Expectation And Hourly Rate The Fundamental Theorem Of Poker The Ante Structure Pot Odds Effective Odds Implied Odds and Reverse Implied Odds The Value of Deception Win the Big Pots Right Away The Free Card The Semi-Bluff Defense Against the Semi-Bluff Raising Check-Raising Slowplaying Loose and Tight Play Position Bluffing Game Theory and Bluffing Inducing and Stopping Bluffs Hands-Up On The End Reading Hands The Psychology of Poker Analysis at the Table Evaluating the Game


A player’s position in the betting sequence is an important, yet underrated aspect of poker.

In our discussion of raising, check-raising, and the free card, we have shown how position affects the way you play a hand.

Indeed it can be said that position is one of the key elements affecting virtually every play in poker.

In games like five-card draw, draw lowball, and hold’em, you know your position in advance of each deal since the person to the left of the dealer, the man under the gun as he’s described, always acts first, and dealer acts last.

However, in stud games, both high and low, you can rarely be sure where you’ll be in the betting sequence from one round to the next, as we have noted.

Position is more important in others; it is particularly critical in hold’em and in five-card draw and draw lowball. However, in all pokeur games it is far better to be last to act, primarily because it is generally easier to decide what to do after you have seen what your opponents have done.

Logically, then, the worst position is to be first since you must act before you know what any of your opponents are  going to do.

You might, for instance, have a hand that’s worth a call if there are two or three will be any other callers.

In last position you could know for sure whether you were getting favorable pot odds for a call, and if you weren ’t, you could save a bet and fold.

When you are neither first nor last, the closer you are t last position the better, since you have fewer unknown quantities you and more relatively known quantities in front of you.

Advantages of Last Position

To suggest how important it is to be last, let’s take a situation from Seven Card razz. Suppose you started off with a good three-card low, and you think your opponent did, too.

Now you catch a king or even a queen, and your opponent pairs up0 on board. Without a pair, you clearly have the best low hand if play were to stop immediately, yet you should not bet.

The open pair makes it likely that your opponent will be last to act on every betting round, and that fact more than makes up for your slightly better first four cards.

Why is it so much better to be last? For a variety of reasons. If you are in last position with only a fair-to-good hand and the first player bets, you can call without having to fear a raise behind you.

Players in early or middle position have no such comfort. If they call with a fair hand, they risk having to throw it away  or pay a big price to continue when there’s a raise behind them.

If you have a big hand in last position, your advantage is even greater. To see how much so, compare it to being first. In first position with a big hand, you might try to check-raise.

But if no one bets behind you, you have lost a few bets from players who would have called a bet from you, while you have given a fre cared to players who wouldn ’t have called.

On the other hand, if you come right out poker betting in first position, you cost yourself money when a check-raise would have worked.

Even in middle position with a big hand, you have difficult tactical decisions.  If no one has yet bet and it’s up to you, you must decide whether to bet or risk sandbagging.

If someone has bet in front of you, you must decide whether it is more profitable and tactically correct to raise, whether it is more some players behind you, or to call in the hope of some overcalls behind you.

In last position, you have no such problems. If no one has bet, you can, and if someone has bet ahead of you, you are at liberty to raise or to slowplay after knowing how many players are likely to remain in the pot.

If your hand is mediocre, it is still advantageous to be last. On the first round you can call the small opening bet without fear of a raise.

On later rounds players ahead of you may check better hands than yours, which allows you to check behind them and get a free card.

However, if you checked that same mediocre hand in an early position, an oddonent might bet a fair hand behind you, denying you a free card and probably forcing you to foold.

When the pot is down to two players, positional considerations still apply, perhaps more than when there are several  players in the pot.

In last position you can bet a big hand when your opponent doesn ’t and rise when he does.

With the same hand in first position, you’d have to decide whether to try a check-raise or bet; when you check with the intention of raising and your opponent checks behind you, you cost yourself a bet; if you bet when a check-raise  would have worked, you also cost yourself a bet.

With a mediocre hand against one player, it’s also advantageous to be last. If you can ’t call a bet, you still may get a  free card when your opponent checks.

In first position, as we saw in Chapter Ten, you are not at liberty to give yourself a free card. Finally, if your hand is somewhere in the middle good but not great it is better to be last.

It’s true you will bet in either position, but in last position you have the edge of being able to call when your opponent bets. In first position you might bet what is a calling hand and find yourself raised by your opponent in last position.

The only real threat to a player in last position is the possibility of a check-raise. Consequently, in games where  check-raising is not allowed, being last is even more advantageous.

Once players ahead of you have checked, you can feel reasonably confident they are not sandbagging with a big hand.

Advantages of First Position | How Position Affects Play