Higher Level Poker
ArticlesPreflop StrategyBeginner Strategy: The importance of Position
Beginner Strategy: The importance of Position
Written by: Hoodlincs · Date Added: 6 Nov, 2011 · Number of views: 5955
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Players must act in a specific order on each betting round in poker. The person to the immediate left of the dealer button is always the first to act. The person left of him acts second, and so on around the table. The person on the dealer button is always the last person to act. The person acting first on each round is considered to be 'out of position' and the person acting last on each round is considered to be 'in position'. We will expand on the importance of this throughout the article.


Poker is a game of incomplete information. We can never know for sure what our opponent holds until we get to showdown. However, if you have just seen the flop, there is still 3 out of the 4 betting rounds to get through to see a showdown (the flop betting round, the turn and river).

Essentially our goal as a poker player is to try and work out as accurately as possible what our opponents most likely hand is because this will in turn tell us what our relative hand strength is.

If our opponent has to act before us on every hand (he has to play out of position), then we can gain a lot of information about his hand. Whilst if we are playing in position, acting last, then he gains relatively little information about our hand, and any information he does gain comes after we have gained information about his hand.


Let's assume we are playing 5c/10c NLHE and we open raise to 40c getting 1 caller. Going to the flop the pot is 90c. With 3 betting rounds postflop, if we make a typical bet of 67% pot on all 3 betting rounds and get called all the way, the pot will eventually look like this:

90c + 60c + 60c = pot going to the turn of $2.10.
$2.10+ $1.40 + $1.40 = pot going to the river of $3.90.
$3.90 + $2.60 + $2.60 = final pot of $9.10.

as you can see this creates a pot of over 10 times the size of that on the flop!

Lets assume the same situation as before, however now the turn gets checked through rather than bet. So we bet the flop, check the turn, bet the river and get a call.

90c + 60c + 60c = pot going to the turn of $2.10
turn checks through. Pot going to the river of $2.10.
$2.10 + 1.40 + 1.40 = $3.90.

By removing a betting round, you can see that the final pot size is under half what it would be if we were to bet all 3 streets.


If we want to create a big pot, we have to make sure that a bet goes in on all 3 streets which is something we can only do in position, or when we act last because we can make the bet ourselves. If we don't want to create a big pot, we have to make sure that a bet doesn't go in on at least 1 round, which is also something we can only do if we have position, because when we are out of position we have to check and hope that our opponent checks too.

Practical Example:

We are in the cutoff and raise with .
The button calls and everyone else folds.
The flop comes
We bet and our opponent calls.
The turn is an
If we bet here, we don't get our opponent to call with a worse hand, because he should just fold 66, 44, and non-nut flush draws. However we don't get him to fold a better hand because if he called on the flop with ace high, he won't fold now that he has made a pair. Therefore, betting doesn't really achieve anything for us because if he folds we had the best hand, and if he calls we have by the far the worst hand with only 2 outs to improve, 1 card left to try and hit it, and a pot that is rapidly getting very big.

However, if we check, we represent a hand which is scared of the ace, or at least a hand which doesn't like it very much. Therefore he can bluff very effectively, because with 2 betting rounds left (the turn and river), he can fire 2 big bets giving us a very bad price to call him down and bluff-catch.

So essentially, we have 2 bad options – bet and hope he folds, even though he will only be folding worse hands, or check and hope that he doesn't bet. If we were in position, we would have a much easier route to try and get to showdown. We would be able to check back the turn, essentially removing a betting round, and see the final card for free in a spot where the pot size is a lot smaller and more easily manageable.

Final thoughts:

As we saw in the examples above, the pot gets very big very quickly when a bet is made on each round, and it is the person in position who has the choice of whether to create a big pot or not.

We only ever want to bet for 1 of 2 reasons. As a value bet, when we think we have the best hand and we think we can get called by a worse hand. Or as a bluff, when we think we have the worst hand but we might be able to get our opponent to fold a better hand.

The more information we have regarding how much our opponent likes his hand, the easiest it will be to determine the relative strength of our own hand. If we can do this well, then we can value bet perfectly and bluff very effectively too. Our soul aim in a poker hand is working out what cards our opponent holds, and Position is the single most important factor in helping us to do this.
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