Where is the most advantageous table position?
By Jack Clayton
Let’s talk about positioning. No, not leaning back in the recliner. You can do that anytime to relax. More like positioning in social circles, trying to meet the smartest or most influential people to learn how they think and go about things. It makes you a better person if you can absorb what makes successful people tick. Positioning is also a useful tool at the poker tables: where do you sit at the table?
Nine to ten players at the table are commonplace, requiring intense discipline and concentration on your part. It refers to where you are in relation to the dealer and your opponents. The dealer is zero, so if you are next to the dealer on the left you are #1 – the first person to be dealt cards too. This position is also known as the “small blind,” the opening phase of this three-act play that you hope ends in an armful of chips. And you hope the play isn’t entitled “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.”
It also means that small blind is the first to act in subsequent betting rounds to the pre-flop. The person next to you, on your left, is the Big Blind. He or she acts last in the pre-flop betting action, but the big blind has the option to raise in the pre-flop action if no one raised his blind. This is a very powerful advantage in poker. As players decide to wager, fold, call or raise, the player on the button has the advantage of seeing what moves all the other players have made before they act.
If you have a pair of eights and leading up to your move there has been, say, one bet, one raise and two calls. With action already moving the odds suggest you don’t have the strongest hand. And if the raise was a large one, folding should be an option. The key is that all this information you are digesting was not available to the per-son on your left had when they opened the betting.
When the action gets back to that person they have to make the choice of folding, calling, or raising, even though they already have an investment in the pot. You have an edge with no investment down yet. Think of it in stock market terms, knowing the price tomorrow with a chance to move on it today. In addition, as the last player to move you can close the betting by calling –unless you have a stronger hand and raise or re-raise.
While you are gauging the strengths of each hand before making your next move, don’t forget to analyze the moves of your opponents. If one player raises multiple times in the big blind consistently then changes the pattern, such as a call, don’t let that go unnoticed. That person may be sitting on a huge hand trying to set everyone else up. You might want to consider folding, not because of your own cards but because you’ve studied your opponents and get a sense of what they have and are thinking about doing. Another tactic would be to re-raise to see if your suspicions of the opponent were justified. Know yourself – and those around you.
Finally, a bad play, or a “Donkey Move,” can actually be used to your advantage. If you make a poor play with a weak hand and lose a small amount, this can sink in with those observing you that you don’t know what you’re doing. Your opponents can gauge you as a small fish, an amateur, which means they will pay less attention to you.
While you’re playing under the radar at some point you will catch a strong hand. This allows you a golden opportunity to take advantage and build up the pot on those strong hands. This is a trick move that shouldn’t be used against a tableful of experienced players, but it’s all about learning, playing, getting better – and cashing in big when the opportunities arise.