Mastering the Button Position: Tips and Strategies

min read
A poker player throwing money over casino chips on a poker table.
BetMGM Jan 02, 2024, 4:54 AM

Want to perform better in cash games and poker tournaments? Then, make sure you understand the different positions at the poker table. Where you sit matters a lot more than a beginner might realize. 

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about playing from the button. This includes easy-to-apply tips you can implement right away.

What is the Button in Poker?

The button passes around the table by one seat every hand and is used to designate whose turn it is to deal. Of course, in big events, a professional dealer will be used so that players can concentrate solely on the game. Similarly, if you play poker online, you won’t need to actually deal. However, the button is still important, determining who must post the blinds and who acts first.

There could be as many as 10 seats at a poker table, depending on the specific format. Where you sit relative to the dealer affects how early on in the hand you’ll have to make a decision. This, in turn, impacts your choice of poker strategy.

Action always begins with the player sitting to the immediate left of the dealer button. In hold’em, that player must post a small blind, with the next position posting the big blind. The player first to act after the blinds are posted is referred to as being “under the gun.” Collectively, these spots are known as “early position.” 

Next up is the “middle position,” followed by the “late position,” which includes the cut-off and dealer button positions.

Characteristics of the Button in Poker

Postflop, the button is the player who acts last. That’s the major characteristic of this position. In this spot, you’ll see every player’s decision before making your own. That’s extremely important, with poker being a game of hidden information. The more details you determine, the better optimized your decisions can be.

Here’s an example that can help make the importance of poker table position even clearer. Imagine you’re playing from an early position, under the gun. Your hand is okay but not spectacular; something like J-9 suited. What are you going to do with that?

If you raise the big blind, you have an entire table to act behind you. Anyone could have pocket aces or kings and raise back. Someone might just try bluffing you off the pot. Even if you call, you’ll be out of position on every other street, constantly guessing what your opponent will do next.

If you were on the button, you’d see exactly how the other players acted first. If nobody puts in a raise, you can feel safe that your hand might be one of the best at the table. If you show some aggression, you might even take it down there and then. Similarly, if two people ahead of you are raising, you can safely muck your average hand.

As you can see, it requires a much stronger hand to raise from an early position than from the button.

Button Strategy and Tips

Below, you’ll learn tips and strategies for finding yourself on the button. You’ll quickly learn why it’s considered the optimal position in poker.

Steal the Blinds

If nobody raises before you and the players in the blinds seem hesitant, it’s a good idea to raise. Your hand’s strength doesn’t matter much in this spot, especially if most players are playing tight. With this maneuver, you might steal the blinds, and there’s minimal risk.

Of course, if other players call or raise you, you’ll need to consider the strength of your hand before deciding how to proceed. If you expect players to call more often because the table is playing loose, you don’t want to raise with too many bad and mediocre hands. Despite this, generally speaking, you should still look to steal more.

Widen Your Range

On that subject, you can safely widen your range, not just when raising. More information is available to you, so take advantage of this and look to play more hands than you would in early and middle positions.

Of course, you still need to pay attention to the action on the table. If two raises are in front of you, you probably don’t want to call with an offsuit A-6. However, if there was a single raise, it might be a good idea to play back with such a hand. 

This way, you’re putting pressure on the initial raiser. They know they’ll have to play the entire hand out of position against you. That’s how you leverage the button’s advantage.

Adjust for Your Opponent’s Skill

So, the two major takeaways should be to raise more and call wider. However, here’s the thing about learning in poker. What you discover isn’t some kind of secret information that only you can access. Every skilled player knows this, too. 

When you’re playing at low stakes, there are still players who don’t know as much as you. Perhaps they just play for fun, so they don’t bother studying and optimizing their decisions. Of course, you can and should take advantage of that.

However, once you start winning more, you’ll probably move to a stronger level of competition, playing for higher stakes. At that point, you should adjust to your opponent’s skill level. They’ll likely know you’re playing a wider range of hands from the button as they do the same thing.

Thus, they’ll make decisions based on that. Perhaps they’ll also widen their range and call more often than a beginner would. In such a scenario, you may need to shrink your range while keeping it wider than in the early positions.

Always Pay Attention to Others

When you’re having poker positions explained for the first time, it’s easy to focus on one thing at a time, forgetting about the bigger picture. Having read this article, don’t wait for the button to come around and dive into action. It’s important to constantly pay attention to what’s going on around you.

As previously explained, your decisions should change based on other players’ actions. If you don’t know which players are tight and which are loose, the advantage of the button won’t help you as much.

Thus, you should always note the playing style of your opponents, no matter which position you’re in. Once you pin down the patterns of a few players, you’ll be able to leverage that button position much more.

Get in Position at BetMGM

Now you know how to play on the button in poker, it’s time to put theory into practice. Register at BetMGM to get involved with dozens of cash tables and poker tournaments daily.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.