But what does this really mean?
New players often develop a completely wrong idea of poker table positions, even to the point where they believe to be “in position” when they act first.
This may sound funny to someone who’s been playing for a while or who has a solid fundamental knowledge of the game, but no one knows this when they’re first starting.
In this article, I will go into detail of explaining the importance of having a position, starting with poker position names, over some general strategic considerations, to the breakdown of starting hands for different seats.
By the end of it, you’ll have a much better idea of why exactly position is so important and how it should influence your in-game decisions.
Table of content
Overview of Poker Table Positions and Names
Let’s start at the top, with poker position names. Every seat at the table has its own name, and you’ll often come across this poker terminology in various strategy vids and articles.
So, knowing what these different names refer to is crucial to any further studying of the game.
First of all, there are four main groups of poker positions:
- Early position (UTG)
- Middle position (MP)
- Late position (Hijack, Cutoff, Button)
Players who are first to act before the flop are sitting in early position, the next few players acting after them are in the middle seats, followed by the players in the late position.
Finally, there are (almost) always two players sitting in the blinds if we are talking about a full table.
Poker Position Names
In a standard 6 or 9-handed game, every position is assigned a particular name.
This positional name is referred to in hand analysis even to the point where it’s preferred over the player’s actual name or nickname.
For example, you’ll often hear:
“The UTG opens for three big blinds, the cutoff calls, and the button 3-bets to 15 blinds. Everyone in between folds, and the action gets back to UTG.”
If you don’t know poker position names, this can be very confusing, of course. So, let’s get that part out of the way.
For 6-max, you have:
- Under the Gun (UTG): The first player to act before the flop, seated immediately to the left of the big blind
- Hijack: (HJ) The player sitting to the left of the UTG. Hijack sometimes is also called MP (middle position).
- Cutoff (CO): The player seated to the left of the Hijack and to the right of the Button.
- Button (BTN): The player to the right of the Cutoff and to the left of the Small Blind.
- Small Blind (SB): The player who posted the small blind before the flop sits to the left of the BTN.
- Big Blind (BB): This player sits to the left of the small blind and is the last to act preflop.
For the full ring (9 players), there are more positions (obviously):
- Under the Gun (UTG)
- Middle Position 1 (MP1), often referred to as LoJack (LJ)
- Middle Position 2 (MP2), also known as Hijack (HJ)
- Middle Position 3 (MP3) or Cutoff (CO)
- Button (BTN)
- Small Blind (SB)
- Big Blind (BB)
So, now you have a good idea of what people talk about when referring to cutoff or hijack.
Also, it’s important to memorize these poker position names moving forward as I’ll be going over specifics for each of these positions later in the article.
Why Are Poker Positions so Important?
But, before I move on to particular strategies on how to adjust your play for different table positions, let me briefly discuss the importance of it (once again).
Even if you feel like you’re getting tired of hearing about it, bear with me. There aren’t many poker lessons that will be as important as this one throughout your poker career.
Let me start by asking a simple question. If you had a way of knowing what your opponents had in every single hand, do you think you’d win most pots and walked away victorious in most tournaments?
What a silly question, right? Of course, you would!
Unfortunately (or fortunately, because it would be a rather pointless game otherwise), you don’t get that kind of information.
The amount of info you get on your opponent is limited to what you’re able to extrapolate from their actions and behavior. No more and no less.
And that’s where position comes into play.
A player seated in an early position has no information whatsoever with regards to other players.
The UTG player is, for example, going in completely blind, and can only consider their hand. Then, MP has some information at least about the UTG (they folded or raised or limped in).
As you go around the table, you get to the button. Now, the BTN is the player who has all the information they could possibly need. They saw actions of all other players, and then they can proceed accordingly.
You won’t know the exact hands of your opponents, of course, but you’ll have a much better idea of how strong or weak they might be when you are in position.
Then, there are blinds, of course. They get the last say before the flop, so you could argue that these are the best positions to be in. However, the big and the small blind have two inherent disadvantages that are more important than being able to act last before the flop:
- They are forced to put money in blind (so, on average, with a weak hand)
- They’ll always be first to act after the flop
As you well know, many hands in Texas Hold’em don’t end before the flop. You’ll have to keep playing through the flop and, often, subsequent streets, so that’s another thing to keep in mind when talking about poker positions – which brings me to my next topic.
