Why the cards matter least – Poker Strategy Part 3

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy

Submitted by McTap, this article is a part of the Poker Strategy series.

In this article I will discuss your seat position at the table. If you have not read the previous articles in this series, check out Part 1 and Part 2 at your convenience.

Position of a player at the table depends on the position of the dealer button. This then leads to the fact that your position at the table is key since, in my opinion, the later you are to act, or closer to the dealer button you are, the more information is available to you, which should have a big effect on your poker strategy and how to play your hand.

Early Position

If you are one of the first few players to act pre-flop and after the blinds, then hand selection is key as there are many players left to act after you who could call or raise your bet with a better position than you. Although it happens quite frequently, limping from early position is a poor choice, as there will likely be a raise from players after you. Raising from this position is better as it tells your opponents that you have a hand that you are willing to play. Sometimes you will get action and this will leave you out of position on the flop/turn/river, but many times you will steal the blinds and antes (if there are any). The thing that many people do from early position is that they have a tendency to limp with AA in hopes of getting the later position players to raise and build the pot for them. Be careful of doing this because if nobody raises the pot after you, several opponents may decide to limp in. This then puts you out of position(OOP) against many opponents, leaving your AA very vulnerable when the flop hits the felt. Sure you are ahead pre-flop but once those cards hit, many different card combination’s could be beating you, and the more players in the pot, the more likely someone’s hand hit the flop nicely. So be careful if you plan to use this strategy, and don’t complain if you Aces get cracked because you weren’t the aggressor pre-flop. One thing that can be done from early position, is the option to bluff. If you have managed to portray a tight image to your opponents (image will be discussed in a future article) then bluffing can come into play as your opponents will probably put you on a strong hand since you acted and raised from early position. If you attempt to bluff and are called by a later position, you must realize that you are now at a disadvantage as your opponent(s) will be able to see what you do on each round of betting before making their decision, while you will be betting/bluffing without any new information from your opponents.

 

Middle Position


If you are in middle position, then hand selection widens, especially if nobody has entered the pot before you, giving you more flexibility to play more hands. Although this is a better position than early position, be wary of the late positions. One way to limit the number of late position players is to always raise when you play a hand in middle position. This will force late position players to shorten their hand ranges if they so chose to play against you. Another thing to be aware of is the “squeeze play” when sitting in middle position. As the name suggests, it is about being forced out of pot by a late position player who raises after you have called an early position bet/raise. This proves that raising instead of limping/calling from middle position is a better play. One of the strong points of middle position is that you have position on the blinds and the early position players, allowing you to assess their possible holding hands and make proper decisions from there. So keep in mind, if you hand is marginal and you want to play it, raise it, otherwise there might be a raise from a player in late position putting you in a tough spot. Play smart from this position and you should do well.

 

Late Position

Late position is probably the strongest position to be at the table, as you get to act last (or close to last) on every round of action, allowing you to acquire significant information from all the actions of your opponents before you. Because you get to accumulate a fair bit of information before you act (# of limpers/bettors and/or callers), hand selection is the widest from this position. Speculative hands like 1 or 2 off connectors, or any 2 suited cards, in hopes of flopping a straight or flush, or common played hands from this position, but remember, just because you have a great position, it is not a license to constantly play trash hands. It is more about playing your opponents ranges than your own hand. Late position is also a good place to steal the blinds and antes, especially if nobody has entered the pot before you. If you plan on playing from late position with some opponents already in the pot, raising a non-aggressive pot is the correct thing to do as it gives you a chance to take control of the table by keeping other raises in check, especially from those who like to steal pots. Otherwise check your pot odds before deciding to just limp, as a later position could play the way you should have played, aggressive.

 

Blinds

  
Finally there are the blind positions. If late position is considered the best, then the blinds are the worst. This is because you will be 1st or 2nd to act on every round of betting with no, or little, information on your opponents hands. Although you have a poor starting position on the flop/turn/river, pre-flop you have the opportunity to make a decision based on the action of all the players at the table. If you plan to raise from the blind position, try to keep in mind the pot odds you will be giving your opponents who have a better position on you. If you min raise, you are very likely not going to get anybody to fold. A raise of close to the total pot is ideal, as this does not offer proper odds for your opponents to call, unless of course, they hold a monster hand.

To recap, when thinking about position and what to play, the general rule is to play strong hands in early positions, while loosening up your range the later your position. This then gives you a better your chance of making a winning play, such as a flush or a straight.

Although poker seating strategy is an advanced player concept, the basics are simple enough for anyone to remember and take advantage of when the opportunity arrives. Practice focusing on your position each and every time you play and those opportunities will start to present themselves. What might sound trivial, but knowing your position at the table, at all times, is key. Try not to get caught up in your hand and ignore the fact that you are playing out of position.

Good luck at the tables.

Blind vs Blind

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1 Comment to Why the cards matter least – Poker Strategy Part 3

Mark
November 25, 2008

Great work McTap!

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