Poker Positions

We all know how important being in position is in poker, but you may need to learn that your position at the table is just as important. In a game of limited information (such as poker), any informational advantage you have over your opponents gives you a significant advantage – if you know how to use it.

We’ll look into exactly how you should play from each position, why it’s important, and how being positionally aware can make you a better poker player.

What are Positions in Poker?

When you play poker, you’re sat in specific seats at the table (or the virtual felt). These seats can be referred to as your “position” at the table. Your position at the table should influence your strategy each hand.

In poker, there are two types of positions:

  • Relative Position: Relative position is whether you’re in or out of position relative to your opponents in the hand (in position means you act last, and out of position means you act first).
  • Absolute Position: Absolute position is your position relative to the blinds and button during the hand. While the relative position can change throughout the hand, the absolute position stays the same once the hand is dealt.


While the relative position can change throughout the hand, the absolute position stays the same once the hand is dealt. Let’s take a look at the absolute positions at a 9-handed poker table:


UTG, or Under the Gun, is the player seated directly to the left of the big blind and is the first to act preflop. It’s one of the worst positions at the table, as you have eight other players left to act behind you. This means you should play conservatively, as the chances are high that someone acting after you has a strong hand.

UTG +1

This is the position directly to the left of the UTG player and is the second to act preflop. This position plays similarly to UTG, as these are the two earliest positions you can get at the poker table. You can play a couple more hands from UTG+1, but you still need to play tight.


Not actually the middle of the table, middle position refers to being in between early position and late position. Some players refer to this seat as UTG+2 and use middle position as a term to encompass this position and the LoJack. Again, this is a position where playing tight is right.


Even though we’re starting to get closer to the button, the Lojack (LJ) sits in that awkward in-between spot–it’s too far around the table to be in early position, but it isn’t in late position, either. Some people use this position interchangeably with middle position, which can confuse new players! While you still need to be relatively tight from this position, you can afford to play more hands than you would UTG.


So-called as you’re hijacking the chance for the players in the cutoff and button to steal the blinds. The hijack is where players will start to open up their ranges more. While some nittier players will still call this middle position, more aggressive players consider it late position. How aggressive you are at the table will dictate how tight or loose your strategy is from this position.


Before people started playing wider from the hijack, this used to be the “cutoff” where you’d begin to loosen your range. One seat to the right of the button, you’ll likely be in position post-flop, which means you can raise a wide range of hands. You should have one of your highest raise percentages from this position.


The best seat at the table; when you’re on the button, you’re guaranteed to be in position post-flop, and if it’s folded to you, there are only two players you need to fold out to win the blinds. Therefore, you should be playing your widest range from the button, raising at least 50% of your hands when it folds to you. The button is where you’ll have your highest win rate as a player, so it’s essential to play a lot of hands from this position.


From the best to the worst, the small blind is arguably one of the worst poker positions at the table. You have to put in half a big blind before you see your cards, so you’re already fighting uphill in terms of win rate, plus you’re guaranteed to be out of position post-flop. You should play a tight but aggressive strategy when playing from the small blind, but if it folds to you, you should raise a wide range to attack the big blind.


The big blind is unique in that you’re the last to act preflop from this position and can win the pot immediately if everyone folds. You’ll often be calling raises rather than raising yourself, so it’s important to see where the raise comes from when considering your hand. The earlier position a player raises in, the tighter their hand will be and the tighter you should be in response.


But what about if you’re not playing at a 9-handed table? Most online games run in a 6-max format with six players at a table instead of nine. This format is gaining popularity in live games as fewer players mean more action. So let’s have a look at how the positions are different in 6max compared to a 9-handed table:

1. BB – Big Blind

2. SB – Small Blind

3. BTN – Button

4. CO – Cutoff

5. HJ – Hijack

6. UTG – Under The Gun

As you can see, the key difference is eliminating the first three positions and making the LoJack the de facto UTG position. So while the positions remain roughly the same, there is a significant change in the actions you can take from each poker position.

The fact there are fewer players doesn’t really matter: you play each position the same as you would at a nine handed table after the first three players fold. As such, your opening range from each seat should be the same from each position (eg: Lojack opening range same whether table is 6 handed or 9 handed etc) in a no ante games. In a game where every player pays an ante you should actually open slightly tighter 6 handed because there are three less antes to win.


Knowing positions in poker and how to adjust your strategy based on your table positions is a crucial part of becoming a winning poker player. The reason that poker positions are essential is that each one is different from another. They vary on how many players are left to act after you and your likely relative position postflop.


For example, if you raise from UTG (Under The Gun) at a nine-handed table, you have eight players to act after you. With eight different combinations of hands, someone will likely have a strong hand. You need to anticipate that and only raise strong hands from this position as if you play too many hands, you’ll be crushed by the stronger ranges of your opponent.

