Position Play in No-Limit Holdem

June 26, 2012 :: Posted by - Poker Tips :: Category - Poker Tips

Tip #16a – Playing Position In No-Limit Texas Holdem Poker – Part #1

no limit holdem position Position Play in No Limit HoldemWhen first learning to play Texas Holdem Poker, players come across the advice that it is very important to play ‘in position’. However, very few strategy guides go into the details of why this is so important.

This article is the first in a series of 3 which explain the importance of position to those players who are new to the No-Limit Holdem game.

What is Positioning?

Position actually has multiple meanings at the poker table, depending on the exact circumstances. This article covers position before the flop – which is determined by the ‘dealer button’. We will look at why the order in which you act before the flop affects the strength and type of starting hands that are playable.

Part #2 will look at position after the flop and the difference between relative and absolute position. Part #3 will look at the role of position in bluffing and also in betting for value with the best hand.

Before the flop the player seated to the immediate left of the big blind starts the betting action by either calling (the amount of the blind), raising or folding. This player is said to be ‘Under The Gun’ in poker terms and must decide how to act before knowing how any opponent is intending to act.

Since the first player to act does not know how many people will raise and re-raise before the flop there are many hands which become difficult to play. For example, you have a small pair and are first to act. You would like to call, however several opponents have shown a tendency to raise aggressively. If you call then you do not know how much money you will need to put in before you see the flop – making the small pair potentially too expensive to play.

Compare this with being one of the last players to act with this same small pair. Now you have seen most of your opponents act and can call a bet with little danger of a raise making your hand too expensive to play.

Most poker guides divide the table into ‘early’ (the first 3 to act), middle (next 3 or 4 depending on whether the table is 9 or 10 handed) and ‘late position’. The type of hands you can profitably play in no-limit Texas Holdem will depend on your position. The ‘unknown’ factor of players yet to act is just one factor in this, other factors include the mathematical chances of there being better hands yet to act, and your probable playing position after the flop.

As your position becomes better and some opponents have folded the relative strength of your hand improves. That is to say, with unknown hands still to act, your hand becomes stronger the less potential opponents you have. For example if you are first to act with a pair of 8’s then you have 9 opponents who may have higher pairs or hands such as Ace-King which can cause problems on some flops. With only 3 players left to act (the rest having folded) you can be far more confident that your 8’s are the best hand.

The last player to act before the flop is usually the big-blind. However, since the blinds have to act first on the flop, turn and river betting rounds their position is actually vulnerable. The best seat of all on each round is the ‘dealer button’ position – since this player will act last on the next 3 betting rounds.

Part #2 of this series of articles on Position in Texas Holdem Poker looks at the importance of position after the flop.

Would you like to learn more about basic positioning? Check out this article about poker position at Pokerphile.net.

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