Specifically, position is where you are in relation to the Dealer button. In this regard there are three areas of position: early, middle and late position.
At a full game with ten players, being in early position means that you are one of the first players to act when the action starts. The means that before the flop, the players immediately to the left of the big blind are considered to be in early position. The very first person to act after the blinds is on the position known as “Under The Gun”. This connotation is given, because you are forced to start the action.
In the majority of situations in poker, having early position is often a disadvantage. The reason is that you will always be one of the first to act, which means that your opponents will always be able to react to what you do only after you have taken an action. This is an advantage, because good opponents can usually come up with ways of disrupting or exploiting your play when they are able to simple wait to see what you do first.
The players to the left of the early position players (usually starting at the 4th player to the left of the button) are called the middle position players.
Like early position, being in MP has few advantages and quite a few drawbacks. The reason that when in middle, you are still one leg up on players in early position, because you are able to see their moves before the action comes to you, but you still have players in late position acting behind you. In addition, while not frequently the case, being in middle position leaves you open to what is called the “squeeze” play.
The squeeze is when you get trapped in a difficult situation, when you are trying to call a bet by a player in early position, but are getting raised or have a very real threat of being raised by another opponent in late position. This is dangerous because you may be wanting to slow down the action when you are holding a marginal hand or are wary of your opponent acting behind you in late position, but the early position player is either too aggressive or has a good hand himself and is forcing you to commit more chips to the hand.
The last few players to act in the round are considered the late position players. Late position has two different terms for the last two people to end the action. First is the cut-off, who is the second to last person to act. Second is simply “the button”, who is the player on the button and the last person to act.
Being in late position is a very big advantage in poker and especially texas hold’em, because of the dynamics of the game. When in late position, you are often in situations where the hand has been checked around to you (nobody has bet at the pot) and have an opportunity to make a steal (bluff) at the pot to win it right there.
The steal situation is often impossible for anyone in early position or mid position, due to the fact that they cannot know the strength of their opponents’ hands behind them and randomly betting out is a dangerous thing. When you are in LP and can see nothing but checks ahead of you however, this does give a good indication that your opponents are likely holding nothing of value and makes the bluff a much safer play.
Another unique situation to being in late position, is the semi-bluff. The semi-bluff is raising a player who bet out in early or mid position when you are drawing to a better hand, such as a straight or flush. This play works on two different fronts: 1) by raising, you are hoping that your opponent will be scared and possibly fold, especially if he/she only had a mediocre hand to begin with and 2) making your opponent put the brakes on his own action and check to you on the turn if he calls your raise on the flop.
This turn check gives you the option to bet out again for another semi-bluff attempt or simply check behind your opponent to draw to another card. The semi-bluff that ends with a check on the turn is known as the “free card” play, since you are seeing the river card for “free”, although in reality, you paid one additional small bet on the flop with the raise in order to see the river card by checking the turn.
Position in Texas Hold’em
Now that you now about the various positions (early, mid and late), how do you add this to your game? For starters, you always need to be constantly aware of your position when playing poker. This is a very easy concept to forget, but you’ll often be too concerned playing your hand that you will forget about how position is going to affect your current hand.
Say you are playing a game of $2/4 limit hold’em and you look down at your hold cards and see a hand like T9s (that’s Ten and Nine of the same suit). You are UTG (under the gun, first to act) and wonder if you should play this hand or not. Most beginner players look at astarting hand chart and see whether or not they should play, but the real answer is that you need to incorporate a starting hand chart along with position.
In this example, a hand like T9s plays well when there are many players in the pot, because it’s a drawing hand that relies on pot oddsrather than beating people out of a hand. Because of this, you’ll realize that T9s does well you can safely call behind action, rather than bet out and create action yourself. For this reason, T9s is a hand that plays well in late position, because you can safely play this hand or toss it away because you can see all the action before it comes to you. However, since you are UTG and in early position, you should now realize that this hand is unsafe to play in EP and thus needs to be folded pre-flop.
As a general rule of thumb, in early position you tend to play stronger hands, while late position gives you the option of playing drawing hands. Of course this can all change when in tournament play, and we will discuss this later.