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Seat Position in Poker - Positional Advantage

Your seat position when playing poker and where you are to act in a hand is the single most important thing, behind what cards you are dealt, in determining how you should play the hand. Players can either be in ‘Early’, ‘Middle’ or ‘Late’ position. Early position means you are one of the first to have to act in the hand and late position means you are one of the last. How you play will depend largely on whether you are in Early, Middle or Late position.

If you are on the button, you will be the last to act after cards are dealt. This is the best position as you are able to see what everyone else does before making a decision on how to play. In real terms, you get additional information that players in early position wouldn’t get - you therefore have positional advantage over them. You can make an informed decision as to how to play the hand based on what players before you do and this is a benefit. If you are first to act, you are blind to what you're opponents might have. Watching 3 people raise each other before you act is better than posting a raise just to see 3 people subsequently re-raise (unless you're holding AA).

The Key Seating Positions

As the dealer button moves clockwise after each hand, your position relative to the dealer button will change. Being able to quickly assess which position you are in and knowing how to change your play accordingly is a critical skill to possess. It won't take too much time before this becomes second nature.


On the Button


The player on the button is last to last to act each flop. The button is the best place to attempt to bluff a pot away from others, and also offers the ability to have an informed fold depending on the raising of others.


Early Position


The early players are the first players to act in each hand, and typically occupy the three spaces to the left of the dealer. These will be the players on the blinds, with a possibly third early player depending on table size. Entering the pot from this position is extremely risky, and will require having a considerable hand to warrant putting chips into the pot. Pre-flop bets from an early position risk having the table re-raise you out of the hand, making any marginal hand an automatic fold.


Middle Position


At a ten player table, the middle position players are those who are in the fourth, fifth, and sixth seat from the button. This is considered the worst place to be pre-flop, as a hand that may look tempting - such as K-9 suited- can be forced to fold if players on either side make a sizable raise. It is almost always wrong to play weak or even mediocre hands from the middle positions, as there are simple too many variables in what those around you will do.


Late Position


Players in the late position of the table are those who are two or three places to the right of the dealer, and maintain a strong position for being able to assess the table and react accordingly.


Position & Hand Values

This is an interesting concept. To someone who didn’t know any better, a specific hand would be the same regardless of where you were at the table. Whilst this is true, in the true sense, the value of your hand changes, as you move away from early position.

It actually makes perfect sense. Let’s assume you hold A Heart 10 Heart. You are last to act, meaning there are 8 or 9 players to act before you. The action folds round to the second last to act, the player to your right. He calls the bet. Now, in this position, A-10 looks good and you would likely raise with a high degree of confidence that you had the best hand. This confidence is bolstered by the number of players behind you, in this case, none.

Let’s run the same scenario again, but this time you are first to act (under the gun). You decide to raise three times the big blind. You then see a raise and a subsequent re-raise before the action gets to you. There is really only one move, as the chance of A-10 being good is almost zero, so you fold.

The advantage you get from position is this. If you had been last to act and had seen the raise and re-raise, you would have saved yourself the raise you made. Acting first you didn’t know that the A-10 was likely behind, although this hand is generally too weak to raise from early position. For this reason, the earlier in position you are, the better the hand you want to have. In this instance, the A-10 is higher in value in late position than it is in early. Remember that when you bet, the fewer the players after you to play, the less likely you are to run into a player with a better hand.

Another benefit of playing from late position is that the action will often fold round to you which provides the opportunity for you to pick up the blinds with a steal from late position.


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