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Position in Poker

The Button - Late Position

by Jesse Knight
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Position in Poker
Position -
1. Your place/time to act during a hand of poker.
2. An advantage you have over your opponents based upon a superior place in the betting order.


Your position is basically the order in which you and your opponents must act on your hands, or your position in the betting order. It is a very important concept to understand, because it has a huge impact on the value of your hand. Position is often categorized as early position, middle position, or late position, depending upon where your position in the betting order lies. Generally speaking, the later your position falls in the betting order the better. There is one very simple reason that earlier position is inferior to later position: When you act from early position, the quality of your information about the situation is terrible. This is because the other players have not acted yet, so you are not privy to the information which their actions will provide, and this information is essential to making correct decisions about what to do with your hand It is like trying to understand a book before you have even read the first sentence.

Players who are in late position have the benefit of watching the actions of their opponents before they are required to commit to an action. The later your position, the greater the number of players who will be required to act in front of you. This will provide you with a much clearer picture of the relative value of your hand.

In stud games, the first bettor is determined by the value of the players’ up cards, with the best exposed hand generally going first (except for third street when the worst hand goes first), and action proceeding in a clockwise manner from that player. The best hand can change each time a new up card is delivered, and so can your position. Obviously, you cannot control the value of the up cards you or your opponents receive in a stud game, so position in stud games is to a degree a matter of coincidence. This is not the case in flop games or in draw games. In these types of games, betting order rotates clockwise before the hand is dealt, but remains static throughout the course of the hand. This gives the player a much greater degree of control over the situation than they would have in a stud game, because they know in advance how the quality of their position is likely to affect the value of their hand The bottom line is, while position is an important factor in stud games, it is even more important in flop games and draw games, because its randomness has been eliminated.

Understanding the nuances of position play is crucial, because position play is one of the cornerstones of poker game theory. One of the first things you learn in a poker game is to sit to the left of tough, aggressive players, while keeping the softer, less aggressive players to your right. Obviously, if a player is tough, and hard to deal with, you would like to have them consistently act before you, so that you can see what they are going to do before you have to commit to an action.

Position impacts game play in many, many ways. It dramatically affects betting ploys. It is easier to pull off a check-raise from early position, because there are more players acting after you, so there is a higher probability one of them will bet. Position can have a dramatic effect on pot size. Because of a lack of information in early position, it can be difficult to build a large pot, even with a premium hand. This obviously affects the value of you holdings This only scratches the surface of the nuanced ways in which position affects game play.

When you have an advantage over your opponents because of a superior spot in the betting order, you are said to “have position on” them. This gives you a degree of power during the play of the hand, which the disadvantaged players must respect. When you have position, it allows you to bet and raise more often, expand the range of hands you can play profitably, and bluff more effectively. When you make a play that you are only able to make because of your positional advantage, it is called a “position play.”

In flop games and draw games, different spots in the betting order have different specific nicknames. For example, the position of the first player to act before the flop is called “under the gun.” The position of the last player to act after the flop is called “the the button.” Other places in the betting order include “the cutoff,” “the hijack,” “the big blind,” and “the small blind.” Each position has its own nuanced effect on the play of the hand.

Usage: Had Position, Position Bet, Position Raise, Position Play, First Position, Last Position, Early Position, Middle Position, Late Position

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