Your Position

You must play starting cards appropriate for your position. In an early position, you are forced throughout the hand to make decisions with the least amount of information. For example, if before the flop, you call the blind with a drawing hand, you could be faced with a raise from one or more players with premium pairs. Since you don't know what raises you will be faced with, don't play cards from an early position that are too weak to justify calling a raise.

Compared to Seven-Card Stud, the importance of position in Hold'em is one of the key differences between the games. Position changes throughout the hand in Stud. The critical factor in determining a playable stud hand isn't position, but rather, whether the hand is "live." If your first three cards in Seven-Card Stud are A, J, J, and you look at the board and see the other two Jacks and one other Ace, you have a "dead" hand. The Jacks with Ace-kicker may look pretty, but your action should be to fold

However, in Hold'em, only three cards initially appear on the board and they are your cards. To know when your hand is "dead" is more difficult in Hold'em because fewer cards are exposed. Tojudge if your Hold'em hand is "live," you must observe the bets from the other players. Therefore, position matters, and since your position stays fixed throughout the hand, you know ahead of time the betting order for the entire hand.

Prior to the flop, the person to the left of the big blind is said to be "under the gun" and must act first. That player is not allowed to check; he or she must fold, call, or raise. The small blind will act next to last and the big blind last. Both the big blind and small blind have the option of raising. Pre-flop, the big blind is the only player with the option to check, and that is only if the pot has not been raised.

After the flop and for all subsequent betting rounds, the small blind acts first, the big blind second, and the action continues in turn with the player on the button acting last. That means the blinds will be "out of position" for the remainder of the hand and the player closest to the button will have the advantage of acting last. A player's position allows some hands that are usually unplayable to become profitable if played when acting last

To understand the effect of position, the expected value data from can be further broken down and sorted by both pocket cards and position. Three-dimensional plots showing expected value on the vertical axis versus both pocket cards and position can be constructed. In the plots that follow the seat number refers to the player position shown in the diagram

Seat 1 - Small blind Acts first for all rounds after the flop
Seat 2 - Big Blind Acts last prior to the flop
Seat 3 - "Under the gun" Acts first prior to the flop.
Seat 4 - Early Position Seat  
Late position Seat 10 - "button*" Acts last for all rounds after the flop