Importance of Table Position
Location, location, location. This is the mantra for businesses such as retail stores and real estate. In poker, it’s position, position, position. There is simply nothing more important in no-limit hold’em than position. In fact, it’s so important, I’ve read that one pro said (sorry, can’t remember where) that he would pay the blind every single hand if he could be guaranteed to act last in each hand.
Using position to your advantage is going to be one of the quickest ways to improve your game. Whether you are trying to loosen up or tighten up your game, you should first look at your positional stats. If your VPIP and PFR stats are pretty similar from each position, then you have a great opportunity for improvement. Your stats from early position should be much tighter than your stats from late position. The converse is obviously also true, your stats from late position should be much more loose and aggressive than from early position.
Let’s look at an example. We’ll use a full-ring player with overall stats of 15/12. A solid, positionally aware player with these stats should be tighter in early position and looser in late position. He might have stats similar to these:
EP (UTG, UTG+1) – 9/8
MP (MP1, MP2, MP3) – 14/12
LP (CO, BTN) 32/25
Even within this subgroup there will be minor differences. You should be willing to open hands from MP3 for instance, that you should be folding from MP1. So the later we are to act, the more we can open our game up and use these opportunities to steal the blinds and raise limpers. That’s not to say that we should be playing any two cards from late position, but we can find much more value in hands like suited connectors and gappers from late position that there is from early position.
Now why is position so important? Well, we get to act last of course. But the real question is why is acting last so important? The answer here is because we can gain more information the later we act, and hold’em is really a game of partial information. You have information on every player you play against if you’re paying attention. You may know what types of hands they open, how often they will limp-fold, limp-raise, limp-call. Maybe you know that they will call pre-flop but fold the flop very often or that they c-bet 90% of flops. This is all information you can use against your opponent, and the later you are to act, the more information you gain. The key is to use the information you gain by your positional advantage. For instance, if you are on the button and the action in front of you on the flop is a bet and a raise, you have to be willing to let go of all but the strongest hands. On the other hand, if the hand is checked to you, this may be a good opportunity to try to steal the pot (again, depending on the information you have on the players in front of you).
So with all of this in mind, what is the best position on the table? Basically, you want to be able to act after the people with the most money and who are the most loose and aggressive. So you would want these people immediately to your right. On your left it is easiest to play with people who are tight and more passive. They will generally let you know immediately if they do indeed have a strong hand and will usually let you steal blinds and isolate limpers without much problem.
Make sure you are using your position to your advantage, and get yourself out of situations that just make playing your game difficult for you. That is the great thing about playing online. You can change tables any time you want. If, for example, you are at a table and all the tight people are to your right and you have two very loose aggressive players to your left, you may want to consider leaving the table. Although these players could potentially be very profitable to play, they will likely make it very difficult to play your typical game. That is, unless you are very experienced in playing vs. these types of villains, which can be difficult for even very good players when out of position.