Not all seats at a poker table are equal – some are inherently more profitable than others. Each seat has a unique name that helps distinguish between the different positions at a table.
In this brief guide, we’ll discuss how the positions at a poker table are named. Each position at the poker table has its characteristics and should involve a different strategic outlook.
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The best play does not depend on the cards, but must also consider our position.
- Big Blind – (BB)– Two to the left of the Button, pays the big blind.
- Small Blind – (SB) – One to the left of the Button, pays the small blind.
- Button – (BTN) – To the right of the blinds, the best position at the table.
- Cutoff – (CO) – To the right of the Button, the second-best position at the table.
- Hijack – (HJ) – To the right of the Cutoff, called ‘middle-position’ (MP) on a 6max table.
- Lojack – (LJ) – To the right of the Hijack, called ‘Under the Gun’ (UTG) on a 6max table.
- Middle Position (MP) – To the right of the Lojack, exclusively on full ring tables.
- Under the Gun (UTG) – The three earliest positions, UTG, UTG+1 and UTG+2, only on full ring tables.
The strategy article for each position will provide advice on how to play that position.
Table of Contents
The Role of the Button
Positions at a poker table are not fixed. Their relationship to the button determines the position of each chair; an object that moves one place clockwise around each hand.
The Poker Positions
Seats 1 and 2: The Blinds
They are named such because mandatory blind payments must be paid from these positions before any cards are dealt.
Seat 1: The Big Blind (BB)
Where: Two seats to the left of the BTN
Blinds: Mandatory preflop payment of 1bb is required.
Action: Acts last preflop.
Name: Named after the fact that a “blind” payment is required. Blind in poker is to place chips without looking at your hole cards.
Here’s how to play the big blind.
Seat 2: The Small Blind (SB)
Where: To the direct left of the BTN.
Blinds: Mandatory preflop payment is required – usually 0.5bb, but it can vary from casino to casino.
Action: Acts second to last preflop, only the BB acts afterwards.
Name: Named after the fact that a “blind” payment is required. Blind in poker is the act of investing chips without seeing our hole cards.
Characteristics: The SB is typically a problematic position. It will not only be unable to close the action before the BB re-raises behind, but it will also remain OOP (outof position) after the flop.
The SB gets a discount on any preflop call (0.5bb invested), but the SB’s limitations mean that there are no incentives to cold-call. At first glance, many players assume that SB and BB are similar positions at the table; the truth is the opposite.
Seats 3 and 4: Late Position
These seats are typically the two most profitable positions at a poker table (with the BTN being the absolute best).
Seat 3: The Button (BTN)
Where: The position designated by the dealer button.
Action: The button acts third from last preflop, the SB and BB act afterwards.
Name: The name “button” refers to the physical disc that’s passed around the table each hand to indicate who the dealer is.
Characteristics: The BTN is considered the best position at the poker table. It is the ideal spot for uncontested takedowns of blinds, also known as theft. The BTN is not allowed to act preflop but it always acts postflop (being IP – in position).
Get better button play now.
Seat 4: The Cutoff (CO)
Where: The position to the direct right of the BTN.
Action: Acts fourth from last preflop. The BTN, SB, and BB act afterwards.
Name: The origin of the name “cutoff” is mostly unknown, although there are theories. One theory is that the player would cut the cards immediately after the deal was completed (ready for the flip). Another is that this is the “cutoff” point for steal attempts vs the blinds.
Characteristics: The CO is a lucrative spot at the poker table, but not as powerful as the BTN. The CO is restricted to only stealing hands. They must pass the BTN first before they are allowed to enter the blinds. As long as the BTN does not fold, the CO will remain in position postflop.
Seats 5 and 6: The Middle Positions
Up until now, both SH and FR tables use identical naming conventions. The positions at the middle of the table are named differently depending on whether it is SH or F.
In SH games, there is only one middle position which is simply referred to as MP.
In FR games, there are three middle positions referred to as the HJ (hijack) LJ (lojack) and MP1 (first middle position). Sometimes, the MP position at a SH table is also called the hijack. However, FR (full-ring) players most often use the term hijack.
The term “lojack” is not in common usage amongst SH players, this position being generally referred to as UTG (under-the-gun).
Seat 5: The Hijack (HJ) (FR) / Middle Position (MP) (SH)
Where: The position two to the right of the BTN.
Action: Acts fifth from last postflop CO, BTN, SB and BB all act afterwards. The hijack performs second preflop on a SH-table.
Name: The consensus is that since the Hijack is not considered a standard steal position, steal attempts can sometimes get a lot more credit than they should. Therefore, this seat can “hijack” the action and steal the blinds.
Characteristics: While profitable scenarios crop up in the hijack, we’ll mostly be looking to enter the pot with a wide range. The chance that we will run into a premium hold is high because there are four people following us preflop.
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This strategy advice will help you conquer the hijack.
Seat 6: The Lojack (LJ) (FR) / Under-the-Gun (UTG) (SH)
Where: The position three to the right of the BTN – first to act in SH games.
Action: Acts sixth from last preflop and first preflop in SH games.
Name: There is no authoritative resource for the origins of this name. It seems to have been named that way because it is located next to the hijack. It’s a low powered version of the hijack seat.
Seats 7-10: The Early Positions
The seats MP1, UTG+1 and UTG only exist on full ring tables. Since full ring tables may also be ten-handed (as opposed to nine-handed), the early position seats become UTG, UTG+1 and UTG+2 (followed by MP1).
The term “under-the-gun” (UTG) has a specific meaning in poker – the player who is first to act preflop. UTG is also used to refer to the lojack at short-handed table. Technically, the hijack can be called UTG if a table is five-handed.
This setup might prove confusing since the designation “UTG” changes based on the table size. If we want static names for the earlier positions, we can use the terms EP1 (early position), EP2 and EP3 (to represent UTG, UTG+1 and UTG+2) on a full ring table.
Although this might seem the most straightforward, the names UTG, UTG+1 and UTG+2 are more commonly used.
Seats 7-10: MP1, UTG+2, UTG+1, UTG (FR)
Where: UTG is to the direct left of the BB. UTG+1 is to UTG’s left, etc.
Action: These are the first four positions to act on a ten-handed full ring table. UTG+2 does not apply to nine-handed tables.
Name: The term “under the gun” appears to be borrowed from warfare. People on the front lines of battle were often first to come under enemy gunfire. It’s hence used to describe whoever is first to act on the preflop betting round.
CharacteristicsThese positions have been listed together. Why? They have very similar characteristics. We are likely to be out of position postflop and have many players to act after us preflop.
Learn how to play good poker in the Early Positions.
Summary: Important Strategy Concepts
The positions in poker are determined by how many players there are at the poker table. It is best to play more hands at shorter tables.
It is important to try different hands at different positions. The more hands you can play profitably, the older your position. Good players tend to play more hands at the button than under the gun.
Many players enjoy using a hand chart to help them decide which hands to play. For example, check out 888poker’s ultimate guide to the best starting hands to see an example of a preflop hand chart.
Although play from all positions at the poker table is important, play from the big blind and button are especially important since we play the majority of our hands from these positions.
Like all areas of poker, mastering the importance of position can take time and effort. This late position guide will give you specific advice on how to increase your win rate from late positions.
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