Also, the UTG position is far from the button, so you’ll likely be playing out of position postflop. Playing out of position is a disadvantage, so you must increase the strength of your range to compensate.

However, if you raise from the BTN (Button) at a nine-handed table, you only have two players left to act behind you. In this scenario, it’s unlikely that one of the two remaining players has a strong hand, so you can raise a much wider range of hands to try and steal the blinds. You’re also guaranteed to be in position postflop, which puts you at an advantage during the hand; therefore, you can raise an even wider range of hands.


If you were to play the same range of hands in both positions, you would find your stack slowly (or quickly) disappearing in front of you. This is because the two strategies you should use in each position are vastly different. If you were to play your BTN strategy from UTG, you’d lose most of the hands you’d play, as all your opponents will be playing strong against your wide range.

On the other hand, if you were to play your UTG strategy from the BTN, you wouldn’t be stealing the blinds often enough, so your stack would die a slow death from being blinded off. The key takeaway is that each position is unique, so a different strategy must be applied.


While we’ve briefly touched upon them, here are the four generalized positions at the poker table:

1. Early Position

2. Middle Position

3. Late Position

4. The Blinds

Each encompasses two or three positions at the table, and players will use a particular preflop strategy depending on their position. Word of warning: these positions are not set in stone; people often have different interpretations of early and middle positions, so don’t be surprised if you’re talking with a friend and they think these positions mean something slightly different!


So why should you change your preflop strategy depending on your position? It all comes down to why we raise in poker, to begin with.


In poker, blinds (and sometimes antes) are posted by selected players before the hand begins and players can see their cards. These blinds are our incentive to raise because if we don’t routinely win them, our stack will eventually bleed out from having to post them ourselves. There would be no reason to play a hand other than AA if there were no blinds, as there’d be no penalty for sitting and waiting for a top-tier hand.

In poker, blinds (and sometimes antes) are posted by selected players before the hand begins and players can see their cards. These blinds are our incentive to raise because if we don’t routinely win them, our stack will eventually bleed out from having to post them ourselves. There would be no reason to play a hand other than AA if there were no blinds, as there’d be no penalty for sitting and waiting for a top-tier hand.

But what does this mean for our strategy? First, while we’re incentivized to try and win these blinds, so is everyone else at the table, which means we need to consider our opponents when we play. The more opponents we have left act behind us, the more players there are who can stop us from winning the blinds, either by having a strong hand and continuing or by bluffing us. So we need to have a tight range from early position as we have the rest of the table left to act.

As we get further around the table and closer to the button, there are fewer players between us and winning the blinds. Sitting in late position means we can raise a wider range as there are fewer players we need to worry about waking up with a strong hand. This leads to open-raising strategies and 3-betting strategies based on position.

If our opponent is raising from early position, we know that they’re raising with a tight range which means that we need to have an even stronger range if we want to re-raise them. However, suppose our opponent is raising from late position. In that case, we know that they can be raising with all sorts of garbage in an attempt to steal the blinds, so we can 3bet them lighter and expect it to get through more often.


When we get to postflop, our absolute positions at the table are superseded by our relative positions. Playing in position is a lot easier than playing out of position, as you get the luxury of knowing what your opponents have done before you make your decision. By being in position, you get more opportunities to bluff when your opponents show weakness, you can pot control by closing the action, and you can decide to realize your equity and see more cards if you’re on a draw.

Generally, you should play tighter out of position than in position, both preflop and postflop. This is because the disadvantage you’re at means you need a stronger range to compensate for the handicap of playing out of position. Also, the more hands you play in than out of position, the more money you’ll make at the poker table.


We’ve covered some of the hands you might raise from in each position, but what do these ranges look like when you lay them out? We’ve devised a reasonable opening range for each position at a 9-handed table so you can see how it looks:

Position Open Raising Range
UTG 77+, AQo+, ATs+, JTs+
UTG+1 55+, AJo+, ATs+, 98s+
MP 33+, AJo+, ATs+, A2s-A5s, 98s+
LJ 33+, AJo+, ATs+, A2s-A5s, A9s, 98s+
HJ 22+, ATo+, A2s+, 78s+, KQo
CO 22+, A9o+, A2s+, 54s+, QJo+
BTN 22+, A2s+, K2s+, Q2s+, J3s+, T6s+, 95s+, 85s+, 74s+, 63s+, 53s+, 43s+, A2o+, K3o+, Q5o+, J7o+, T8o+, 97o+, 86o+, 75o+, 65o+
SB 22+, A2s+, K2s+, Q2s+, J3s+, T7s+, 96s+, 86s+, 75s+, 64s+, 53s+, 43s+, A3o+, K5o+, Q7o+, J7o+, T8o+, 97o+, 86o+, 75o+, 65o+

You can see just how wide you can play from late positions compared to middle positions and early positions, with the earliest positions folding hands like ATo and 33, which may shock some people. These hands are folded because of their lack of value when called. With 33, we’ll likely need to flop a set to win against our opponent. With ATo, we’re likely to be dominated if we flop an ace and a lot of money goes into the middle.

