Dealing: Poker’s Musical Chairs

A rather interesting fact of Texas Hold’em gameplay that gives it a distinctively shared, interactive feeling (along with the community cards) is the way that the role of Dealer shifts around the table.

Not only should every competent player know how to deal and handle the cards physically, one also needs to fully appreciate the importance of good positioning. The relative quality of positioning is based upon the dealer’s position. When players say ‘positioning’ they mean good positioning.

The dealer is called the ‘button’ for a very good reason, and that is that this advantageous role and the position to its right called the ‘cutoff’ are the most powerful places to be. (A player is effectively the cutoff if player after her but before the dealer have folded.)

Why Positioning Matters

Even the best players in the world are beholden to or dependent upon having good positioning in order to pull off their biggest victories. Positioning is one of those natural laws of Hold’em, one of the unshakable constants of an otherwise very unstable and highly strategic experience.

It may even be fair to say that unless your hand is bombproof, it is best to somewhat write off rounds when you are in the position of big or small blind, who open the rounds of betting, always knowing less than their opponents.

But stay alert and do not blow off a bad position,  necessarily. What if you are playing with people who do not know how to fully take advantage of their positioning?

Here are a few of the most important aspects of positioning:

  • If Hold’em Poker is a game in which you succeed by knowing, observing and extrapolating the most information, then positioning is synonymous with the capacity to make informed betting decisions.
  • Beyond simply playing smart, positioning gives the power to play aggressively, namely by forcing the pot to increase.
  • Being the button or the cutoff gives players the most time, as well as the most information, before betting. This also benefits less experienced players who need more time to consider their cards and the odds.
  • While considering why positioning is so important and its advantages, you can also get an appreciation for why in Hold’em there are two fixed betting positions to the left of the button. The big and small blind, with the worst positions, are compensated by being able to hide behind the mandatory nature of their betting.
  • Certain positions have a lot of ‘bluff equity’, which means a good position at the table that is the ideal situation for making bluffs, especially ones that are easier and less expensive. Actually, the best bluffing positions are button, small blind and big blind.
  • There is an elegant balance to the way that early or weak positions are shielded by mandatory betting and having the best positions from which to bluff, with the way that late or good positions have the most information in order to play strongest.

Fine Checks and Balances

In the end, the fundamental draw of Texas Hold’em’s rules and gameplay could be its natural balance between risk and certain advantages, as we pointed out above. This kind of balance, especially in a gambling game, is the quality that makes its action riveting and have endless psychological depth. Each player adapts to their position, lives with disadvantages, and, thrives on advantages.

By far, positioning is one of the biggest advantages in the game. On the one hand, you have card and hand strength, and on the other hand you have positioning (which sometimes compensates for it).

If you do not fully understand the ins and outs of poker positioning then it is high time you bone up on this part of your game — which is equally as important in the casino or online.