Explanation of Position
The majority of poker games make use of a dealer button (a small circular disk) that moves around the table in a clockwise direction. (The main exception to this is Stud variants which base the action around the strength of players’ up-cards).
Let’s take a look at the names of the positions at a poker table.
Big-Blind – The big-blind position is two to the left of the button and is forced to make the mandatory big-blind payment before any cards are dealt. Although the big-blind is last to act on the first betting round, it is second to act after the small-blind on all subsequent betting rounds.
Small-Blind – the small-blind position is to the direct left of the button and is forced to make the mandatory small-blind payments before any cards are dealt. (The small-blind payment is usually roughly half the size of the big-blind payment). The small-blind is second-to-last to act on the first betting round and always acts first on all subsequent betting rounds.
Button – In all variants, the button is considered to be the most profitable position at the table. Only the blinds act after the button on the first betting round and the button always gets to act last on all subsequent betting rounds. This is described as being “in position” and confers significant advantages.
Cutoff – the cutoff position is to the direct right of the Button. It’s considered a reasonable position at the table but nowhere near as profitable as the Button. On the first betting round the button and both blinds act after the cutoff. On all subsequent betting rounds the cutoff only has the button still to act afterwards. Of course, if the button were to fold on the first betting round then the cutoff would be guaranteed to be ‘in position’ on all subsequent betting rounds.
Hijack – The hijack is the position to the direct right of the cutoff. When playing 6-handed this position is also more commonly referred to as middle-position. It can still be described as middle-position on a full-ring table (9 or 10 players) but the term hijack is more precise. This is because there are three middle positions on a full-ring table sometimes referred to as MP, MP+1 and MP+2. Using the term middle-position to describe a 6-max game is unequivocal since there is only one middle-position. The term hijack is hence more commonly used when describing 9 or 10-handed games.
Lojack – The lojack is the position to the direct right of the hijack. when playing 6-handed this position is more commonly referred to as under-the-gun which essentially means “first to act”. Referring to the lojack as “under-the-gun” wouldn’t make sense in the context of a full-ring game since there are earlier positions at the table. This position may also sometimes be referred to with the designation “EP” for early position. Once again, this term would not make sense in the context of a full-ring game since the lojack is one of the three middle-positions.
Middle-Position – In a full-ring context middle position refers both to the seat on the direct right of the Lojack and also all three of the seats which fall under the classification “middle position”. (The hijack, the lowjack, and the seat to the right of the lowjack). In a six-handed game, middle position refers exclusively to the hijack.
Early Position – Early position refers to any of the seats to the right of middle position. In a 9-handed game there are two early position seats while in a 10-handed game there are three early position seats. For additional specificity these seats can be given the designation EP, EP+1, EP+2 or UTG, UTG+1, UTG+2. In a 6-handed game there is only one early position (the lojack) which is most commonly referred to as “under-the-gun”.
Under the Gun – Being under-the-gun always implies being first to act on the first betting round. In the context of a game played with blinds, under-the-gun is always to the direct left of the big-blind. The exact position relative to the button will depend on how many players are seated at the table.
Example of Position being used in a sentence -> In Hold’em, the button is the most profitable position at the table.
How to Use Position as Part of Your Poker Strategy
Why is being “in position” so important in poker?
There are two fundamental reasons why we prefer to be “in position” on the later betting rounds as opposed to being “out of position”.
1. We get to see what our opponent does before us on every betting round. We can hence formulate a more accurate opinion regarding the type of hand he has. We can make additional deductions based on whether he chooses to check or bet on the current street. Our opponent on the other hand is forced to act without being given any additional information regarding the strength of our hand.
2. It’s easier to control the action and size of the pot when we are in position.
When we are last to act on each street we can make the final decision regarding whether we want the pot-size to stay the same or to grow. By checking back in position, or just calling against a bet, we keep the size of the pot at its current level and proceed to the next street. If we decide that we want the pot to grow we can instead either bet or raise (depending on the situation).
Although the out of position player has similar options, it’s notably harder to control the action. Imagine for example the out of position player is looking to get a check/raise through. If it works, great, but there is always the possibility the in-position player checks back. If the out of position bets, the player in position might limit the action by just calling. On the other hand, the player in position will always have a clear idea of how to inflate the size of the pot. If his opponents bets he can raise, if his opponent checks he can bet.
What is the difference between relative and absolute position?
Absolute position means that a player is last to act in general on each postflop street. For example, in a heads up pot between the BTN and CO, the BTN always has absolute position because he acts after the CO on each street.
Relative position means that a player is last to act on a certain street as a result of the flow of action. For example, if CO checks and BTN bets, CO now has relative position. He is acting last after the BTN and can decide whether or not he wishes to end the action by just calling.
One of the most common examples of relative position involves the blinds in a preflop (first betting round) scenario. The SB and BB always act after the BTN on the first betting round meaning that they have relative position. They do not have absolute position however since as soon as we reach the postflop betting rounds the BTN will be acting after the blinds on each street.