How to Play Position Poker
Knowing Your Table and Position
Understanding the importance of table position is vital to becoming a profitable poker player. If one could view the chip stacks at a given poker table from above, in the form of a movie, one would notice the chips flowing from early-position seats to late-position seats, over time. This is why community-card games such as Texas hold’em and Omaha have a “Dealer” button that rotates from one seat to the next with every hand: Late-position players have the advantage especially when better hands preflop such as pocket aces.
That advantage comes in several forms. The most obvious and prevalent edge is that late-position players have more information with which to work, based on the decisions (betting or folding), of the players who preceded them. It’s true that in the pre-flop betting, the small and big buttons technically have the final bets, but those bets tend to be the smallest in any hand and these two seats – collectively called the “blinds” – have a much larger disadvantage in the following rounds. So steep is the overall disadvantage that on average the small and big blinds are the two losingest seats by position at any poker table.
Dealing with Position Blind Stealers
Use that knowledge to guard against a common poker leak! Defending the blinds against late-position steals is an often overrated, expensive tactic. It’s perfectly fine to defend aggressively with good cards and/or an overly aggressive late-position blinds-stealer. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to defend your big blind because you’ve already put some chips into the pot. That’s a sunken investment, a cost of doing business (playing the game). Once you’ve posted that blind you need to be able to release it, and think about the total pot and your ongoing position throughout the hand instead.
Position and Your Cards
Another reason that position is important in poker is that not all hands nor all distributions of hands are created equal. Despite the fact that at a ten-player hold’em table, 20 cards are dealt out pre-flop, it doesn’t mean that there have to be any great two-card combinations in play. So while a hand like K-Q offsuit is a very dicey proposition from early position, if it’s folded around to the cutoff or button, that same K-Q stands a very good chance of being the best hand in play and should be bet accordingly. The assumed folding of a lot of those bad hands from early- and middle-position seats means that there’s a slightly better than average chance that the small or big blind (or both) will wake up with a good hand, too.
It’s a bit of a clustering effect that subtly affects how the late-position players and the blinds interact, but more often than not, the late-position player has the best of it in the subsequent rounds, again having the knowledge of how the early-position player has bet.
Consensus: Late Position is a Winner
Poker is game of imperfect information, and therefore information equals value. Late-position players win more often than not simply because they have more information with which to act. Smart players adjust accordingly, playing tighter – if not too predictably – from early position, and looser and more aggressive from those late-position seats. It’s a good rule of thumb.