Where you sit at poker table can be crucial

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Betting Position

When Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher presented a special Poker Workshop for our Claude Pepper Sr. Center Poker Group, they stressed the almost-crucial importance of betting position. They observed that successful real estate investment stresses “Location, Location, Location.” Similarly, in poker, it’s “Position, Position, Position.”

At a typical nine-player table, early positions are the blinds and the two seats to their left. The button and cut-off are the two late positions; these are to be treasured. In between these are the middle positions. The button – along with all other betting positions – rotates clockwise after each hand is played out. (Poker is an equal-opportunity activity!)

On the button – last to bet – you have a huge advantage over your opponents: You will know how each bets before you must declare – extremely important information. The later your position, the greater “edge” you have over your earlier-position opponents. You can stay in with weaker hands from late position. If there are raises before you, it would be appropriate to fold a marginal drawing hand; and save some chips.

On the other hand, with no raises and several opponents calling to see the flop, that same hand is quite playable from a late position; last to act, you might even want to raise.

Concomitantly, be cautious in early positions, especially if there is likely to be a raise after you bet. Interestingly, while the blinds are in early positions, there is one compensating factor: Since their hands are live during the pre-flop betting round, the blinds can raise after everyone else has declared. But after that, in every other round, the blinds must declare before the other players, revealing key information about their hands to their opponents. Be cautious in betting from early positions.

Yet another advantage to late position: It is easier to bluff successfully when you are last to act. If everyone checks to you, a bet often will take the pot – even when you have only a marginal drawing hand or failed to make your hand by the river. This applies to stealing the pot on the flop, semi-bluffing on the turn and a full bluff on the river.

Seating Position

What’s the best seat at the table? In The Greatest Book of Poker for WINNERS (Epstein and Abrams), we explain that you would be wise to play at a table where you are one of the best players. We call that “table selection.” Ideally, you’d like to play against lots of “PokerPigeons” rather than “PokerSharks.” If you don’t like your table, you can always change tables or take a break.

But no matter what table you play at, there will be various types of players: tight or loose; aggressive or passive; deceptive (“tricky”) players (often bluff); timid players (fold when you raise); and calling-stations who can’t be bluffed out. Often you will find one or more very aggressive players at your table. A “maniac” stays in most hands and often raises or re-raises.

Some suggestions for seating position:

1. Sit to the left (so you declare after they act) of aggressive players – especially “maniacs” (so you can fold a marginal hand or three-bet to isolate them), and calling-stations (raise them after they call). This also applies to PokerSharks and unpredictable opponents.

2. Sit to the right (you act before them) of tight and passive opponents (more easily forced out and less of a threat to raise you), and others whose actions you can anticipate.

Yes, betting position and seating position are very important!

Comments? George Epstein can be contacted at: [email protected]

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.

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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