“Ugh, I’m last to act AGAIN! I hate waiting,” Jerry says. He’s playing a game of shorthanded No Limit Holdem. It’s his favorite kind of poker. He loves the fast-paced nature of the game; he can play more cards, and weaker hands go up in value.
Long story short, Jerry is an action junky. He likes to gamble.
Jerry doesn’t care about his bankroll, deep down inside. He tells himself he’d like to win some cash playing online poker, but in reality, he’s perfectly happy throwing away big bets in search of a thrill. Jerry has no patience. Jerry doesn’t know how to play poker particularly well, and the poker strategy he does know, he doesn’t bother applying.
Jerry is exactly the kind of player you want sitting down at your table.
While Jerry whines about having to wait longer to act in late position, you’ll be silently snickering to yourself as you exploit the hell out of him. You’ll know all about the basics of position, and you’ll know that being in late position is +EV. You’ll squeeze cash from Jerry endlessly as he remains ignorant of positional strategy.
Grasping position is really easy. For the most part, positions at the table are exactly what they sound like. A few things to keep in mind before we go in-depth:
1. Position is always relative to the dealer button. The positional cycle moves from left to right around the table, starting with the player immediately beside the dealer.
2. There are 3 main position groups in poker: early, middle, and late.
3. Position is determined in terms of who’s first to act on the flop, not preflop. The first player to act on the flop is always in early position.
Easy enough, huh? Let’s practice identifying positions at the table. Don’t tell Jerry, though…
Positions At The Table
Imagine you’re sitting at a 9 handed poker table. Here’s what the position chart looks like:
You’re sitting to the dealer’s left. That makes you the Small Blind (or SB); you’re first to act postflop. You’re in early position. To your left is the Big Blind (or BB), who’s second to act postflop. He’s also in early position. To the Big Blind’s left is Under The Gun (or UTG), who’s 3rd to act postflop. He’s also in early position at a 9 handed table.
The three players to Under The Gun’s left are in middle position (or UTG+1, MP, MP2). They’ll act 4th, 5th, and 6th postflop.
The dealer and the two players to his right are all in late position. The player 2 spots right of the dealer (called CO-1) acts 7th postflop. The player immediately right of the dealer is in the Cutoff seat (called CO), and acts 8th. The player on the button (surprise, this position is called “the Button”, or BTN) acts dead last postflop.
So the postflop action looks something like this, from first to last:
SB, BB, UTG, UTG+1, MP1, MP2, CO-1, CO, BTN.
Why Jerry Sucks
Remember Jerry? The guy who hated being in late position? I’m going to explain to you why he’s bad at poker.
If you think about the game of poker, one thing is clear: it’s a game of incomplete information. Every strategy book in the world will tell you this. How do you get an edge in a game of incomplete information? Simple:
Know more about your opponents than they know about you!
Now, which position group is going to have access to more information about a hand? Who’s going to know more about what cards are on the table? Players in early position, middle position, or late position?
Well, early position players act first postflop, so they don’t really get to see much of what goes on at all. They’ve got to make their move before they know what players in middle and late positions are going to do. It’s possible that a player in early position could have an okay hand, like ATo, that he might want to play. But it’s also possible that a player ahead of him has a great hand he’s going to raise. Early position would have to fold his ATo, and would have thrown away a few big blinds, all because he didn’t have access to enough information. Obviously, this is a disadvantage.
Middle position players have the advantage of seeing what early position players are going to do. That counts for something, but it’s still not perfect. In sum, middle position players have an advantage against early position players. However, late position players dominate both.
Jerry Hates Late Position, But It’s Your Best Friend!
When you’re sitting in late position, you get to see everything that happens in a hand. You are the gatekeeper—you are ultimately in charge of the action in the hand. If somebody raises in front of you, their raise is not the be-all and end-all; you can still come over the top. If too many limpers try to get in cheap, you can price them out of the hand.
It’s really hard to overstate the advantage being in late position gives you. You can loosen up significantly in late position, and play all sorts of marginal hands you otherwise wouldn’t. Why? Because you’re the aggressor, and the controller of the postflop action.
Imagine this scenario: you’re on the button with 56s. You raise a bunch of limpers preflop and get one caller in middle position. The flop comes 5-2-8 rainbow. The flop is perfect for you largely because there’s almost no way your opponent hit it. If you continuation bet, there’s a huge (crazy huge) chance you’ll take down the pot right there. The first thing working for you here is that you were the aggressor, and you’re representing a decent hand. The second is that there’s an incredibly slim chance your opponent, who called your RAISE preflop, hit that ragged board. The third is that you’ve actually hit a surprise pair. These three factors work together to almost ensure your taking down this pot 90% of the time.
That’s why you love being in late position. You can get wild and wacky, within reason, and knowingly exploit other players. You determine the action in the hand, and you set the dynamic. In late position, you are God of the table.
And that’s why Jerry hates being in late position—he doesn’t want to think about poker! He doesn’t really care about winning. He just wants to click the raise button, and fast! He’s the kind of player you’re going to be able to exploit big-time by using positional strategy.