Sports & Games

What Are Table Positions In Poker? Learn How to Use Table Position Strategy When Playing Poker

Written by MasterClass

Sep 11, 2019 • 4 min read

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In a game of incomplete information knowing what your opponent’s decision is before you make your own is a large advantage. The more information you know, the better quality decisions you are able to make with your poker hand, especially in a game like Texas hold’em. Your table position is a crucial factor in determining your poker strategy.

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4 Different Table Positions In Poker

The poker table is divided into four different sections, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

  1. The blinds
  2. Early position
  3. Middle position
  4. Late position
Red diagram of a poker table with the positions labeled

What Are Blinds in Poker?

The blinds refer to two positions at the poker table, who must pay compulsory bets at the start of each hand.

  • The small blind is the player immediately clockwise from the dealer button. This player must pay between ⅓ – ⅔ of a big blind
  • The big blind is the player two positions clockwise from the dealer button. This player must pay one big blind, which is posted before the start of play.

What Is the Purpose of Blinds in Poker?

The purpose of the blinds—or forced bets—is to create an incentive for the players to battle from the start of every hand. Without any chips in the starting pot to fight for, there would be little action and the game would be boring while all the players waited for premium hands.

Playing out of the blinds is difficult, and there are many pitfalls for new players. Due to the discount to enter the pot preflop, it is easy to overestimate how weak a starting hand you can profitably play.

  • You must resist the temptation to play junk hands just because it is cheaper to see a flop. The discount can only help you so far.
  • Postflop you will be out of position for the rest of the hand, therefore you must be wary of any good players who are already in the hand because they have the skill to use your positional disadvantage against you.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of “Early Position”?

Early position is the worst place to be on a poker table. Not only are you likely to have poor position postflop, but you also don’t get any discount to enter the pot. The net result of this situation is that you must play a tighter opening range because of the inherent difficulty of making a profit with marginal hands.

  • The earliest position is the player to the immediate left of the big blind. This position is referred to as the “under the gun” or UTG position. This player is required to act first postflop.
  • You must not be seduced into playing “pretty” hands such as small pocket pairs and small suited connectors at every opportunity.
  • These hands are not profitable to open raises in every seat.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of “Middle Position”?

In middle position, your potential positional disadvantage is less than in early position. In these seats, you can start to open a wider range of hands. However, this range must still be kept under tight control as there are at least four more players left to act preflop.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of “Late Position”?

Late position is the most profitable on the whole poker table. The cutoff and button offer you not only the best potential position postflop but also a steal opportunity. Stealing is the act of opening extremely weak hands with the intention of winning the blinds without a postflop struggle.

  • The last late position is the dealer, referred to as BTN.
  • When open raising from the dealer button against two extremely tight players, it may be mathematically possible to play any two cards because of the risk/reward ratio.
  • Even if you are forced to play postflop, your favorable position will allow you to extract the maximum value from your strong hands and to control the pot size with your weaker hands.

How to Use Table Position Strategy When Playing

The advantages and disadvantages listed above make it clear that your preflop strategy is heavily constrained by which position you are in. However, postflop is where you can use a positional advantage to maximize profits to a much greater extent.

  • Knowing that you will make most of your profits against weak players, make an effort to take a seat to their immediate left. This will ensure that for the majority of hands you will have a positional advantage over them both preflop and postflop.
  • If you are last to act with a hand such as second or bottom pair you might normally consider calling a single continuation bet, intending to reevaluate on the turn. If, however, you see a bet followed by two calls from tight players then you can use this information to make a safe fold. Being first to act after the bet puts you in an undesirable spot where you are guessing what the other players will do. If you call with a weak pair and two more players also call then it is highly unlikely that you have the best hand.
  • Understanding how table position affects strategy is important when holding a draw. Draws are less profitable when you are out of position, and you should factor this into your decision making when using pot odds and implied odds as you may be forced to fold before you get to see the remaining cards.

Want to Become a Better Poker Player?

Whether you’re an enthusiastic amateur or dreaming of going pro, mastering the game of poker takes time, wit, and cunning. No one knows this better than Daniel Negreanu, the biggest live tournament poker winner of all time. In Daniel Negreanu’s MasterClass on the art of poker, the six-time World Series of Poker champion delves deep into poker strategy, advanced theory, and hand-reviews of his winning games. Put yourself across the felt from Daniel and learn how to sharpen your mental game through demos on reading opponents and spotting tells.

Want to become a better poker player? The MasterClass All-Access Pass provides exclusive video lessons from master poker players, including Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey.

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