Knowing your position and how to use it is one of the key elements in successful poker play at all levels of the game, irrespective of whether you play ring games, SnGs or tournaments. It is a feature that many newcomers to poker overlook and suffer accordingly. The novices´ belief that a good pocket pair should demand a high bet into the pot is one which experienced players continue to take advantage of, and until the novice learns about position, they can never begin to appreciate the chess-like strategies that a professional player employs in his game.
The information in this article relates to “full” nine (or ten) handed NL Texas Hold´em, however the principles can be applied equally as well in other versions of the game, and having knowledge of the power of position is a basic tool in all poker players arsenals.
Position at the table is always described in relation to the dealer, or “button”, and the players to your left are considered to always be in a better position than you, because they can respond to the actions that you, and those people to your right, have already taken. Being seated immediately to the left of the dealer in either of the “blinds” or “Under the Gun” is acknowledged to be the weakest position, growing stronger as you revolve around the table until you reach the dealer. This is the reason that the deal is circulated in Hold´em, to allow each player an equal opportunity in each position.
When in one of the early positions, players should only bet on very good hands. Most experts suggest JJ or higher, high suited cards and only the top unsuited cards. Being in mid-position allows you to be a little looser with your hand selection. Depending on your particular style of play, you may attempt to get to the flop as cheaply as possible or raise with a particularly strong hand – or try a bluff to steal the blinds.
The players in late position have the advantage of knowing whether somebody preceding them in the betting is demonstrating that they have a good hand, and they can react accordingly. If in a late position with a middle pair or value picture cards, a player may try to steal the pot (knowing that earlier bets have been small, and possibly indicating that those playing them did not feel that their hands were strong enough to warrant a large bet), or raise sufficiently to keep the other players involved and consequently manipulate the betting in later rounds.
It is important to understand that a having a top pair in late position is far more powerful than having them at the beginning of the betting round, as you are able to orchestrate the pot size and be in control of the table.