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Poker is a Positional Game: Deal with It

Poker is a Positional Game: Deal with It

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Community card poker games as wildly positional games. Indeed, if one were to look down at the table from above, he/she could see the money quite literally following in the wake of the blinds. The blinds define the positions and thus, they do in fact define who gets to pick up the money at the end of the hand. Therefore, in games like Texas Holdem and Omaha, the blinds are much more than the catalysts of all action: they actually also define how much of that action will go down.

Why is position so important in Holdem and Omaha though? It’s quite simple: the player sitting “under the gun”(coming up right after the blinds) as well as the players in the blinds, are in the least enviable position, because they have to make their moves without any sort of input from their opponents. Whenever a player undertakes a poker move (like calling, folding, raising and betting) he/she always gives away a “read”. These reads are used by the players coming up after the one who just acted, to make assumptions/educated guesses about what he/she holds and to “put him/her on a range”. Those acting before everyone else give away their reads without receiving any from their opponent, and that is obviously a major disadvantage for them.

This is the very reason why the vast majority of players – regardless of whether they’re small-timers or big winners – lose money when in the blinds or under the gun. What most good players exercise when they’re in one of these early positions is damage control, because they know all too well that money not lost is just as good as money won.

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By the same logic, the best positions are obviously the late positions, of which the latest is the dealer button. The player sitting on the button will get to act after everyone else, and he/she will therefore possess all the information in the hand, without having given out any tell of his own. The button can only possibly be effectively attacked by the player in the cut-off (which is the position on the immediate right of the button). Having picked up as much information as the player in the button when his/her turn to act comes, the player in the cut-off can attack the one on the button by firing out a massive bet and hoping the button is not sitting on monsters. Because it’s only the player in the button he needs to push off the pot, the cut-off’s actions are often crowned with success, which also explains the name of the position.

The bottom line: all players should adjust their calling/betting ranges according to the position they’re sitting in. In late position, these ranges are usually relaxed, while in early position, they’re tightened up.

Those who fail to take position into account when playing, are pretty much doomed to fail from the get go. This is not a novel, a revolutionary or an extreme concept: it is one of the cornerstones of basic poker strategy.

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