The Importance of Seat Position in Poker
The importance of seat position in a game of poker is a huge factor. You sit down at the table with your stack. The blinds are $20-$40 and you are first to act. You are dealt Ah-10s under the gun, which is pretty good and you decide to call the big blind. There are 9 players left to act. The next four players behind you fold. Then you see a raise followed by a subsequent all in. From here the play is easy. Unless you have some spectacular read on your opponents or know they are two of the biggest fish around, you fold. The likelihood that your A-10 is ahead is pretty slim. At the very least, you are likely up against a bigger ace.
This is a classic illustration of table position and how acting first is a disadvantage. Had you already known someone was going to raise, you would've saved your $40 and folded from the word go. An A-10 is made to look very average after a raise and subsequent re-raise. Your position in terms of the order of play makes a huge difference and should influence your decision on whether to bet or not. A-10 from late position where there is no action is considerably stronger.
A table can be divided, figuratively speaking, into three sections. The first three players are said to be in "early position" (indicated by an 'E' in the illustration, right). They must act before most of their opponents and as such should avoid playing marginal hands, as they are at a disadvantage. Remember, there are up to nine more hands at the table to contend with. Instead, players in early position should limit themselves to playing only premium hands or hands that offer good value.
The next section of players at the table are said to be in "middle position" (indicated by an 'M' in the illustration, right). They have seen some of their opponents act, so they have an idea of what they are up against. If no one has raised, players in middle position can look to be a little more expansive, as there are less players that could have a better hand behind them. Additionally, the chances that someone will raise you are much lower than early position. This is especially true where the action folds to you..
The best position to be in is in "late position" (indicated by an 'L' in the illustration, right). Players here have the advantage of having seen most of their opponents already act and so hold 'positional advantage' over those acting before them. The very last player to act has the most advantage. Last to act will have seen everyone act before them, and so will have considerably more information to help him decide whether to play their holding. The players in early position would have no idea that there were three monster hands out there. The player in last position will see three all-ins, which makes his decision to fold his weak ace an easy one.
As a player in late position, you will also have more chance to steal the blinds, particularly when the action folds round to you.. It is also a good spot to re-raise a weak raise from early position.
So as a rule, be more selective in early position and stick to stronger hands. If you are new to the game, stick to premium hands. In middle position you can be a little looser and should base your decisions on what the players before you do, in addition to the cards that you hold. In late position you should use this to your advantage. See what the whole table does and then make your decision. You have double the chance to win. You can hit a big hand or everyone else could fold and you raise to steal the blinds. Up against one or two players after you, the chance that they have a hand to defend with is lower.
Information is power. The more information you have on your opponents, the stronger the position you are in.
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