Poker seating and the position one has at the table is one of the most important and least talked about aspects of poker. It's especially relative to the Texas Hold'Em poker game because it is positional in nature. Where a player sits each hand determines the amount of information he or she can gain on other players. This can have a big effect on your poker strategy and how a hand is played. This article will reference how to play poker from a table of 10 players and discuss playing from the dealer, early, middle and late positions.
Dealer Position -- This position, also referred to as "on the button", is the most coveted because once the flop takes place, the dealer is the last to act. This means you can watch and gather information on all the other players before making your decision. Aggressive play is expected from this position, especially when all others have checked. Almost any hand except trash hands like 9 2, 10 4 offsuit can be considered for play here.
For example, your opponent has Jc, Jh. You have Qd, Kd and are the dealer. Your opponent raised $20 before the flop and you called. The flop shows 2d, 3d, 5d. You both check the flop and the turn shows 8c. Your opponent checks, you raise $20 and they call. On the river the Js comes up and your opponent raises $50. From watching you figure they may have trips. You raise to $100, they call and you win with a King high flush. Had you been in your opponents position of having to bet first, you would have been hard pressed to figure what the dealer had.
Early Position -- This is made up of positions 1, 2 and 3 to the left of the dealer and are the least advantageous as you are the first to act after the flop and have no information on the other players. Here one should play only the strongest hands like paired A's, K's, Q's, J's, Tens, or suited AK, AQ, AJ and KQ. Anything outside of these one should consider folding and waiting for a better opportunity, especially with an aggressive table. One thing that can be done from an early position is bluffing. Betting from an early position can imply that you do have a strong hand, but bluffing too often will result in others picking up on it and can be disastrous, particularly when aggressive bettors are at the table.
Middle Position -- Positions for the middle are 4th, 5th and 6th to the left of the dealer. Because the disadvantage is not as great as with the early position, you have greater flexibility to play more hands. Hands like paired 5's thru 9's, suited connectors from 5 6 on up, unsuited connectors 5 6, 6 7, on up. There are more hands that can be played but this covers the majority that can be easily remembered. Being in the middle, it is better to raise than call if no one is in the pot, if you have a playable hand and you feel some players will fold.
Late Position -- The 7th, 8th and 9th seats at the table to the left of the dealer make up the late position. Here you are in an excellent seating area of the table. You can gather a great amount of information about the players and their hands. In these positions, one should be aggressive if not many have entered the pot. If there are a lot of players, scale back the aggressive play unless you have the type of superior hand as discussed in the early position. Another advantage of the late position is that you can easily play cards like 5 8, J 7, Q 8. For example, supposing you have 5 8 in the late position and the flop is 2 6 7 unsuited and everyone else checks. Raising at a non-aggressive table would be the correct thing to do as it gives you a chance to gain control of the pot as well as keeping other raises in check from those who would try to steal the pot. But remember, it is not a license to play trash hands.
Poker seating is an advanced player concept, but the basics are simple enough for anyone to remember and take advantage of when the opportunity does present itself. Good luck!
Tom Howze is a webmaster for 9 sites that relate to online gambling, World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour events and updates. For more information, please visit 2005 World Series of Poker .