Beginner Poker Strategy – Position

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This article is addressed to beginners, so if you’re a fairly advanced player (even if you happen to be a TAG fish) feel free to move on: it’s not going to teach you anything new. You may have heard that poker (both Texas Holdem and Omaha) is a positional game. What exactly is position in poker? The answer: the single most valuable commodity you can have at the table. In poker, when you are “in position” you are on the button, which means you are the last to act in the hand. If you “have position on someone”, you’re basically seated on your opponent’s left, which means that most of the time you’ll act after him/her. Why does acting after someone offer you such a huge advantage? It’s quite simple really: by acting after a player, you’ll be able to make your move in possession of information you gather from your opponent’s actions. In online poker – where other tells are quite scarce – position gains an even bigger significance. Here’s a quick sum-up of why playing in position is always rewarding:

  • Position offers you information on your opponents, while allowing you not to give away any sort of information on your hand and as you probably know, information is everything in poker.
  • The information that your position freely offers you, gives you excellent and cheap bluffing opportunities. When you see that everyone in front of you checks, thus broadcasting weakness, you can pounce on the opportunity and fire out a bluff with excellent chances to succeed.
  • Being the last to act allows you to control the size of the pot better. If you feel like you need to keep it small, you can do so with minimal counteractions on the part of your opponents. You can also size your value-bets more accurately, which means that when it comes to building the pot, you’ll yet again be in a privileged situation.

If you need an insight into just how important position is, get hold of the hand histories of poker players like Tom Dwan or Patrik Antonius. These guys play heads-up a lot, and when it comes to heads-up play, position is truly a black and white factor: you’re either in position or you’re not. There are no shades of grey. If – using those hand histories – you compare the amount of money these guys win and lose in and out of position, you’ll find a striking discrepancy in favor of play from position, which is likely to be the same from one player to another. That’s because these guys fully understand the importance of position and they take full advantage of it too.

The bottom line is: playing from position makes every single decision that you’ll have to make a simple one. Once you get past the flop, where the real poker begins, you need your decisions to be as simple as possible. Most of your winnings will come either from many small pots or from a few large ones. Every single large pot that you play for is a potential disaster for your bankroll, so make sure that every time you get involved in such a large pot, you do it from position.

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