When taking a seat, everyone can be best

January 24, 2017 3:00 AM
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My friend and poker buddy Lucy invited me for dinner. She has a lovely home on the edge of Beverly Hills. She had cooked one of my favorite entrées, roast beef with all the fixings.

As we were enjoying a glass of wine while the food was in the oven, she raised the topic she wanted to discuss with me: “Irene, what’s your opinion about seating and position in a game of hold’em?” Good question.

In Texas hold’em, the Button – the last betting position every round following the pre-flop betting round – rotates clockwise after every hand; so everyone, in turn, has an equal chance of being in the best position for betting. The same applies for the worst – early position, and the middle positions between these. If you are on the Button, after the flop and for the rest of that hand, you get to see what all your opponents do before you have to decide whether to further invest in that hand, considering the flop and your two hole cards. Getting all that information before having to act, gives you a huge edge.

Thus, for example, if a tight player has raised before the action reaches you, you can comfortably fold your mediocre hand that barely meets, or only slightly exceeds the criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm, knowing you have saved a bunch of chips.

Chips saved are just as valuable – perhaps even more so – than those you win.

If you are in the Big Blind and there are no raises to you, then you can see the flop for no extra cost. You never know what the flop will bring. I told Lucy about the time I was the Big Blind and was dealt 2h-3c, and certainly would have folded if anyone had raised. So, at that point, I got to see the flop for free.

I could hardly believe my eyes. The flop was 2d-2h-3h. I had flopped a full-house! Of course, that’s literally a one-in-a-million flop; but it can happen. Had there been a raise before the flop, I would have mucked that hand without a moment’s thought. Guess I was very lucky.

“What about your seat relative to the other players at your table?” Lucy piped in. “Since the Button rotates, it might seem that your seating position makes no difference. Not so. Your seat position is important relative to the types of opponents at that table. It’s best to be seated to the left of an aggressive player who does a lot of raising, and to the right of loose-passive players who are not likely to raise after you call to see the flop.”

I agreed, and then added that I also like to be seated to the left of a tricky player who likes to check-raise and use other forms of deception. In that case, I can make or save a ton of chips.

“But there is one problem,” Lucy interjected. “My eyesight has aged along with me. Even with my new glasses, I have trouble reading the cards on the board when I am seated at the far ends of the table. After signing up for the game, I make sure I get a middle seat – preferably seats 4, 5, or 6, across from the dealer.”

I interrupted and asked how you handle that problem? Lucy smiled: “If one of those seats is not available when I am called to the table, I tell the floorperson I will wait for the next seat available. Meanwhile I try to study the tables and players at each while I wait, so I will be better prepared for the game. Time is precious.”

“And now it’s time for dinner!” Lucy announced. As we ate, we discussed the recent presidential election. “Did you know our outgoing president, Barack Obama loved to play poker when he was a young senator from Illinois?” Lucy asked.