January 12, 2009

Take Your Position

poker buttonManipulating position is a skill that Texas Holdem players need to focus on developing more deeply when moving to other games.

In Texas Holdem poker, the value of position is generally self-evident. You want opponents to make their decisions before you do, and then you want the final say, the last word. On top of that, Holdem is a game where it is common that nobody has much of anything. You are making decisions based on whose "nothing" will outplay the others to win the pot. While superior position doesn't automatically win hands, it does make it more likely you will make better bets—in the same way that a general who positions his troops on terrain he is familiar with will have an edge.

But position in Texas Holdem is simplistic. Last is basically best, particularly when only two players are in a pot. First position, or second position behind a maniac, or position in front of a maniac … sometimes these will offer positional advantages too, but for the most part, just being last to act is such a significant edge that all good players will tend to play more hands when they are in late position and less hands when they are in early position.

But the greatest difference in positional complexity comes in comparing Omaha Hi/Lo to Texas Holdem. Last position continues to have some general advantages, but it comes with disadvantages too. For example, bluffing from last position is suicide against good players. The bluffing arrow is almost removed from your quiver when you are last. In Texas Holdem having middle position seldom offers any advantages but middle position is the prime bluffing position in Omaha.

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