How Not to Suck at Poker Examples: Position

Dealer in action

How many times do we have to say it? Position is the most important thing there is in No-Limit Hold’em ... seriously.

Far more important than the hands you're dealt, the players at your table, or the size of your stack is the position you have in the current hand.

There are other factors that will help determine your success at the game but your position is at the top of the list.

Texas holdem poker is a long term game, but position is a short term idea. To win in the long term, you need to make the correct plays over the short term.

Playing Out of Position Like Playing in the Dark

When you're out of position, you're often playing in the dark. In short, it loses you money. Here's an extreme hypothetical example to help give you a clear idea of why position is so important:

WSOP Chips3

You're playing $1/$2 No-Limit, sitting with $300. From under the gun you're dealt A A. You raise to $12.

A guy in middle position (10 10) calls and so does the player to his left (A K). You go to the flop three-handed.

Flop: 10 J Q

You bet out $25. The first guy raises to $60 and the second guy calls.

With such a draw-heavy board you choose to re-raise to $150. The first guy moves all in, and the second guy snap calls.

You fold, losing $162 on the hand.

Now let's take the same scenario and put you on the button, instead of under the gun:

You're dealt A A on the button. A guy in middle position (10 10) raises to $12, and the player to his left (A K) calls. You re-raise to $40, both players call.

Flop: 10 J Q

The first player bets $100, and the second player instantly calls.

You fold and lose $40.

Both times you lose money, and there was really nothing you could have done in either scenario to avoid that. The difference is how much money you lose.

In the scenario above we got lucky that the player with the set chose to bet out. If he would have checked, chances are we would have lost a total of around $120 instead of just $40.

Even if you don't re-raise in the first example, and you fold after you get raised and called, you still lose $60, $20 more than you lost when you had position.


The increased information we have allows us to make a more informed decision before we have to act. In a scenario like the one above, we can almost always assume that our aces are drawing nearly dead.

To be clear, I'm not trying to say you should fold hands like AA from early position, I'm just trying to impress upon you the value of position, and the disadvantage you have when you're playing without it.

When trying to decide what hands you should play or fold, such as K10 off, position should be the most important factor in your decision.

A simple rule of thumb: Regardless of the style you choose to play, if you're in early position, only play premium hands.

A premium hand will most often lead to simple, easy choices while marginal hands often put you in tricky spots.

The last thing you want to do is put yourself in a difficult situation because you're playing out of position. Don't be a sucker, position or bust.

The How Not to Suck at Poker series:

  1. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
  2. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
  3. How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
  4. How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
  5. How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
  6. How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Bankroll
  7. How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
  8. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Your Mouth Shut
  9. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Records
  10. How Not to Suck at Poker: Discuss the Game

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Renco 2012-12-07 10:05:31

I would add stack size. Playing only premium hands from early position is basically playing with your cards open. I wouldn't do that against good opponents. They will put you on a stack decision.. Mix it up. You can always decide to represent a premium hand.

Nightkeeper 2010-03-02 13:11:33

I totally agree with this. Position is the most important factor in poker, that is my experience too.

If you are in position, you can better play the player and not your cards, it doesnt really matter, what cards you really have. While without position you aren't comfortable even with big hands. You have to play check-raise with those hands, cause of lack of information, and that can cost you a lot, if you dont have the nuts or one of the really big hands.

Out of Position you may be even in a bad spot when you've got queens oder kings. When u raise them, and someone just calls, what do u know about his hand? Nothing. And if he reraises, you have to invest a lot of money more without being secure that you have the best hand, a simple ace on the flop might kill your playing strategy.

I think that this is the most frequent error that unexperienced players make. They overrate the cards they have, and underestimate the factor of position.


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