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Table Position Strategy
When talking about table position, we are talking about where you are in relation to the dealer button as of course the dealer button moves round one seat every hand and hence your 'position' also moves. Table position should change the way you view your starting hands and a good grasp of how each position should affect your play is vital if you wish to become a good all round player. Below we explore some strategies that you will need to learn in order to become a good position player - arguably the most important strategy in poker:
1) The position terminology - the terms we will use will be 'early', 'mid' and 'late' which denote your position relative to the dealer button. Obviously the positions depend on the number of players at the table but assuming it is 6 or more, 'early' position is generally considered the 2 blind bets (and possibly the one to the left of them at a 9/10 handed table), 'mid' is the next 2-4 players and 'late' are the final 1 or 2 players with the final player said to be 'on the button'. If you are on the button, after the flop you are always the last player to act and have the most information about the other players so this is the premium seat to be in.
2) Early position advice - in early position, you have the disadvantage in each betting round post-flop of acting before anyone else. As a result, this is a risky place to make any sort of bluff from and unless you are holding a premium hand, it is often best to check and wait and see what the other players choose to do. This is not always true of course - at a table of good players who also appear to understand position strategy, a bluff from early position may seem so 'unbelievable' to them that they will mistake your bluff for you holding strong cards since they will believe that that is all you can have to explain your betting. This move should be used with caution though and is not usually advised.
3) Mid position advice - in mid position, you have a chance to see how the early players have acted but you often still have a number of late and other mid positioned players to act after you so there is still uncertainty. It is definitely possible to make a move from here as you already have information about the early position players and the risk is somewhat lower that someone acting from late position has you beaten. Mid position is one of the hardest positions to play from given that the tempation to bluff is there but there is still a degree of uncertainty to consider. Timing is key in mid position which is something you can only pick up with experience and by making good reads on your opponents.
4) Late position advice - in late position, you have the most information possible about the other players and so it is arguably the easiest position from which to play. From late position, you can bluff much more easily if you have judged from the action before you that the players in early and mid positions have weak hands. You should try and make the most of all your hands when in a late seat and consider playing less than premium hands here more than usual because you know that after the flop you have position on the other players. You will always see people making moves from the button for this very reason although if you are not careful with your bluffs from here, people will see through your 'position raises' and call you. Again, timing is key but it is never easier to make moves than when in late position.
5) Short-handed games - position in a short-handed game is less important than at a full table of 8 or more players. If you only have perhaps 4 other opponents, you are in a safer position to act because there are always 4 or less players to act after you and statistically, that makes the odds of you coming up against a better hand lower. Changing the way you play your game with only a few players is important in a tournament situation, so short-handed cash games are a good way to practice this and see how your table position affects how you and others play various types of hand. Most poker rooms offer 6-handed cash games and some offer short-handed tournaments which are worth trying to improve your short-handed play. One such poker room is Victor Chandler Poker which we highly recommend as a place to try out your position strategies for real or play money.
6) Reading your opponents' preferences - a dangerous player at any table is someone who is prepared to make moves from early and mid positions which, if not you, often makes limping in or raising a good hand out of position difficult. As you wait for the button and blinds to come round, it can get frustrating to fold middling hands and see flops that could have produced a winner for you pass you by. To help combat this, it is important to remember how each of your opponents reacts to various situations right from the first few hands of a game so that you know, based on the position of the button how safe making a move in middle position is likely to be. For example, if there is a player a few seats to your left who will raise in late position often, if you are dealt a limpable hand while in mid position and he is seated in an early seat, you can already see what he has chosen to do allowing you to consider limping with cards you would perhaps normally fold if he were to act after you. A good read of betting habits can allow to cheaply see more flops and give you a greater chance of either stealing small pots or hit on hands where you would normally be spectating. This tactic has flaws in that you do not only ever have just one other person to worry about and limping in whenever the danger players are before you will probably lose you money in the long run if used badly but nevertheless, this is worthwhile additional play you should have.
7) Choosing your seat - when entering a cash game with more than one empty seat, take note of the players chip stacks and try not to sit directly to the left of the biggest stacks where possible! Sitting to the right of a big stack is a bad idea because any hand you try to limp has a higher chance of being raised by a big stack possibly resulting in you wasting a bet if you have to fold when the action gets back round to you. Keeping the big stacks away from you is the best plan but sitting to their left is probably the best idea as you get to see how they will act before the action reaches you.
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