Relative vs. Absolute Poker Position
Texas Hold’em is a dynamic game. Things change based on the actions of other players. When thinking about poker table positions, this is an essential consideration.
Let’s say the MP player opens, and you decide to call from the cutoff. You have a position over them, so that’s good. However, the button decides to call, as well. Now, you have a position on the MP, but the BTN has a position on the MP and you.
This is the difference between relative and absolute positions.
There is only one seat at the table that can know for sure they’ll have a positional advantage on everyone for the entire duration of a hand, and that’s player on the button.
They have the absolute position, and that’s what makes this seat so powerful. No matter what other players do, they can’t take away the positional advantage from the button, unless you fold.
All other positions are relative. You can hope or expect to have a position over a particular player, but you don’t know what players still to act will do.
If one of them decides to join, you will lose the advantage, and you always have to think about this possibility.
Strategy for Different Poker Positions in 6-max
There is much more that could be said about positions in general, but you should have a pretty good idea by now why they’re so important.
In this next section, I will move on to discussing particular situations, trying to define a range of hands you should be playing when first in from every position.
I’ll use the PokerSnowie app for this, a great poker software that can help you improve your game.
You will see how your hand range changes as you move around the table. The percentage of hands you’ll want to play from first positions is very narrow compared to the range of hands you’ll play from the button.
The earlier you are, the less information you have on other players and more opponents behind you, which means you need to be more careful.
But, beyond this, the earlier you are, the likelier it is for someone behind to have a big hand. If you’re first to act with eight players behind, the odds of someone having a big hand are quite high.
So, you want to play tight. As you get to the button and only have blinds left to act, you can afford to widen your range.
Players in the blinds have two random cards and are only in the hand because they have to be. So, they are far less likely to have a big hand than someone who voluntarily put money in the pot, which means you can afford to raise with a great variety of hands.
On top of this, you’ll always have a position on them even when they decide to call or even 3-bet, so even when they find a playable hand, you’ll still have the upper hand.
Before I move on to explaining opening ranges by positions, it is essential to note that this is for the games where you’re effectively 100 big blinds deep, and there is no poker ante in play.
Under the Gun Poker Position (UTG)
The first position I will discuss is the earliest one there is, namely Under the Gun or UTG.
There is a straightforward rule to follow when playing from under the gun, and that’s being very tight.
You have five players left to act behind you, each of them with a possibility of waking up with a big hand. So, you want to be conservative.
Looking at Poker Snowie, this is the GTO (Game Theory Optimal) range it suggests you should be opening with from under the gun poker position.
As you can see, you should be opening your pocket pairs down to pocket 8s pretty much all the time, and then mix between raising and folding with pockets between 7s and 5.
The rest of the pocket pairs are simply folds, even though they may seem appealing to play on a 6-max table.
When it comes to big Aces, anything below ATo is a fold UTG. However, you can open all suited Aces, down to A2s.
This is because these hands have excellent playability postflop and also reduce the odds of someone else having a big Ace themselves.
I can imagine that some of you may be wondering what’s happening with all the good suited connectors as the last hand from this category is JTs. The simple answer is, these hands just shouldn’t be played from UTG, even if you feel tempted to do it.
If you start including these hands, your under the gun range will become too broad, and other players will take advantage of this by either calling in position and outplaying you after the flop or 3-betting you more preflop.
Of course, poker is a situational game, and you’ll want to adjust to your table.
If you happen to stumble upon a game where players are generally passive, you might want to expand your UTG range a bit, including hands like T9s or 98s, for example. However, you shouldn’t deviate too much from this opening poker positions chart.
Hijack Poker Position (HJ)
In a 6-max game, the player who’s usually the middle position player is effectively called the hijack or UTG+1.
The most common term for this position is hijack, though, so that’s what I’ll stick to for the most part in this article.
Now, the hijack is a slightly better position than UTG because there are now four players left to act instead of five.
It means that you can adjust your opening range slightly and start adding some more hands.
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As you can see, in addition to all the hands found on the UTG chart, you’ll also want to add a few extra hands, like A9 and K8s. On top of that, those smaller pocket pairs like 6s and 5s now become a mandatory raise 100% of the time.
There are also some more unsuited hands you can afford to open from the middle position some of the time, like QTo and JTo.
