Picking a Good Seat

An examination of poker literature will show considerable disagreement on the subject of where to sit at a poker table. We are, of course, not talking about avoiding tobacco smoke, excessive body odor, or a player who overflows his allotted seating space. We are discussing purely poker considerations.

Why the disagreement? Let me outline the problem. Two principles that all poker authorities agree on are that it is desirable to act after your opponent, and you want to act last or as late as possible in multihanded pots. Quite often there is a player in the game that is a bulldozer, someone that plays a lot of hands and does a lot of betting. You cannot have everything. If this individual is on your left, you play a lot of hands with him having position on you. If this individual is on your right, the betting comes through you and the field acts after you do. So there is no one seat that is desirable in all situations.

Which is more important, to have position on the bulldozer or have position on the field? To me, this is not a close decision. I want to be placed well in multihanded pots, so I would rather have the bulldozer acting after I do, and sending the field into me, rather than the reverse. I believe anyone who tells you to plop down on the immediate left of a heavy bettor is giving you bad advice. Here are some reasons why.

First, when there is a player in the game who does a lot of betting and raising, the game usually gets fired up, and most of the pots are multihanded. You will not be dueling heads-up against the bulldozer very often. Note that in the old days, a lot of your heads-up situations in hold’em came from being in the blind along with your opponent, but most of today’s players chop in this situation.

Second, having position on a guy who almost always bets is not worth as much as some people think. In a sense, you can act after him by checking and having him bet, if you wish. Position is of greater value when it is on someone who is less predictable.

Third, your toughest poker decisions often come as a result of a bet through you by someone who you may well have beat, but some unknown hands behind you. When you have a mediocre holding such as second pair and a good kicker or top pair and a weak kicker, you are a likely favorite against someone who bets every time it is his turn to act, but not against a large group of opponents. If you raise and try to get the bulldozer all to yourself, you may run into a good hand and find out about it only after a sizable investment of funds. On the other hand, Just calling may let people in on a draw that you could have knocked out with a raise.

My advice is to consider the seat on the immediate left of a bulldozer the “death seat,” the one place you should avoid in a hold’em game. Let the bulldozer have position on you, but get good position on all those multihanded pots where he pumps. He who acts last has the blade.

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