The Power of Position

Position is power at the poker tables as it dictates when you will act in a hand, and more importantly, who acts first. The Tip Top Fox examines the importance of position

A player’s proximity to the button affects what hands they can profitably play. It can be tough to play against a skilled opponent when out of position (OOP).

For example, in a $1/$2 cash game you are in middle position with K Q and raise to $7. The Button, a loose-aggressive player who likes to play post-flop, makes the call and the flop comes down 10 7♣ 6♠.

While K Q may have been the best hand pre-flop, it can be tricky to play post-flop if you miss, which will statistically happen two times in three.

Whilst you can continuation bet most flops that come down with Broadway cards, bet your flush draw if the flop comes down with two hearts, or even represent the ace on an ace-high flop, what do you do if you totally miss? 

Many decent and tricky opponents are willing to call a continuation bet on a flop like this with nothing (this is called floating) with the intention of taking the pot away on the turn. This is where position becomes a powerful tool.

Generally, this means you should tighten up your opening range when OOP and aim to play strong starting hands. Conversely, this means loosening up your range the closer you get to the button and trying to steal pots on raggedy uncoordinated flops you think have missed your opponent entirely. 

Blinds and Early Position

The seat directly to the left of the button is the small blind; directly to the left of this is the big blind. The seat to their immediate left is known as under-the-gun (UTG) and together these three seats are referred to as ‘early position’ (EP).

Because you have to act without any information on what players behind you will do, it’s a good idea to only play premium starting hands. A good rule of thumb is to only open with A-Q suited+ and pocket pairs J-J or better. While this is quite a tight opening range, it is also one that is tough to exploit. 

Middle Position

These are the three seats to the left of UTG and while you get to see what opponents in early position do, there are still quite a few players behind you who have yet to act. In general, you can play a little looser than in early position, but still need to be cautious. You can widen your range to include Q-J suited+, K-Q offsuit+ and pocket pairs 9-9 or better.

Late Position

Defined as the dealer button and the two seats just to the right, known as the cut-off and hi-jack respectively. Being in late position is a tremendous advantage because you’ve seen how the majority of the table has acted before having to make your decision. Additionally, if no one has opened the betting, players in late position may win the pot simply by raising or ‘stealing’ – this is called ‘playing position.’

Many players are aware that someone raising in late position does not necessarily have a good hand and may call or re-raise a late position raise thinking it’s a bluff. However, it works often enough that it’s worth trying once in a while. Suited gap connectors 6-8+, suited connectors 7-8+, K-Q offsuit+, and pocket 6-6 or better can now be added to your opening raising range. When sitting on the button you can add suited gap connectors 4-6+, suited connectors 4-5+, Broadway cards J-T offsuit+, A-2 suited+, and all pocket pairs to your repertoire.

In Conclusion:

Play bad cards in poor position and you will lose money, but if you play the right cards in the correct spots and play your position aggressively and intelligently, success should follow. 

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