's okay. Just be prepared to broaden your starting hand requirements based on position as you improve.
Positional awareness graph.
Following on from my last point about playing more hands in position, here's a graph that shows a winning player's VPIP based on their position in 6max cash games.
- Position abbreviations explained (UTG, MP, BTN etc.)
The graph above shows the seats acting from first to last during the preflop betting round. So…
- UTG - This is the seat to the left of the big blind. This is the first player to act preflop.
- MP - This term can to varying positions between early position and late position. In this example it is the seat to the left of the UTG position.
- CO - The seat just before the button. This is the second best position in the game.
- BTN - The best seat at the table. This player acts last on every postflop betting round.
VPIP indicates the percentage of the time a player either raises or calls preflop. So essentially this chart shows the percentage of the time they "play a hand" from each position.
Notice how this player is playing a lot more hands in late position than they are in early position. They do not play the same set of hands from all positions. They're not forcing these statistics either – they're just wisely taking in to account their table position and then selecting which starting hands to play with.
If you asked any winning cash game player to show you their VPIP by position, their stats and graphs would follow a similar trend to the one above.
You can find out your own VPIP stats (and also those of your opponents) by using the popular Poker Tracker 3 software.
Poker table position evaluation.
Table position is easily one of the most underestimated factors in playing a hand by many amateur poker players. Position is so important that often hands can be won or lost based on your position alone, irrespective of the strength of the cards that you and your opponent hold.
The sooner you start paying attention to your position, the sooner you will start making more money.
A useful article to read from here is starting hand selection, as it highlights how you should stick to playing only the strongest hands from early position due to the big disadvantage of having to act first on betting rounds. After that, you may want to think about more advanced position strategy with the article on relative position in Texas Hold'em. However, I would recommend that you get the importance of basic position nailed down before any further reading!
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