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The importance of position in poker

September 24, 2019

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Most poker players pay attention to their seat position relative to the dealer at a poker table. Small blind, big blind, under the gun, middle position, and cut off are likely familiar terms. However, not all are aware of the importance of position relative to your opponent(s) during a hand.

Having position in the round of betting provides several opportunities to exploit opponents. Let’s go through a few of those:

Acting last.

  • You keep your opponents guessing. Everybody else has to make their decision before you, without the knowledge of what you will do. This makes their decision-making less accurate, while you have more information to work with.

Closing the betting.

  • If you face a bet, you’ll usually know if your call will allow you to see another card. When players act after you, there is a chance of a raise.

Pot control.

  • If you are the pre-flop aggressor, your opponents will have to worry about the strength of your hand and be less likely to bet into you. You will have the option to check behind if you decide the flop didn’t suit you.

Free cards.

  • Besides the option to check behind, you will get the option to raise when facing a bet, causing the bettor to call then check to you on the next street. This gives you the opportunity to evaluate again. This is a common tactic in Fixed Limit games where the betting on the turn is double that of the flop.

How do you get into beneficial situations?

  • Generally, don’t enter pots in early position unless you have the cards to back you up. Playing with weak cards ‘up front’ allows observant players behind you to dictate the hand because they get to see what you do first on each round.
  • Limping pre-flop with hands you aren’t going to call raises with is a big mistake. Players in position who notice your tendency to do this will have a distinct advantage, because of their position!
  • Raising in late position with weaker cards can be used to not only drive out the limpers and the blinds, but it encourages opponents to ‘check to the raiser’. Remember, if you’re taking note of your opponents’ tendencies, you should be able to identify who might be trying to check raise you and who will fold more often when they have checked.
  • Don’t try to defend your blinds because you feel committed to them. You’ll throw good chips after bad all too often because you will be first to act on every street.