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Poker Strategy II - Position and how it affects your strategy

Position - How does it affect Strategy

When we talk about position at the table, it simply refers to your seat in relation to the dealer or "the button". The dealer or "the button" is at the most advantageous position because he gets to see how all the players at the table react before making their own decision. In the course of a game, every player will be "the button" and every player will be "under the gun"... but it is an understanding of how these positions can change the way people react.  

The person to the left of the dealer is not only the small blind, but must act first after the flop. 

The person to the left of the small blind is the big blind. Note that this player is already obligated to the game and is in another early position.

The person to the left of the big blind acts first before board cards are dealt which is often referred to as "being under the gun". The clockwise motion of play allows those who act later (in late position) to be at an advantage. As a result, many players tend to be looser when in the later positions and play weaker hands,  "gambling hands" ... knowing that if they don't connect of the flop, they can often see a free card on the turn when people check to them. Similarly, players who are in the blind positions and the player under the gun (early positions) must be more selective because they can't react to the other players betting/raising.

Remember that both the Big and Small blind have the option to raise, which if there are only "tight" players can either let you steal the pot or buy a free card if they are nervous about your check/raise tactics. If you think about it - before the flop, big blind actually has the same advantages of being "on the button"

But what if you are thought of as a "tight player" ... what would happen if when you were big blind, you chose to raise on your option ??  Remember, there are two games being played - poker and perception ... you could easily chase out a player who raised on the button thinking you would fold because he incorrectly assumed you were a tight player - worst case, he puts you on a pocket pair and save yourself a raise later.

 

For example: You're first to act. You have ten-Jack, unsuited. The player to bet after you raises, and everyone but you folds ... what do you do? Chances are pretty good that this player has a better hand than you, with at least an ace/king or a pocket pair. Unfortunately, you've already called the bet (the blind bet) because you had no idea or no way to tell what other players at the table had in the pocket. Another consideration is that you will always be acting before this player. 

 

Here is where strategy is important - what you know about the player, is he tight? loose? Trying to mess with your mind? 

The second most important thing to trust is your instincts - the most important thing to trust is odds ... in the long run they will prove out - In this situation you have the small blind, big blind, your bet, your opponents bet and raise or 4.5 betting units - so given the return of 4.5 to 1 it might be worth seeing the flop ... particularly if you are facing a loose player, who is trying to steal the blinds ... but if you are calling a tight player - don't see the turn unless you have made your hand.

Once you see the flop - you can pretty much determine the best hand possible - Knowing what the best possible hand is  (say for a 6,9,10 unsuited flop) - would your opponent have played a 7-8? Would they chase a J-Q? Your 10-J gives you the top pair ... but you need to know more ... what are the odds of your opponent having a high pocket pair?

Obviously, being "under the gun" is the weakest position, and being in the dealers position is the strongest advantage. It not only gives you the benefits of observing how the other players are betting, but it also gives you the ability to adjust the size of the pot. Once the other players have bet, a raise by the player in the dealers position could potentially double the size of the pot (assuming no one folds) and since the players have already committed to one bet, its easier to commit to a second or third bet.