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Positional Advantage

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Where you sit in relation to the dealer button is critical to which hands you’ll play and how you’ll play them. The best position to be in is the person who has the dealer button (said to be ‘on the button’) since they’re last to act. By acting last, they have seen how all of the other players have acted who called and raised and can make their decision with the more information than the other players.

There are three positions: early, middle and late. The person on the button and a few people to their right (depending how many people are playing divide up the positions equally) are in late position. The first few players to the left of the dealer button and who act first are in early position (players 1 and 2 in the diagram). This is the worst position since you have to act without any knowledge of the strength of the other players’ hands. Also, the first two players have forced bets they have to make, so even if you had a bad hand and wouldn’t want to play it, you still have to cough up the chips.

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When you’re in early position, you’re susceptible to raises and re-raises by players after you, so you need to play more conservatively. The opposite is the case for players in late position: you have more leverage and can play aggressively (players 6 to 7 in the diagram; players 3 through 5 are in middle position).

With the right cards and being last to act, you’re in the best position to raise and bluff other players so they fold. If you manage to get everyone to fold before the community cards are dealt, you get to ‘steal the antes.’ You can also play looser (to play more average hands) in late position since your bet will end the betting for that round you know what the bet is at and it won’t go any higher. For example, if you were player 3 in the diagram, there are still four players ahead of you who could raise, so you wouldn’t want to waste money on an average hand. But if you’re player 7, the betting round ends if you call (so you know there won’t be any more raises), which is why you can play weaker hands.

Visit Poker Stars to practice playing different hands in different positions. They have free Texas Hold ‘em, Omaha, Five-Card Stud and Seven-Card Stud available twenty-four hours a day. When you’re ready to play with money, they have huge sign-up bonuses and tournaments running throughout the day. They also have satellite tournaments you can enter to win a seat at the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour.


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