By Alton Hardin

“To say that position is important in poker is like saying having gasoline is important to driving an automobile.”

Knowing which hands you should play and how you should play them according to where you are sitting at the table in relation to the dealer button is one of the characteristics that distinguish a winning poker player from a losing player. Yet many newer players have no idea of the importance of position in poker or they simply chose to ignore it.

What is positional awareness?

Positional awareness is a multi-faceted concept. The most obvious element of it is being aware of the importance of position at a very basic level in one’s pre-flop opening ranges. In general, you want to play more hands in position then when you are out of position. It also encompasses being aware of changes in your opponents’ ranges based upon their position at the table and their knowledge of positional awareness.

For example, we should fear a competent player’s early position raise much more so than a late position CO or BTN raise.

Position equals Knowledge

Because poker is a game of incomplete information, any knowledge gain we can obtain is power. The more information we can amass, the better chance we have of winning. This is why position equals knowledge. When you are in position, you get to see how your opponents’ will act on all streets; therefore, giving you the power to dictate the way the hand is played. Vice versus, playing out of position forces you to essentially play your hand face up since villain gets to see you act on every street before he acts.

Some Key Points:

1. When you are last to act, you have more information than your opponents

2. Position also gives you more bluff equity than your out of position opponents

3. Acting last allows you to maximize your equity by more accurately sizing your value bets

4. Lastly, being last to act allows you to manipulate pot-sizes in your favor

Position Alter Opening Ranges

The key point is that when we open in early position, we have more opponents yet to act than when we open in late position. Therefore, while at the risk of sounding repetitive, we need to hammer in the fact that the earlier position we are in, the tighter we should be playing. As we move to later positions, we can open up our ranges. This all has to do with the key points discussed above.

Other Implications

Perhaps the most common mistake beginning and intermediate players make regarding position is they adjust their ranges pre-flop correctly, but do not take pre-flop position and range analysis considerations to their post-flop play. We need to remember to use the opener’s position as a factor in how the hand should be played post-flop. Position and positional awareness should be utilized on all streets, not just pre-flop.

For example, if a good regular opens UTG, then top pair, weak kicker (TPWK) is a much less attractive holding for a pre-flop caller on the flop than if the regular opened the BTN. Why is this? The regular will have a much stronger opening range pre-flop UTG than on the BTN.

Exploitation

If someone is limping or opening too much in early position, we can exploit their lose play by expanding our calling and 3-betting ranges against them. Why? Players with a lack of positional awareness, tend to play too many hands that tend to miss the flop very often. Because of their lose range, they have to give up their hand more often than a tight UTG raiser. Moreover, we will have positional advantage over them as well throughout the hand.

Pre-Flop Opening Ranges by Position for 6-Max Beginners

These ranges will keep you out of marginal spots, but will not maximize your win rate.

UTG (9.35%)

55+, ATs+, KQs, AJo+, KQo

MP (14.63%)

22+, ATs+, KJs+, QJs, JTs, ATo+, KJo+, QJo

CO (20.97%)

22+, A6s+, KTs+, QTs+, JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s, A9o+, KTo+, QTo+, JTo

BU (34.54%)

22+, A2s+, K9s+, Q9s+, J9s+, T8s+, 97s+, 87s, 76s, 65s, 54s, A2o+, KTo+, QTo+, JTo, T9o, 98o, 87o, 76o

SB = CO Range

BB = BU Range

Rough Guidelines for Opening % by Position for Intermediate 6-Max Players

UTG: 10-17%

MP: 12-19%

CO: 22-32%

BTN: 60-80% (against bad players), 40-60% (against good players)

SB: 55-75% (against bad players), 30-45% (against good players)