Poker Positions. Poker Strategy in Different Positions

Humans hate being last. In sports, in school, and in the workplace, we’ve been culturally conditioned to think of last as synonymous with worst. But in poker, we should love being last — because having the power to act last in a hand puts you in the most powerful position at the table.

Poker is a game of incomplete information. How many times have you heard that, right? It’s a cliche, but it’s important, and especially in terms of poker positions — if we act last in a hand, we see the most of any player at the table. And that’s powerful.

Being in late poker position makes our information more complete than our opponents’ information. Therefore we can make better decisions than our opponents 100% of the time when we’ve got position.

Let’s pretend we’re sitting at a 6-max No-Limit Holdem table, and take a deeper look at how we should play in the four different poker positions — the blinds, early position (EP), middle position (MP), and late position (LP).

The Blinds: Let’s Get Nitty!

The blinds are pretty bad, as far as poker positions at the table go. We’ll be last to act preflop, but first to act postflop. So we’ve got the absolute worst position for 3 streets of the game.

That means we want to play pretty tight. It also means that when we do have a hand, we want to play aggressively preflop, since we won’t have that option postflop.

From the blinds, we’ll want to play these hands, provided there isn’t too much aggression ahead of us:

• Pocket pairs (raise 88+, set mine with 22-77)

• Suited broadways

• Offsuit broadways, excluding QJo.

• Maybe some big suited connectors, if everyone folds around to us.

Early Position: Still Nitty

We’re in early poker position when we’re first to act preflop — this seat is also known as ‘under the gun’ (UTG). When in early position, we want to be at our absolute tightest, because we’re at the worst position at the table.

Having to act first in the hand puts us at a significant disadvantage to the rest of the field. We have no idea where our opponents stand when we’ve got to act, so we’re relying entirely on the face value of our hand to play.

Bluffing doesn’t really work from early poker position (at least not when we’re just learning to play!) so we’ll want to limit our hands to those with showdown value. We’ll want to play:

• Pocket pairs 66+ (play 22-55 if you want; low PPs are personal preference, really)

• Suited broadways

• Offsuit broadways

• T9s, JTs.

Middle Position: Play It Cool

We’re in middle position when we act after under the gun and before the cutoff. Middle position is a significant improvement from being in the blinds or early position. We’ll want to open up our preflop range a bit from here.

When early position folds behind us, we can raise the following hands:

• All pocket pairs

• A8s+

• ATo+

• All other suited broadways

• Suited connectors 87s+

• J9s, QTs.

Add in lower suited connectors and two-gappers depending on the game you’re playing. The more likely the players behind you are to fold — i.e. the tighter the game you’re playing is — the more marginal hands you can play.

Late Position: Yee-Haw!

In late poker position — defined as either the cutoff (right of the button) or the button seat — is where we get to have some fun. We can really loosen up our range here, especially when the action ahead of us has been slow.

Imagine you’re seated on the button with any two cards, and everyone at the table folds to you. In this situation, you’ve only got two players left to contend with. So you can feel pretty comfortable raising with almost anything, especially if the players in the blinds are tight.

In either the cutoff seat or on the button, you’ll want to play a lot of cards. Your range should look something like:

• All pocket pairs

• All suited aces

• All suited kings

• Some suited queens (game dependent)

• All other suited broadways

• All other offsuit broadways

• All suited connectors 43s+

• All suited gappers 53s+

• Add other hands if your game plays especially tight

You can raise with such a large number of hands for a couple of reasons. First, if everyone’s already folded to you, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll take down the blinds right there. And second, if you do get a call, you’ll control the action postflop; which will make up for the value disadvantage you’ll have with whatever marginal hands you get in with.

Great poker rooms to practice your skills: Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars.

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