Welcome to the first ever installment of the Riverboat Gaming strategy guide that we are grandiosely entitling "At the Poker Tables: Strategy Series xxx". During this series, we are going to take you through a myriad of explanations covering everything that you need to know in order to perform like your favorite poker legend. The "At the Poker Tables Series" will initially review some basic concepts but will ultimately culminate in some pretty advanced theory, both psychological and mathematical.
Enough of the spiel...onto At the Poker Tables: Strategy Series 001 - The Importance of Position.
This first installment will talk about possibly the most important concept to understand about poker (let's assume you know the rules already and can do a bit of mental arithmetic). That is the notion of Poker Table Position. The idea of Position is one of those seemingly simple concepts that, when applied appropriately, is, in actuality, very powerful. Correct application of it will give you a massive advantage over those who don't understand it, and proper understanding of it will affect your decision-making throughout.
Firstly, you should know the layout of a poker table and how it is setup each hand. Plus you should be aware of the terminology for each position. See the graphic below.
Right, so what is "position" then. At the poker table, you have a seating position which doesn't change from hand to hand (usually), and the direction of play is also static. This means that on any single hand you play in the same order at each phase of betting. If you have "Position" on another player, it ultimately means that you are playing after them. You have more information than they did to decide which action to take. That is to say; you know how the previous players have acted, so you should have some information about their hand. The later you are to bet, the more information you have, and the more precisely you can, for example, calculate pot odds (we will be explaining pot odds in detail later in the series) on a call, or guess at the likelihood of a raise getting through.
Acting, "in position" at the poker table will also mean that you have fewer players "behind" you who may be a danger to your chosen move. In "Last Position", for example, you know the exact pot odds for a value call, or you know that you have a better chance of stealing some chips if there has been little or no action before you are given a turn to bet.
So, some general rules for you to take away here.
1. Play more hands in position than out of position. You should require a stronger hand to play out of position. The most obvious example of this being that you should need much better starting hands to play in the blinds then or under the gun than in the cutoff or on the button.
2. Try and sit in position (where possible) vs. strong players and especially aggressive players (more on this another time)
3. When you have Position at the poker table, make sure you use it. Watch what the other players are doing and start trying to think about the types of hands with which that they might be doing this.
4. Try and play smaller pots out of position and loosen up a bit when in position.
5. Position, Position, Position, Position, Position, Position, Position!!
Good luck at the tables and see you next time for 002 of the strategy series.