While you don’t have to use these exact ranges, it’s important to consider what hands you’re including/removing and how these hands play against your opponent’s ranges.


We’ve frequently mentioned throughout this article that playing in position gives you a postflop advantage, but what exactly are those advantages?


Commonly found in tournaments, an ante is a mandatory bet that each player must make in a hand. These are similar to the blinds but smaller in size and placed directly into the pot rather than in front of each player. In addition, some casinos have introduced a “big blind ante,” where the player in the big blind pays the ante for the whole table. Doing this speeds up the game, as you don’t have to wait for nine players to post an ante at the start of each hand.


The presence of an ante increases the amount of “dead money” in the pot preflop and gives players more to fight for. As there is more money to be won, the overall success rate of a steal attempt can be lower while still being profitable.

For example, if you raise 3bb to win 1.5bb (the small and big blind). Here, you need your opponent to fold 66% of the time for the steal attempt to be breakeven (not taking into account any postflop action). However, suppose you’re raising 3bb to win 2.5bb. In that case, they only need to fold 55% of the time for the steal attempt to be breakeven (again, not taking into account any postflop action).

Having an ante in play also means that the price of playing a round of poker has increased from 1.5bb per round to 2.5bb per round. This means you should widen your range from every position whenever an ante is in play. The more you can steal the blinds and antes, the less effect they’ll have on your stack when you’re forced to pay them.

A good rule of thumb is to widen your positions more the closer you get to the button. Just because there’s an ante in play doesn’t mean that raising 30% of hands from UTG becomes a good strategy! Start with minor adjustments to your early position ranges, then make more significant adjustments as you get closer to the button.


The straddle is a self-imposed position in poker, often found in live games. Still, more and more online poker sites are starting to implement this feature. The straddle position is where the player who would have been UTG decides to post 2x the size of the big blind as another blind bet. This allows them to be last to act preflop, making the player to the left of the straddle first to act.


If people are straddling in your games, how should you adjust to it? The first thing to be aware of is that your raise sizes will be bigger when there’s a straddle in play. As it’s essentially the third blind, your minimum raise must be at least 2x the straddle, which means the smallest raise you can make is 4bb.

Most players assume that a straddle is like an ante, where there is dead money to be won and your EV of stealing greatly increases. This is not the case. When you raise preflop with an ante in play, you’re raising 3bb to win 2.5bb – a big increase over the 3bb to win 1.5bb. However, with a straddle in play, you need to increase your raise size, so you’re raising 6bb to win 3.5bb – not much better than a standard open raise.

There is, however, some EV to be gained by stealing more frequently when a straddle is in play. Just note that you should make smaller adjustments to your opening ranges and not widen them as much as when there are antes in play. Unless the player in the straddle is a complete nit or a total maniac, add one or two more hands to your opening ranges when a straddle is in play.


Knowing each poker position and how it affects your strategy is a big part of becoming a winning poker player. After reading this guide, you should know each position in poker, why we adjust our preflop strategy based on our position, and how to adjust to different variables at the table. However, knowing how to adjust your ranges based on your position is one thing; knowing how to construct your preflop ranges is another thing altogether. Check out our guide on poker ranges to find out how to do that.

Did this article deal you a winning hand?

Jackpot! You’ve flopped a winning hand! This article has surely added some extra chips to your stack. Tune in for more valuable insights and pro-level strategies!

Looks like you’ve been dealt a bad beat. We’ll shuffle the deck and try again.

Jordan conroy


Jordan Conroy, a respected name in the online poker arena, has cultivated his authority through years of dedicated play and content creation. Since 2020, he has earned a stellar reputation for his in-depth analysis of poker theory and his ability to keep a finger on the pulse of the latest developments in the poker world.

Jordan’s dedication to staying at the forefront of poker knowledge allows him to consistently deliver top-quality content that resonates with both novice players and seasoned professionals.

Beyond his poker expertise, he brings a diverse perspective, closely following other competitive domains like soccer, snooker, and Formula 1, enriching his insights and providing a comprehensive understanding of the gaming landscape.

More by Jordan

Poker Positions FAQs

No results found for your search.
You can try another word or you can visit our social media pages for more content and information.

Poker Table Positions

Poker Table Positions

A three-bet, or 3-bet, describes the first re-raise before the flop in poker. If someone raises, you may call, fold,…

Read More

If you're new to playing poker, it's important to know how betting works. Different types of poker have different rules,…

Read More

Check-raising is a deceptive move in poker that involves checking your hand to an opponent, only to raise their subsequent…

Read More