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The value of position in poker

We often hear that poker is a position game, but what exactly does that mean? And what is the real importance of position in poker? If you are ready to find out all about absolute and relative position at the green table, welcome to this article by Top1percent!

What is meant by position in poker?

Position simply means the order in which players act during a poker hand. Those who act last are said to be in position; those who act first are out of position.
Being in position is an infinitely high value, so much so that it is one of the parameters around which all poker strategy is based.
For example, we like to ask a provocative question: would you rather get A-A every hand, or always play from the button?
The answer we give is undoubtedly the latter. It is true that a pair of aces wins on average 80% of the time, but it is also true that a great many other factors come into play, such as equity realization, favorable or unfavorable boards, blockers, and so on.
By always playing from the button, on the other hand, you will never have all the raw equity of an ace-axe, but you will have an advantage that is crucial: that of information.

The advantage of position in poker

 

Position can be more valuable than the cards we hold, and the reason is all in the amount of information the players involved in a hand have.
We know that every move in poker “says” something to others, for example, a raise says we have a strong hand. Of course, this is where all the classic poker “deception” comes from, where you try to delude others into thinking you have a strong hand when you have a weak one and vice versa, with all the balancing and weighing involved.
Getting back to the main point, the power of being in position is right here: our opponents’ moves contain information that can be used to decide our strategy, and the person who speaks first will always give extra information to the person who speaks next.
To give a very simplified example, if the player from under the gun checks we might imagine a weak hand, if he bets a strong hand. But he will not know anything about the player from BTN, which has not given any information yet.
As a result, it will be more difficult for the UTG to bet with medium-strength hands because he may run into a raise and have to abandon the hand. Conversely, the BTN will be able to choose how to behave, knowing broadly where to rank the UTG’s hand.
By repeating this concept in multiple situations during a hand (preflop, flop … and in every single action of each stage), the range analysis by the button will always be finer than that of UTG, and moreover he will always have the possibility to direct the path of the hand, being able to decide to check and move to the next street.

Absolute and relative position from preflop to postflop

Relative position is when one player is in position over another in particular. For example, if they are playing BB, MP and BTN, BB will be out of position on both, MP will have relative position on BB, but will be out of position compared to BTN, and finally BTN will be in position. Normally we talk about position relative to the original raiser, so if we talk before the original raiser we will be out of position, if we talk after him, in position.

the levels of thinking in poker

Widely used acronyms are IP (in position) and OOP (out of position).
Absolute position is precisely in the terms we have just used: BB, MP, BTN are absolute positions, and although they are less important than relative position, they serve to understand average positional strength and to build a strategy.
In fact, the BTN is the player who will always speak last post-flop, and in any case will always have position over the others. The cutoff, for example, will always be in position against anyone except the BTN.
Consequently, the risk factor and unpleasant situations for CO, will be slightly higher than BTN, but better than MP, UTG, etc. etc.
Hence the idea of preflop ranges, which get wider and wider as you get closer to the BTN. To understand it, a player from UTG will raise about 18% of the time, while BTN almost 50%! This is precisely because the more often you will be in position, the more hands we can play profitably.
The same thing applies to actions such as 3-bet and flat call, but we will not go into too much detail.
A separate discussion is that of the blinds, which are in position preflop but out of position postflop.

The absolute positions

Absolute positions depend on the number of players at the table, but some are fixed:
SB – Small Blind is the first player after BTN, always first to speak at postflop
BB – Big Blind is the player after the SB, last to speak in preflop but often out of position postflop
UTG – Under The Gun is the first player to speak preflop
MP – Middle Position, as the name says “in the middle” between the top and bottom positions
HJ – Hijack is the third-to-last player to speak postflop
CO – Cutoff is the second-to-last player to speak postflop.
BTN – Button, or dealer button, is the last player to speak postflop.

In the case of a nine- or ten-player full ring table, MP+1, MP+2, etc. follow after the MP player, but more commonly the MP is just skipped and it is preferred to refer to the UTG. So “MP” becomes UTG+1, then there will be UTG+2 and so on.
There is also a position called Lojack that speaks before the HJ, but it is a term that is very rarely used now.
When in heads-up, the small blind also corresponds to the button, and speaks first preflop and last postflop.
To generalize we refer to the last positions (HJ, CO, BTN) as late position, and all others as early position.

The value of absolute positions

Who has a tracker to track one’s performance at online poker tables may have noticed that the winrate changes with position, precisely because of the positional advantage.
We start with the blinds, SB and BB. The first thing to note is that these are the only positions (in a classic Texas Hold’Em game) that “pay” chips even before receiving cards.
These are positions that by definition are losers; it is difficult if not impossible to get a positive balance from the darks. Consequently, the whole strategy from these two positions aims to lose as little as possible.
Suffice it to say that if we folded all hands we would have zero balance from each position, -50bb/100 from the SB and -100bb/100 from the big blind. When we lose less than these numbers, we are already doing something good, although the goal must be to lose as little as possible.

The weight of the mandatory bet

Another difference is that having already put a small stake in the pot, from the blinds we will have more advantageous pot odds in the preflop. For example, if CO raises 3bb, BTN will have to pay 3bb on a pot of 7.5 (CO’s raise, plus BTN’s call, plus small blind), for a required equity of 40%.
From the BB, on the other hand, we will only have to put in 2bb because we will have already paid one, and the equity immediately turns into 27%. A remarkable difference.
For this reason, despite the positional disadvantage, from the blinds one tends to call with a somewhat higher frequency (defending the blinds), and for the same reason from late position one tends to raise with a wider range in order to win the blinds more often and, in case, play postflop with the positional advantage.
Basically, the whole basic preflop strategy is developed based on this, from which the postflop strategy is then derived. Position-to-position ranges, sizes, hands to call or 3-bet, are the result of studying a balance sought from the defense of blinds.
To conclude, let us briefly look at an example of how much can be won from the various positions and small considerations in this regard. For simplicity, let’s look at a 6-max cash game table:

Small Blind: -10/-25 bb/100

Whenever we are small blind we will pay half blind, and we will almost always find a player to raise before us. To defend the position we will not be able to call often because we would risk raises from the BB, so the strategy focuses more on choosing between 3-bet and fold.

Big Blind: -25/-40 bb/100

We will always pay the BB, we have no blinds to steal, and we will almost always find raises earlier. We will also have very good odds for many calls, strengthened by the fact that no one can squeeze after us, and we will see many flops out of position.

UTG: 0/5 bb/100

From Early Position if we raise too much we would too often risk 3-bets from players in Late Position, which would condemn us to fold and lose our raise, or to call and play OOP. There is a preference to rarely rais with a very strong range.

MP: 7/9 bb/100

The same arguments made for UTG apply, but with the difference that there will be one less player threatening a raise, this allows us to expand our starting range a little bit and win a little more often.

CO: 13/14 bb/100

From cutoff we enter the late position, and basically we will only need to get over the BTN wall to steal blinds or otherwise play in postflop position. We can raise with a wide range, but the presence of BTN limits us.

CO: 13/14 bb/100

As we said, the BTN is the best position. No opponent in a position to fear, and a chance to put pressure on the blinds to win dead money. We can have a very wide opening range and call the 3-bets of the blinds fairly lightly to take advantage of the positional advantage, and we can 3-bet the open raises of the other players and play in position.

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