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Playing From the Button

Tournament Play: Playing from the Button
by Chad Holloway of

You will often hear that position is one of the most important factors in tournament poker. Position is determined by the rotation of the dealer button, with the blinds being in the best position preflop, since they act last and are able to see all the action that develops before they have to make any decision (this will change after the flop when they are in the worst position and must act first).

On the other hand, the player under-the-gun is in the worst position preflop because they are forced to act first, with little or no information on how the hand will play out after they act. Position rotates clockwise around the table, with the person after the under-the-gun player in the next worst position and so on and so forth.

Essentially, the strength of your position depends upon how many players have acted before you and how many are left to act behind you. This is why the best position in poker is playing from the button. When you are on the button you will be the last to act on every betting round after the flop, which means you get to see how everyone else play their hands. This is valuable information that should dictate what option you choose when it's your turn to act. In More Hold'em Wisdom for All Players, author Daniel Negreanu explains how to play from the button:

"The button is a position of power. It's also a good time to be aggressive. As a rule, you can get away with playing more hands in the later position than you can in earlier positions. You have more information at your disposal to make good decisions because your opponents always have to act first. In fact, when you're in position, the quality of your hand is often meaningless since you'll be playing the players rather than the cards.

A good way to practice is to play the button without even looking at your cards. Instead, focus on your opponents and try to figure out if they're strong or weak. If you sense weakness, make a bet and they'll likely fold. Of course, if you think someone has a strong hand, forget the practice. That would be a good time to take a look at your cards."

A good indication that someone has a hand and you should play your button with caution is if there has been a preflop raise from someone in early position. Other factors indicating good hands would be other players calling that raise, a reraise, or someone limping from early position, which might mean they are slow-playing a big hand.

Some signs of weakness that might alert you to play your button aggressively are folds around the table, players limping from middle position, or even a minimum raise.

One of the best opportunities to exercise the power of the button is when action folds around to you and you can raise it in an attempt to pick up the blinds. Most of the time this will work, but not always. Many poker players have become aware of the button-steal move and will sometimes defend their blind by calling your raise and seeing a flop or even throwing in a reraise. In this situation, you would have to assess the quality of your cards, your opponent's abilities, and make a decision on how to proceed, just keep in mind that you have the power of position and that gives you a big advantage!

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Tips and Advice

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