Position in Poker...

As a quick note, tommorrow I'll be blogging on the championship at River Belle Poker for the CheckRayz Leaderboard Poker Tour first quarter 2006 season. The championship event is scheduled for 11pm EST tonight, and pits everyone who finished in the top ten in points against one another. The event will be a quarterly occurance and is sponsored by River Belle Poker. The championship match is a $200 free poker tournament, and is one of CheckRayz and River Belle Poker's ways of saying thank you to all our members for a great first quarter. It should prove to be an exciting event. The new quarter's poker tour has just begun, so join us and play our free poker tourneys & money added poker tournaments today! Signup for the CheckRayz poker tour is free.

No that that's out of the way, we'll move on to our talk we began yesterday. These posts are not meant to replace any book that we discuss, but instead its meant to suppliment these books. I highly suggest running to the store or ordering online "Small Stakes Hold'em" by Ed Miller, et al. from twoplustwo publishing. Additionally, the posts are meant to be read in order, so I suggest first reading the post on basic poker hand groupings.


When I speak of position, I am referring to where one is sitting, relative to the button or the dealer. This is important to me for a few reasons, when hearing a story about a poker hand. The poker table works in a clockwise manner. The person to the immediate left receives the first cards, and the person to the right of the dealer receives the last cards (before the dealer does, of course). The two individuals to the immediate left of the dealer are known as the "blinds." They're "forced" to place bets, with the small blind typically placing a half bet, and the big blind placing the full bet on the table. Despite their "punishment," they are the last to act in a betting round before the flop comes. This is a reward in a sense, as they get to observe how everyone else views their hand before making more of a decision. However, this reward is moreso in the form of a double edged sword, as they already have money on the table. If someone "acts" like they really like their hand, the blind's money is already out there, in the pot. Additionally, the blinds are the first to act after the flop. They will act before everyone else and will not have the luxery of first seeing everyone elses actions once the flop comes.

Why is it important to know how everyone else acts prior to making a play, you ask? Simply put, if you have 7-6s and I have aces, and you act before I do. Wouldn't you like to know that I am playing as if I have aces? I know I'd want to know this. If I were holding the 7-6 suited and knew that someone who bet after me was playing like they have aces, I'd probably want to lay down the seventy six suit. In fact, if I were acting after aces guy, I'd lay down that hand without second thought. For this reason, one should play their hands according to position. Said another way, one should play based on the amount of information they have now and the amount of information that is still unknown.

The earlier we act in a betting round, the better our hand should be and the higher our standards must be. That being said, hands in the early positions (preflop) should be among our best hands, generally speaking. Hands played from the middle position should be medium to high quality, and hands from the late positions can be medium quality hands, all generally speaking and assuming a raise has not come in yet.

How do I know which hands are high quality, and which are not? I use three simple criteria:

1. Do they fall into the "top pair" catigory? (remember yesterday's blog entry?)
2. Are they suited?
3. Are the cards connected?

Essentually, I am first asking myself if the hand can hold up on its own if my highest card hits the board and ends up being the highest card at the very end. Hands like A-J have "top pair" capability, while hands such as A-4 may not. Hands like KQ may, and K6 may not. The "top pair" question is the most important of the questions I ask myself on a "non paired" preflop hand.

When reflecting on the suited and connectivity, I'm asking if I can make a flush by having three "like suited" cards on the board (are both my cards of hearts, clubs, spades, or diamonds, or are they different suited?). Can I easily make a straight out of these cards? I can with King Jack, but cannot with King eight. I can with 10 nine, but cannot with ten six.

In summary, the more logical ways I have to win, the stronger my hand is and the earlier position I will play it in. So, I'd be inclined to play Ace Jack when I am first to act, but would refrain from playing ace nine when first to act. I'd play king queen suited, but not king seven suited. I want cards that will win if I make top pair, flop a straight, and/or a flush. If I do not have those three ways to win, generally speaking, and I am the first person to act in the preflop betting round, I throw my cards away.

If I am first to act in the preflop betting round, look down and see 3-3... To make things easier on my chipstack and I, I throw them away. But BeerGuy, they're a pair! Yea, I know, but I need a third three to hit the board if I expect to win, so knowing that I pretty much have to I'd rather not. I would play them if I were in the mid to late position (most likely the late position though), and would be willing to play them pretty much only if the pot was not raised preflop (we'll discuss raises and betting on wednesday). Additionally, I'd be prepared to throw them away after the flop if my hand did not improve to three of a kind.

So, when acting early, you must have higher standards, when acting later, you may have lower standards, but you really want to get into the habbit of evaluating your hand for top pair strength, suit, and connectivity each and every time you look at your cards. In fact, start practicing that now, asking yourself how likely you are to win with each hand if you flop top pair, or if you can easily flop a straight, or a flush. Doing that will help begin your evolution as a poker player.

As I said, tommorrow we'll have a report on the CheckRayz championships, and we'll continue this series on wednesday with discussion on betting.