Your position at the poker table can give you an advantage

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Being last to declare provides a definite advantage over opponents because you know how they bet before declaring.

You know if anyone has raised and how many opponents are calling to see the flop. With such valuable information, you can make better decisions to your benefit.

There are three positional categories: At a nine-player table, early position is the first three seats to the left of the button, including the blinds. Middle position is the next three seats. Late position is the last three seats, although some experts may differ.

Hand value depends on betting position: A playable hand in late position (at the table) may not be so early. Consider also whether you have a made hand (one that could win at the showdown without further improvement) or a drawing hand (usually must improve to become a winner).

Early Position

Here, you must have a strong hand to pay to see the flop. The Hold’em Algorithm is an excellent guide (Reference: Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.) Also, it is important to consider your objectives.

Made Hand

Based on probability law, if you have, say, A-A, K-K, and Q-Q, it’s best to play against three or four (not more) opponents. Therefore raising is advisable. But be certain everyone won’t fold; otherwise just call the blind. What a waste if all your opponents fold after you raise preflop from an early position holding A-A in the hole! That’s why a very tight table is not advisable.

Drawing hands

You would like to see the flop as inexpensively as possible (no raises) and multi-way with three or more opponents staying to see the flop (for high implied pot odds). This applies even with a premium (A-K, A-Q, A-J, and K-Q and K-J suited, and J-J, 10-10, 9-9, 8-8).

Likewise, it applies when you hold a marginal hand that barely exceeds or meets the criteria defined in the Hold’em Algorithm. Your goal is to improve (hopefully to a made hand or at least five solid outs) on the flop.

In an early position, if you do not hold a pocket pair or connectors (meeting the criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm), at least one of your hole cards must be an ace or a king.

Middle and Late Positions

You can play with a somewhat weaker hand than you would from an early position – the more so, the later your betting position. The Hold’em Algorithm provides useful criteria, depending on factors such as:

• the value of your hole cards, suited or not, connectors or not.

• the number of opponents staying to see the flop, whether any raises or likely to be after you declare.

• whether it’s a multi-way pot.

The later your position, the more information gained as to opponents’ playing their hands.

If you do not hold a pocket pair or connectors (meeting the criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm), at least one of your hole cards must be an ace, a king or a queen. (Note: Suited hole cards add very little value. More important is how high they are.)

Certain exceptions to the Hold’em Algorithm apply in late positions. A-rag suited may be a playable hand

Late position offers an opportunity to use raising to “steal the flop.” If the flop is not coordinated, there are no honor cards. If everyone checks, consider stealing the pot on the flop.

Make the bet. If everyone folds, you take a small pot – enough to pay for a few blinds. This strategy can also work even if one opponent has limped in ahead of you. Raise to steal the pot on the flop.

Even if the limper calls your raise, you have position over him and are able to force him out on the turn. That’s unless you hit a monster hand and want him in to pay you on the river.

For comments and questions, contact George ” 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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