The Power of Position

a poker dealer dealing out cards on a green-felted table.

Position is everything in poker. There are seats at a poker table where you are guaranteed to lose money. At others, you will make the majority of your profits. If not, you are leaving money at the table and that is never a good thing to do.

It is where you are seated in relation to the button when people talk about your position in poker. The action moves in a clockwise direction in all No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha games, tournaments or cash games.

Poker Table Positions

The dealer button is the best position

The dealer button is the best position

First is the small blind, followed by the big blind. Next up is under the gun, so-called because they are the first person to act in a new hand. We then have early position, middle position, and late position, with the latter made up of the hijack (the seat before the cutoff), the cutoff (the seat before the button) and the button; the button is the God seat for reasons you are about to find out.

The principal of position is the same regardless of you adopting a tight or loose style: play tighter in early position and loosen up the closer to the bubble you are seated.

Doyle Brunson on the Power of Position

the power of position

Doyle Brunson knows a thing about the power of position

Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson, author of Super System, one of the most important poker strategy books of all time, knows a thing or two about poker. Brunson has played at the highest level for more than 50 years has won 10 World Series of Poker bracelets – including two WSOP Main Events – and countless millions in cash games.

Brunson once claimed that he could play heads-up against any poker player in the world, they could be dealt pocket aces every hand, and he would still defeat them in the long term if he could be on the button every hand. That is how strong the power of position is.

Annette Obrestad’s Display of Positional Play

One of the most famous displays or the power of position in poker came in 2007 when the online poker tournament phenom Annette “Annette_15” Obrestad of Norway won a 180-man multi-table sit & go tournament online at PokerStars without looking at her hole cards. Not knowing her hand strength did not matter because she used bet sizing and her position at the table to dictate the flow of the game.

Why is Position so Important in Poker?

Position in poker

It’s easier to bluff when in position

What you need to realize is that poker is a game played with incomplete information, that is, we only know the hole cards we are dealt. We discover three more cards on the flop, and another on both the turn and river. From the 52 card deck, we only ever truly know what seven of those cards are and that is if we make it to the river.

We gain more information as each hand progresses. For example, if a player raises from under the gun, it is usually safe to assume they have a premium hand, even at a short-handed table. Why? Because your opponent is declaring their hand is strong enough to put extra chips into the pot despite having several players behind them who are yet to act.

Conversely, a raise from late position, particularly on the button, does not always signify strength because they only have to force the small blind and big blind to fold so could be making moves with literally any two cards. Of course, button raises can also be made with strong hands, but always take a late position raise with a pinch of salt.

You have all the possible information available to you when you are on the button. You have seen all but two of your opponents act and can gauge the strength of their hand, and the two players who are yet to act are going to have to act first if they defend their blinds with a call or a raise.

The Most Profitable Positions in Poker

No matter how skilled you are at poker, you will always lose money when you are in the small blind and the big blind. This is over the long term, meaning you are essentially performing damage limitation when you are playing from the blinds. You should play tight in the blinds even when facing aggression from a loose player in late position because acting first is a major disadvantage as you can be put in some difficult positions for all your chips.

Your win rate should increase the closer to the button you are sat, with most of your money stemming from play on the button. This has been proven over millions of hands. Whenever you are last to act, you can take stabs at pots nobody has shown an interest in, make bluffs knowing you will act last if you face any resistance, and control the size of the pot by checking behind.

Nothing can overcome the power of position, not even the best poker players in the world.

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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