Seat selection figures into winning poker strategy

Dec 11, 2012 3:00 AM

Position – where you are sitting in relation to the others at the poker table – is important. 

On the button, after the flop, you see what every opponent does before you must act. That information can save you lots of chips. Example: With a marginal drawing hand, there is a raise before you; so you calmly fold, saving yourself two or more bets. 

Position is a key factor in deciding whether to pay to see the flop. The later your position, the more “edge” you gain over your opponents. From early positions, you need stronger hands, and fold more often pre-flop. Somewhat weaker hands are playable from late positions. 

Of course, there are other factors in addition to your position. There are many good reference sources. Epstein’s Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision, includes the powerful Hold’em Algorithm – and Lou Krieger’s Hold’em Excellence includes “Krieger’s Start Chart.” 

Position rotates clockwise after every hand. Everyone at the table gets to play at every position in sequence. 

At a table with nine players, seats 4, 5 and 6 have the best view of the community cards placed on the board. If you have a vision problem, this may be extremely important. Don’t ever misplay your hand simply because you misread the board. 

Seats 1 and 9 have their view partially blocked by the dealer, so it may be difficult to see the player at the opposite end of the table. That makes it harder to observe him for tells or size up his chip stacks when deciding how big a bet to make in a no-limit game. 

You will often find a “maniac” at your table. He loves to raise and re-raise. The majority of your playable hands will be marginal drawing hands. According to Epstein’s Hold’em Caveat (see ad), it’s best to play such hands multi-way with no pre-flop raises.

If you are seated to the right of the maniac, it is highly likely that limping to see the flop will cost you at least one additional bet, when you call his raise. On the other hand, if you can be seated to the left of the maniac, you can avoid those costs by folding after his raise. Call to see the flop with a playable hand when he does not raise. 

You can also use his raise to force out opponents by re-raising with a made hand (A-A, K-K, Q-Q). If you are seated to the right of a maniac, when a seat to his left becomes available, tell the dealer you are moving into that seat. Meanwhile, call only with hands that can stand a raise. 

It is possible to improve your position during a hand. Suppose you are in a middle position. You raise pre-flop and the opponents behind you fold. Now you will be the last to declare for the rest of this hand. In effect, your raise bought you the virtual button, giving you an edge over opponents still in that hand. 

Writing in Poker Player Newspaper (Nov. 19, 2012), Barbara Connors described “relative position.” This applies only when (1) it is a multi-way pot, and (2) there is a pre-flop raiser who always makes a continuation bet (c-bet) as a follow-up on the flop. This situation calls for a position strategy just the opposite of that when there is a maniac at your table. 

Since there was a pre-flop raise, the early positions usually check to the raiser on the flop. If you are seated just to his right, after you too check, and he makes his “standard” c-bet, all the other opponents will have to act before you. 

Thus you get to see what they do before you must act. If there is a raise, you can easily fold at no additional charge. If there is no raise, your call will close the action for that round of betting. 

In summary, there are many ways that position can influence your results. Be aware. . . And use position to your advantage. 

Contact Irene at [email protected].

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