In Texas Hold’em, a player’s table position is one of the most important elements of developing a winning game. A player’s position in Hold’em is where he/she is seated relative to the player on the “button”. Your position is vital when deciding how (or if) you should play a hand. Despite it’s importance, position strategies are surprisingly underutilized by most novice Hold’em players.
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In Texas Hold’em, there are essentially four positions. They are the blinds (BB and SB), early position (EP), middle position (MP), and late position (LP). I gave the blinds their own category because the strategy for playing them is a little different. Understand that the tips below are general, in that they do not account for other game play circumstances. In general, though, following them will help your Hold’em game quite a bit. Let’s look at how your table position affect you game:
Early position in Texas Hold’em is the two seats just left of the blinds. Those players are the first to act pre-flop and most of the other players act after them post flop.The problem with EP is that if you play too loose here, you will find yourself stuck in a pot against a premium hand and you can easily loose a bunch of chips. Play really tight here. Play only premium hole cards (AA, KK, QQ, AK, AQ). Your goal here is to take the pot down early if you can. Raise with high pocket pairs (aces, kings and queens). Limp with you AK or AQ. If someone in late position raises after you limped your AK, go ahead and re-raise them. If they call you, you can bet into them after the flop and try to win the pot there. If they re-raise your re-raise, you are likely either dominated, or at best facing a coin-flip.
Middle position in Hold’em describes the next two players to act after EP. MP is played a lot like EP, except that you can open up your starting hand selection just a little. Add JJ and suited AJ to the mix here, but be prepared to bow out if things get scary. If an EP player raises, you should fold all but premium hands. If an EP player limps, be careful. He could easily be limping with AK or AQ.
Late position in Hold’em is the button and player to his immediate right. Being in late position has a huge advantage over everyone else, in that they are allowed to see what everyone else does before they have to do anything. This basically gives them a license to steal. The button and the cut-off get to see the action and decide whether or not they want any part of it. They have the freedom to raise the blinds at will and see flops with all kinds of speculative hands, because they have the advantage of great position. Go ahead and raise the blinds with 88 or suited 89. Then just outplay any callers after the flop. Yes, you will be up against winning hands sometimes that people won’t want to lay down, but you position gives you a better chance of spotting when that is and getting out of the hand before it gets ugly.
The blinds can be one of the hardest positions to play correctly. You get to be the last to act before the flop, but after the flop you are the very first. The problem is that (especially with the big blind) you often have pot odds to call raises. I recommend doing one of three things when you are playing Hold’em in the blinds. Either fold, take the pot down pre-flop, or call with your favorable pot odds and either check/fold the flop or take the pot down right there. Unless you have a monster hand, I never recommend the blinds all the way to a showdown.