However, don’t go crazy with these. Poker Snowie suggests you should lean more towards folding, but throwing in an occasional raise instead is also fine.
Cutoff Poker Position
The cutoff is one of the best poker positions, only trumped by the button.
You’ll notice a significant jump in the range of hands you’ll want to open when sitting in the poker cutoff position.
This is because a good player always wants to take advantage of the late position, and you only get to be in these spots a couple of times per orbit.
Just by quickly glancing at the Poker Snowie cutoff poker graph, you can see much more “green,” i.e., there are clearly more hands you’ll be open raising when it gets folded to you.
For example, you’ll be raising all pocket pairs except for deuces, with pocket treys being a raise about half of the time.
Then, there are many more suited connectors in your range and various weak suited hands like K6s and Q8s.
All of these aren’t very strong but play decently well in position, and you’re looking to get a fold from the button and then play in absolute position against the blinds (or win the pot before the flop, of course).
It is interesting to notice how weak unsuited Aces are still a fold. Snowie suggests adding A8o to your cutoff poker opening range about 42% of the time, but that’s it. Anything lower than that is simply a fold.
As you gather more experience, you can expand your raising ranges and start including some non-GTO hands against weaker opponents.
But for a beginner player, these charts are easy to memorize and will help you stay out of trouble. Most poker training sites like Upswing Poker Lab or even Jonathan Little poker coaching suggest to follow these tips, so you should be good!
Button Poker Position
As already explained, the poker button position is the most powerful of all seats at the table.
Playing from the button, you’ll always have the last say on the flop, turn, and river, which makes this seat very powerful.
Talking about preflop, you’re only looking at two players in the blinds once everyone had folded to you.
So, when these two factors are combined, it should come as no surprise that you’ll want to open a vast range of hands from the dealer.
Most players know they should be “stealing” from the button, but what does this mean in terms of actual hands?
I’m guessing that some of you are looking at this chart, thinking no way this is correct. Do you really want to raise with a “garbage” hand like Q6s? How is that a raising hand?
Everything depends on your poker positions. So, while you’d never even consider Q6s from UTG, it becomes very playable from the button.
Since you’re guaranteed to have a position on the small and the big blind no matter what, you can afford to widen your range.
Even if your steal fails, you’ll still have the advantage of being the last to act on every street, and that’s no small matter.
Often, you’ll be able to win pots with a simple continuation bet even when you miss the flop entirely.
Small Blind Poker Position
You’ve probably noticed that so far, there were only two options – raise or fold. With the GTO approach, there is no room for limping first from other positions. If you want to get involved in a pot first to act, you do it by raising.
However, as you come to the SB, things change.
A small blind poker strategy is almost a new game of its own as it entails some extraordinary dynamics.
Once it is folded to you in the small blind, there is just one player left to act. Both of you have been dealt a random hand and are in a pot because you had to be.
So, how does this influence the range of hands you’ll want to play from this position?
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The small blind poker chart is definitely much different from any of the rest. Not only it suggests you should be playing more than 60% of your range, but it also indicates that there are many hands you’ll sometimes want to raise and occasionally just complete.
The bottom line is, you’ll want to play many hands from this position as you don’t want to give up the money already invested in the pot, and you are getting great odds to play.
There is no reason to think the big blind has a big hand, so you want to have a strategy that relies heavily on that knowledge.
I won’t go into too much detail on the small blind poker strategy in this particular article. This position merits a significant discussion of its own as it is the most difficult of all poker positions.
Make sure to spend some time analyzing the above graph, though, and keep in mind that you need to fight for your small blind a lot of the time.
Big Blind Poker Position
The final position I’ll discuss for the 6max game is the big blind, and it is the only position that never gets to act first before the flop.
You’ll either win the pot when everybody else folds, have an option if one or more players limp in, or have to find an appropriate response to a raise.
So, there is no “raising first” range for the big blind. Instead, you have a defense range, i.e., hands you’ll want to continue with when facing a raise.
Your defense range will depend on what position the raise comes from, which makes a big blind poker strategy another topic of its own.
You can’t have a generic range to use against every open. You’ll probably have a decent 3-bet percentage against the button, for example, but against a UTG raise, you’ll have to tread lightly.
Without going into too much detail on the topic of big blind poker preflop strategy, here’s the breakdown of Poker Snowie graphs for suggested actions vs. different positions (from UTG to SB, using the 3x raise).