When learning Texas Holdem how to play poker position proves to be one of the most critical elements of game development.  Many new players place primary emphasis on their hole cards when deciding whether to become involved in a pot.  However, most of us soon come to appreciate that if there is one factor which deserves consideration before entering a hand, it’s our poker position at the table relative to the button. 

 

The simple fact is that being in ‘late position’ or in other words being the last or near last to act in a hand gives us the distinct advantage of having more information at our disposal than our opponents when we make our decisions at each betting round.  We get to see every other players actions before making our own, which can assist us place our opponents on a range of hands, and decide whether our holdings are worth staying in the pot with.  This additional information gives us a significant edge over the competition.

Before going further let’s just take a quick look again at a poker table position diagram.

 

Early Position

Early position or EP is usually the first three players to act after the blinds at a full 9 or 10 handed table.  In the diagram above, this would be seats 4, 5 and 6.  Seat 6 could arguably be included as middle position but is more conservatively included in early position.  After the first betting round, the blinds also fall within early position.

These are the worst poker positions as they are the first players to act each round, and do so on minimal information and with the uncertainty of how players will act after them.  As a general rule, only premium or strong hands should be played from early position in order to justify leading out with a bet, or calling a raise from a later position player.  Being able to maintain discipline with poker hand selection in early position will be a significant factor in our long term success. It allows us to make the most of our good hands in texas holdem, and play solid under the gun poker.

Below is a list of the types of hands which can be played from early position.  As a rule, it is preferable to raise with these hands in order to take control of the table.  Whilst it potentially exposes us to a raise/steal from a later player or the occasional trap, it is generally better to take the lead, and use that lead to elicit as much information from the actions of later players as possible by keeping up the pressure. 

Hands to be played in EP:
AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 10 10, 9 9, AK, AQ

Middle Position

Middle position or MP would in the above example include seats 7 and 8.  Here, we can play a larger starting hand selection that in early position as we have the benefit of seeing how the early position players act and have at least some information at our disposal.  However, there remain a number of players to act after middle position and so we should still maintain a solid hand selection strategy.  If we do have strong holdings, it is worthwhile considering raising an unraised pot.  This allows us to take control of the pot, and should dispose of any players simply looking to limp and get lucky on the flop.  If there is a bet from an early position player we should generally consider re-raising with any EP hands, or simply calling with the following MP hand selections:

88, 77, 66, AJ, KQ, QJ, J 10

Late Position

Late position or LP are usually the last two players to act, one of which is the dealer (noting however that in the first betting round only the blinds will actually be the last to act).  In the diagram above this would be seats 9 and 1.  Being in late position provides us with far more information and a greater latitude to play a wider range of hands.  For example, in an unraised pot many drawing hands will be playable, including low pairs and suited connectors.  It also provides us with ‘steal’ opporunities particularly if playing in tournaments where blinds may be large in comparison to stack sizes. 

This isn’t to say we should simply play any two cards in late position, although players frequently do.  We should still consider our hand selection and avoid playing trash.  However, with information and the benefits of position at our disposal we can certainly be more creative in our play, and late position often provides us with opportunities to turn marginal hole cards into monster hands or believable bluffs. 

From late position we can play any of the above hands, together with:

66, 55, A 10, KJ, K 10, 10 9, 98

 

The Blinds

The blinds have the advantage of acting last in the first betting round, but act first in subsequent betting rounds.  However in unraised pots or with only small bets before them, the blinds can play a diverse range of hands given that they have already contributed a sum to the pot and may be priced in to see a flop.  Again, being in the blinds is not a license to play any two cards and calling down with garbage simply because we have half a blind or a blind invested in the pot is a sure fire way to wind up facing difficult decisions later in the hand.  If the pot is unraised, consider raising with any early or middle position good hold em hand strengths.  If there is a raise or re-raise, seriously only consider playing with AA, KK, QQ or AK. 

Staying focused during your texas holdem hand selection will make a huge difference when learning how to play poker position.  Appreciating the power of position and using it to put pressure on opponents, as well as being able to use the information gained from our position will enable us to adapt to each hand as profitably as possible.

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