If you're unfamiliar with the term, position simply means you are the last to act in the hand (meaning you have the dealer button, or the players acting after you have folded).
The worst places, position-wise, are typically the blinds, as after the first round of betting the whole table acts after you for the rest of the hand.
Regardless of your skill level, the situation, or the hand you're playing, being in position will always give you more information in the hand than any of your opponents.
In the world of Texas Hold'em, information is the most valuable commodity there is.
Why Play in Position?
- When it's your turn to act, you have more information than your opponents.
- Position gives you "bluff equity," meaning simple, cheap and effective bluffing opportunities.
- Acting last lets you make more accurate value bets.
- Having last action gives you control over the final pot size.
To give you an idea of exactly how important position is:
Tom "durrrr" Dwan and Patrik Antoniusplayed a $1.5m, 50,000-hand heads-up challenge online with the winner getting the money from the game plus added money in a side bet.
These two players are arguably two of the best online poker players in the world. And if you look at the stats taken from all the hands they played you'll see an almost shocking theme.
If you compare money won or lost out of position to money won or lost in position, each player's results are a mirror image. Both are substantially down when out of position and both are showing a substantial profit when in position.
Even though they're playing the same game, against the same player, simply having position is the difference between winning and losing millions.
For this reason, if one player was to give the other player position in every hand they play, there would be no contest; the player with position would dominate.
If you want to make money in poker you need to play as many of your big pots in position as possible. Every large pot you play out of position is a potential disaster. As Dan Skolovy says "Playing out of position is like walking through a dark cave with no flashlight. You never know what might lurk behind that next corner."
Step-By-Step Guide to Playing in Position
Watch this strategy video and continue with the rest of the How Not to Suck at Poker series below to learn everything you need to know to stop sucking and start winning, fast.
Playing Out of Position = Playing in the Dark
When you're out of position you're often playing in the dark. And it loses you money. Here's an extreme hypothetical example to help give you a clear idea of why position is so important:
You're playing $1/$2 No-Limit and 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 and lose $162 on the hand.
- The Value Bet for Beginners
- How Playing Tight Makes Your Poker Decisions Easier
- Big Hand, Big Pot; Small Hand, Small Pot (Pot Control)
Again, But Now On the Button
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 had 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.
Position = Information
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, you shouldn't fold AA from early position; this just shows 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 offsuit, position should be the most important factor in your decision.
A simple rule of thumb:
- When 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.
More on How Not to Suck at Poker:
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Proper Bankroll
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Talking So Much
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Track Your Results
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Talk to Better Players