You’ve assessed your starting hand and thought about how you’ll enter the pot - but have you considered how your poker table position will affect your play?
Where you sit around the felt will have a huge impact on your game. Essentially, the best place to sit is as far from the pre-flop action as possible, sitting in to the dealer’s right or acting as the dealer yourself, because this gives you enough time to analyse previous hands and create a strategy. However, this isn’t always possible as the positions rotate clockwise throughout the course of a game, and sometimes you might find yourself as the big or small blind, sitting under the gun or somewhere in between.
Whether you’re in early, middle or late position either online or in a cardroom, here’s a guide as to what to do.
If you’re the big or small blind or under the gun, this doesn’t mean that your game is completely hopeless; you’ll just need to be very shrewd about which hands you play and those you don’t. If you’re in the blinds, you’ll be forced to place a bet, and you’ll have several players who have position over you, which isn’t ideal. In pre-flop, be careful and only raise if you have a very strong hand that you think will beat those of the players around you. Post-flop, you’ll want to play tight and not shy away from folding as you’re not in prime position. There’s also nothing wrong with limping in a hand if you think no one else will raise and you just want to see the action. However, if someone opens the pot after you, you should fold.
Sitting to the left of the big blind (“under the gun”) is often considered to be one of the worst places to sit at the poker table. You’ll be the first player to act pre-flop, which means that you don’t have the time you need to analyse the actions of others at the table and your starting hand strategy will be affected. The best course of action is to play tight pre-flop, but to reconsider your position against the blinds post-flop and fold where necessary. You may consider opening the pot, but only if you have a very strong hand and raising wouldn’t overcommit your stack.
If you’re in middle position, you’ll still want to be careful about playing as many high-value hands as possible, but you can afford to be a bit more open than if you were stuck in early position. Be ready to start the raising in an attempt to increase possible winnings and bluff other players, but don’t be afraid to call if you’re only holding a mediocre hand and no one’s opened. If you are playing at a large table where there are several middle positions, you may find yourself in the “hijack” seat, which offers more of an advantage and could see you play a bit more loosely.
Keep an eye on the player before you - whether they fold, check or raise, and how long it takes them to complete an action. If they’re under the gun, the way they behave will help you decided how to bet (if at all). Play against them and exploit their patterns of behaviour to your advantage. For example, if they limp along before the flop, you should raise and force them to either fold or meet your bet when it comes back to them.
Sitting in the cut-off (the seat to the right of the dealer) or on the button doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win the hand. While you have the benefit of seeing the action of all the other players before you while they have no idea what you will do next, you still need to observe your opponents and how they behave before deciding on how you will act.
Play more hands and bet more than you would if you were in early or middle position, especially if you notice that most of the table is limping in pre-flop, as this will set the tone for the round of play. You want to be aggressive to a reasonable degree, forcing opponents to churn through their stack (and possibly fold) as you raise.
When you’re playing poker online, you’re not necessarily doomed by your table position. If you’re not happy with where you’re sitting and think that the game won’t go well for you, you can always leave that table and move to a different one.
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