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Under the Gun

First Position - First to Act - UTG

by Jesse Knight
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Under the Gun
Under the Gun - The first person to act on a betting round.


In virtually all poker games, there is a strict set of rules governing the betting process. These rules dictate when and how much each player may bet when it is their turn to act on their hand. Typically, the betting order proceeds around the table in a clockwise manner. Your spot in the betting order is referred to as your “position.” It is generally advantageous to be in late position rather than early position in the betting order. This is because a player acting from late position will have the advantage of seeing what his opponents will do on a particular betting round before he gets involved, whereas a player acting from early position will have no such advantage. The advantage you get by acting from late position is significant enough to have a dramatic impact on the value of your hand. This makes position a fundamental consideration when determining whether or not you should play a hand and what your betting strategy should be.

While position is always important, it is more important in flop games and draw games than it is in stud games. This is because in a flop or draw game the order of the betting, and therefore each player’s position, is fixed for the entire hand. These games use a dealer button, which indicates the right to last action after the flop (or draw), and this button is moved one place to the left before the start of each hand. This way each player gets an equal time at each position in the betting order.

Stud games do not use a dealer button and have a less predictable way of determining position. In a stud game, some of a player’s cards are delivered face up, and are therefore exposed to the other players, while some cards are delivered face down. Since there is no dealer button determining who will act first and who will act last, a different system for determining the order of the betting is necessary. In stud games, the player with the highest ranking exposed hand is typically required to act first, unless it is the first betting round (usually called third street), when the lowest ranking exposed card starts the betting. The betting action then proceeds in a clockwise direction from the player who acts first. As the hand continues, and new up cards are delivered, the rankings of the exposed hands can frequently change, which can cause the betting order to change frequently from betting round to betting round. This means that in a stud game, you position can possibly change several times over the course of the hand. This makes your position in a stud game somewhat unpredictable, and a less valuable strategic tool than it is in flop or draw games.

Because position is so important in game which use a dealer button, descriptive names are often used which specify the exact position a player is in. A player may be “on the button,” which means they act last after the flop (or draw), “in the big blind,” which means they act last before the flop (or draw), and so on. Other positional nicknames include “under the gun,” “the hijack,” and “the cutoff.” The player who is under the gun is seated directly to the left of the big blind, and is the first player to act on the first betting round (before the flop). On betting rounds which occur after the flop, the players in the blinds act first, and the under the gun player immediately follows. This means that besides being in the blinds, under the gun is the earliest, and therefore the worst position that you can have.

Since the under the gun player is at a positional disadvantage, you may be able to draw some conclusions about the way this player chooses to play their hand. For example, if a player chooses to open the betting with a raise from this position, in spite of their positional disadvantage, it may indicate that they have a very strong starting hand. Before you can make reads like this, you must have some insight into that player’s level of sophistication. Many beginning players do not have a very good grasp of the importance of position and how it affects game play. It can be difficult to get a read on these players, because the things that they do often do not make sense from a strategic perspective. Although it may seem paradoxical, it is often easier to get a read on a good player than it is to get a read on a bad one. This is because the scope of correct play can be narrow, and a good player will usually make the correct play. Studying your opponents’ tendencies, capabilities, and level of sophistication is essential if you are to make correct reads.

Usage: Under The Gun Raise, Aces Under The Gun, Under The Gun Player Mucked

Previous Poker Term: Turn
Next Poker Term: Underdog

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