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The Importance of Position in Poker

The Importance of Position
by Loki Luchs of Predictem.com

Poker is often referred to as a form of war. This analogy has many different applications: players enter into combat, by firing round after round of ammunition back and forth in order to determine a winner of each contested skirmish. (Some players will even insist that when you're facing off against an opponent, you want to know how many bullets he has!) However, if poker is truly a form of war, then the high ground is position.

A playerís position in poker is the number in which he acts in the game. The player who is first to act in a hand, starting with the small blind or the first player left of the button, is in the earliest position. Those who act later or last in the hand are considered to be in late position. The position a player has in the rotation changes the strategies needed in order to win. Generally speaking, the later you act, the better your position in the game.

In war, the high ground holds the advantages of being able to view the entire battlefield for information. Your enemies are at a disadvantage, because you can see their movements and anticipate their plans before they can complete them. Position holds the same advantages. When you're acting behind someone, you will always have information on their action before they have information on yours. Conversely, if a player has position on you, they have the ability to out-maneuver you.

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For instance: If you have a good player acting behind you, they will react to your initial action. If you check to them, they may bet or check behind. In either case, you gain very little information on their hand! Does their check mean that they have nothing or are they holding a strong hand and are slow playing? Does their bet mean that they have a hand and want a call or did they bet to steal the pot? These questions make playing out of position very dangerous.

While novices may feel that they should play the same cards regardless of when they act, this is an amateur mistake. Some basic suggestions for new players are that you should play only premium hands from early positions (Small Blind, Big Blind, Under the Gun, and Seat 4 in a ten-handed table). Since most opponents you have in these seats will act behind you, itís best to have something to work with. Playing trash in an early position is an easy way to get broke.

As you start to move to middle positions (seats 5, 6, & 7 at a ten handed table), you can start playing more hands, like suited-connectors, any two face-cards, etc. Once you get into late position, you can pick and choose your hands. If you play a loose-aggressive style, donít let your opponents know this for as long as you can. If youíre a tight-aggressive style, I recommend to raise late once or twice in late position with 2/3 suited or 3/4 off-suit and show the cards when you out-play them. This gives opponents the impression that you might play any two cards in late position and you will most likely win big when you wake-up with a hand.

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