Position is one of the first concepts explained in poker books to beginners and not knowing how it affects your decision making is a common mistake made by rookies. You must learn to identify the different positions, what actions can you take or not, and how to use to your advantage.
Table position explained
Position is the concept of where you are in relation to the button. The button is a small disc that moves clock-wise around the table that determines who´s turn it is for the big blind and small blind. There are three main areas of position:
- Early position
- Middle position
- Late position
Early Position (EP)
The early position players are the ones immediately to the left of the big blind, usually the first three. The first of them is also known as the UGT which is short for “Under The Gun”. The name implies he or she is the first one to make a betting decision and forced to start the action.
Generally, being the UGT is a disadvantage. Being the first to act means your opponents can react to your decision and develop a betting plan to disrupt your call. To bet you either need strong starting hands or follow special plays for UGT like the straddle, the UTG starting range, and some special considerations when other players raise you.
Middle Position (MP)
Starting from the 4th player are the middle position players. Being an MP does not offer too many advantages and quite a few issues. Middle players have the advantage of seeing what the EP players do, but you still have players in late position waiting to see what most of the table will do. There is also the issue of the “squeeze play”.
The squeeze is being trapped by both EP and LP decisions. Making a decision is tuff when you are trying to call an early player while having the real threat of being raised by a later one. Maybe your goal is to slow down the action with a marginal hand, or want to test the hand from a player in late position, but by doing so you might end up committing more chips than you wanted.
Late Position (LP)
The last players to act are the Late Position players or LP. These are the last two players in the round. The second to last person to act is the Cut-off or (CO). And last person to act is known as “The Button” because the disc is right in front.
This is the most advantageous position in poker as you are often in a situation when the hand has been checked around to you (no bets) and have the opportunity to make a “steal”. A steal is a bluff one of the player’s makes that forces all previous players who checked to fold. The pot won is small, but an easy win.
Performing the steal on an early or middle position is very difficult because it is known the strengths of the following players. Random betting is a sure way to loosing. But being dead last and after seeing all of the previous players check, that is an indication there is no strength in most of the hands and it is much safer to bluff.
The semi-bluff is also a tactic those in LP can take advantage from. This consists of raising a player who bet early or in mid position when you have a nice prospect of cards, like a straight or flush. The semi-bluff works on two situations:
- After raising, the opponent will fold and you take the pot without actually having a strong hand. Big win as you increased your chip stack by a little and slowed the plays of others.
- If your opponent calls to your raise you just slowed his plans to take the lead on this hand. Your next action should be another semi-bluff and raise on the flop unless you actually perceives he or she has a valuable hand and you not so much, if the later just check. When the “semi-bluff” ends with a check on the turn, it is called the “free card” play as it allows you to see the river cards for “free”, or actually by making a small bet and getting rid of several opponents who pretended to fish.
Position Strategy in Poker
The most important thing to know is how position affects your chances. Now you know that the closer you are to the big blind the harder it is to make a bet, and that last position has a huge advantage and can actually consider bluffing or a semi-bluff to clean the table from some opponents or take the pot if all quit.
As a general rule of thumb early position requires strong hands to make a bet, while late position allows you play drawing hands.
Master position in poker to increase your game, but always remember basic tips to avoid losing money in other casino games.