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The Importance of Position

You know all about playing good hands and folding bad ones. You know how to slow play effectively and you know when to lay down a big hand. You might even be a fairly profitable player, but have you considered the importance of position?

Probably the most overlooked concept toward playing winning hold 'em is position. Most beginners and many experienced players either have no idea about the importance of position, or choice to ignore it. You can make money with AA no matter how you play it, but most hands require proper understanding of positional play to be successful.

Unlike some poker variants, in Texas hold 'em, your position is always determined by where you are sitting, in relationship to the dealer's button. Betting occurs in a predictable order, so you know in advance whether you will be acting first or last. Before the flop, the person to the left of the big blind always acts first and post-flop the first remaining player to the left on the dealer button acts first (that is, the small blind if they are still in).

The person who acts first pre-flop is said to be "under the gun" (UTG). The next two players are known as early position. Players acting fourth and fifth are said to be in middle position, while sixth and seventh are known as late position. The player with the dealer button is said to be "on the button" and the players who posted the blinds are simply said to be on the blinds.

When you are UTG or in early position, you are at a distinct disadvantage. This is because you have little or no idea what anyone else has and have to supply others with free information before they act. If you have a weak hand and choose to limp in, you are risking be raised out. If you have a strong hand and raise, decent players will fold their marginal hands without having to put any money in the pot.

A good rule of thumb is to only play hands that you would call a raise with in late position. Marginal hands should be tossed and very strong ones raised - you will have to deal with hands folding after you, as you can't risk limping with a truly good hand.

In poker, knowledge is power. If everyone folds before you act, you should raise some hands that you might have otherwise folded. This is known as "stealing the blinds" and can be a nice supplement to your income as long as you don't over do it. Hands that can hit big, such as J10s, are ideal candidates to steal with. The idea is that if you are called you might end up winning a big pot when you hit a flop in a way your opponent can't predict.

Additionally, if you are in late position with a drawing hand, you should make a decision based on the number of people in the pop. Hands like 89 work great against large fields but can easily be mucked when there are only a few in the pot.

Using all the information you are given is the key to maximizing your profits in poker, and position offers a built-in information gathering system. Good players always base their decisions on what has happened before them and how many people are left to act after them. Using this strategy will allow you to use table position to your advantage, rather than letting it work against you by ignoring it.

JackRag


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