Poker excitement has been building up worldwide over the last several years. What used to be just something people did in their basement with their buddies at the home poker table or on that fun-filled Las Vegas trip has blown up in popularity. Nowadays, events like the World Series of Poker are household names, and those Vegas trips feature folks getting all serious about studying strategies for how to play each hand.
And why not? Even friendly games can see huge pots pile up over the course of a night. Those fun trips to The Strip become high-stakes scenarios as gamblers seek to cash in enough to make the most of all the restaurants and shows. So here we are, wondering if we should focus on counting cards, calculating probabilities, and learning how to read the body language of opponents. Here’s the thing — all of the above can help! But there’s something else most folks don’t think about.
Where you sit at the poker table can help dictate your strategy. In poker, which seat you are occupying is just as much a critical piece of the puzzle when you’re trying to up your chances of winning. It’s another variable that comes into play in some surprising ways. Here’s a quick primer to get you started thinking about how to work your poker table position.
On the Button: Choice Spot for the Dealer
Is there a better position to be in than the dealer’s seat? Nope! Known as being “On the Button,” you get to see everything that’s happened every round. Watching each player in the hand act gives you the advantage of having the most information to guide your moves. From this spot, you have the most freedom to understand your chances and when to hold or fold.
Early Positions: The Perils of the Blinds
Next in line from the dealer are the early or “Blind” positions. In a full 9-player game of Texas Hold’Em (usually played on an oval poker table), that would be the three to the left – Small Blind, Big Blind, and Under the Gun. In these positions, players have the most limited view of the action, obviously because they are going first and can’t predict what hand the next players face. If you’re sitting here, play conservatively to minimize losses and only go big if you’ve got a crazy good hand (Full House or better).
Middle Positions: Walking the Line
As one might expect, the middle positions in poker are a mixed bag. They are in order: Under the Gun +1, Middle Position, and Middle Position +1. Here you’ve had the advantage of seeing what the Early Positions have done and can take that into account. But of course, there are still a couple of players ahead of you who will have better visibility. So you can be more confident opening on a wider range of hands — say, starting with three of a kind — but still need to exercise more restraint than those ahead of you. NOTE: some poker strategy literature counts Under the Gun +1 as an early position.
Late Positions: Saving the Best for Last
Known as Highjack and Cutoff, these late positions offer you the best chance to win and win big (aside from the dealer). In both cases, if you feel you have a strong hand, you can put on the pressure with a big bet. That could force The Button to fold early. And really, the Highjack can do that to both the dealer and the Cutoff, hence the name. And if your hand isn’t so good and you’ve seen confidence coming before you, then you have a better view of cutting your losses. Remember, these strategies are the same whether you’re playing in a big casino or even your foldable poker table!