Poker Table Position

Position yourself for Victory

When playing the house-hunting game it has always been about location, location, location. When playing the game of poker, it’s about position, position, position.

texas holdem table positionOf course, position is not as critical as your starting cards in a game like Texas Hold’em, but it easily ranks a close second in determining whether you play your hand or not. Position at the table is such a powerful tool that it would make even an average player with good position on every hand almost unbeatable.

Making successful decisions in poker is based on knowledge. The more you know about the other player, the better. Therefore, when the other player has to make decisions first, you have the advantage. This is the essence of position.

Now, determining position is easy. Using it wisely is a different story.

Your position depends on your location in relation to the dealer button, aka, the point in the betting round when you have to act. In games like stud and draw poker, position can change. It is the community-card games where position is so important, and it can make the difference between soaring to the penthouse, or stumbling into the poor house.

Having control is something the professionals demand, making Hold’em and Omaha — where position remains constant — the most popular games. If you’re first, second, or third, you stay in that position, unless someone folds, of course. When you’re fortunate enough to be on the button (the dealer), you’re in the catbird’s seat, holding the last position and being able to make your move in response to all of the other players.

For once, being last is a good thing. The more players moving before you, the more information you have to break down and analyze their moves. If you are holding a strong hand and you are in the last position, you sit back and wait for another player to bet into you. Once this occurs, slap them with a raise and your profits will shoot straight up.

Being first in society has always seemed to be a reward, or symbol of accomplishment. That’s not the case in poker. The early position, where you can’t play as many hands, is not your friend. Whether you have the nuts (best possible hand), mediocre cards, or the worst hand, first position puts you at a major disadvantage.

Even with strong cards you’re in sort of a no-win situation. A big bet may force others to fold. Playing it cool and sandbagging the hand might result in the other players checking as well, with the end result being a lot of missed bets and a poor payout, relative to the nuts.

clubsThe bottom line? Learn to master each position, playing smart from the early ones and taking advantage of the late ones. Remember, at higher stakes, your opponents will be skilled in the art of position, but if you understand position in a lower stakes game, the ball, and cash, will end up in your court.