Playing position

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Betting position is important in all poker games. You have a distinct edge whenever opponents must declare before you. Knowing whether they fold, check, bet or raise, before you declare provides valuable information.

And, we all know that the more information you have, the better decisions you can make. That means being seated to your opponents’ left.

But you cannot be seated to the left of all your opponents.

Which opponents do I prefer to sit to the left of?

All players are not alike. If you are a smart player, you will constantly evaluate your opponents – from the moment you arrive at the table.

It doesn’t take many hands to distinguish between the loose and tight players, the aggressive and passive players.

A “maniac” is apparent after just a few hands at the table; he bets and raises at almost every opportunity.

Having evaluated your opponents, you soon know which of them you prefer being seated to your right – so they must declare before you.

Preferences:

(1) You enjoy the greatest edge when you are seated to the left of poor players – the Poker Pigeons, who play too many hands pre-flop. Anyone who stays to see the flop, on average, at least one out of three hands fits into this category. You prefer the Poker Sharks – opponents who play few hands – seated to your left. Likewise for passive players; declaring after you bet, they are less of a threat of raising when you play drawing hands, which are much more likely than made hands (A-A, K-K, and Q-Q which is on the borderline).

(2) Being seated to the left of an opponent with lots of chips also is an advantage: He has more money that you can win, considering that your position gives you an edge over him. It has been said that chips (money) move clockwise – from the right to the left – at the poker table. Of course, it would be best if the opponents to your right fit both categories (1) and (2).

(3) Most important is to be seated to the left of a very aggressive player, especially if he is a maniac. (Observation: It seems women and older players are less likely to be maniacs. Do you agree?)

A Word of Advice: Change Your Seat Whenever Possible to Get Seated to the Left of Aggressive Opponents.

You might want to make this one of your prime rules for winning at poker. In fact it is part of Basic Poker Rule No. 2 (“Carefully Select the Game and Table at Which You Play”) as described in The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners. (See ad elsewhere in GamingToday.)

You have just been seated at a hold’em table. There was just one open seat, so you had no choice. After playing a short time, you have evaluated your opponents. Suppose you find yourself seated to the right of a very aggressive opponent. What should you do? Knowing that he is likely to raise after you bet, then it would be wise to play very tight. Play only those starting hands that can stand a raise: made hands and premium drawing hands (A-K, A-Q, A-J, K-Q, and middle pocket pairs).

Meanwhile: Keep an eye open when an opponent in a seat to the left of the aggressor is about to leave the game. Tell the dealer (before anyone else does) that you want to move into that seat when it is vacated. So long as it is closer to the aggressor’s left, it is a preferred seat. (Note: While many poker players will not agree, there is no such thing as a “lucky seat,” although, sometimes it may seem that way.)

Comments? George “The Engineer” Epstein can be contacted at: [email protected]

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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