When you sit down at the poker table, there’s usually a stack of poker chips in front of each seat, along with some cards and other items to play the game with. But where exactly do these chips go? What are they used for? And why do they need to be in order?
We’ll take you through the basics of how to play poker, including how it works and how to participate in tournaments like the World Series of Poker, by giving you some information on poker table positions, their importance, and what you should expect from them during your first few hands of poker.
Position at the start of a game
Every time you sit down at a table to play poker, there’s a good chance you’ll be positioned differently than your opponent. Position is all about getting that slight edge on your competition. But what exactly is position? In many cases, it boils down to being in control of certain actions before they even happen.
In fact, some players will choose their seats based on where they can place themselves in terms of position. There are two kinds of position: positional advantage and positional disadvantage. Let’s take a look at each one separately and how you can use each to your advantage when playing poker.
Position during a hand
In most games, each player is dealt two cards and there are multiple rounds of betting. A round ends when all players have either folded, called (matching an opponent’s bet), or raised (increasing an opponent’s bet).
After all rounds are complete, three things can happen: if one player matches an opponent’s bet or raises it in a final round, that person is said to win their betting round; if all remaining players fold, that person wins with their hand without having to show their cards; otherwise those players left at showdown must show their hands and whoever has the best hand wins.
Position after a hand
What goes on after you’ve thrown your chips into a pot is where you really get to show your stuff. Even though it can feel like no one is paying attention, how you act after a hand can make or break your reputation. Do you gloat? Pout? Fidget nervously? Throw in an inappropriate joke at an inappropriate time?
Each action says something about your personality—even if it’s just to say, I might be a jerk! Don’t let that be what people remember you by. It may seem shallow, but good poker skills will impress players and bad poker skills will disappoint them.
Position in relation to the dealer button
Any player who has position on a player in front of them, is said to have position. Position means that they act before those players in front of them, and can therefore see their bets and raises. Being in position is very important in poker, because you have a better idea if there are raises coming or not.
The most desirable positions in poker (especially no-limit) are UTG and MP1: these positions allow you to see what your opponents do preflop, and make postflop decisions according to what you’ve seen. There is less value to be gained from knowing what your opponents do when they’re all deep-stacked and calling each other off; hence, being last to act tends not to help much.
Effects on strategy
The position that you're sitting in at a poker table has an enormous effect on your strategy. For example, as a player seated in late position (3rd or 4th to act), you have great odds of getting to see what your opponents are doing.
You can use those odds to make some inferences about how they might play given their position, and then adjust your own play accordingly. Players in middle positions (5th to 7th) have some information but not as much as early position players, while button and cutoff players have less information than early or middle players due to fewer active hands seeing flops during their decision-making process.
Understanding which position is best for you
Playing poker online can be a lot of fun. When you start playing live poker, though, you’ll quickly notice there are some huge differences between tournaments and cash games (and a few other differences as well). With that in mind, it’s important to understand which table position is best for you.
It all comes down to game selection—if you like big stacks, sit near them; if you like small stacks, sit near them. Each game has its own personality and while they aren’t always black-and-white different from one another, being able to take advantage of specific players or situations will lead to bigger wins over time.
American Game Zone has an excellent collection of Poker Tables which will provide you with the experience of a quality casino with your poker mates at your home.
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