Good players fully understand how powerful position is in poker, and they exploit it to the fullest of their abilities. Bad or mediocre players have a lesser understanding of position, and the only way that they will do well in tournaments is to get lucky. You ever wonder how the really good players are always going deep into tournaments? I mean, they get dealt the same cards as everyone else right? It's their understanding of position. Their use of re-steals. Position raises. Continuation bets. UTG steals. All of these different techniques for acquiring chips stem from their knowledge of how important position is.
Let's start with the basics. The later position that you have in a hand, the stronger your position is, relative to the other players. Why? Because you have more information, as more players have already acted in front of you. The best position to have is the button, as post-flop, you are last to act, and will be in a position to steal many pots.
Let's give you an example. Let's say that you are in early position, and have 7 people left to act behind you pre-flop. You are dealt A/10, and decide to raise it. I mean, A/10 is a pretty decent starting hand right? Not in this position. In early position, A/10 is basically a garbage hand. So you raise 4xBB with your A/10, and you receive a flat call, and then a re-raise from the button, and it's back to you. Now what? Your A/10 is almost certainly no good here, and if you continue with the hand, you are likely going to lost a lot of chips.
Alright, now let's say that you are dealt A/10, but you are on the button. There is one person in middle position who limps in, and everyone else folds. Here, A/10 is a much stronger hand, because you will be last to act after the flop, and because you will be in a position to steal the blinds. Now, if you raise 4xBB, you likely have a good chance of capturing not only the blinds, but the limpers money as well.
Ok, now in this situation, the blinds fold, but the limper calls. In this situation, you can assume that unless this player is a tricky player, they probably have a hand like KQ or maybe a small pair. The flop comes 10 7 2. Statistically speaking, this flop missed your opponent, and he will likely check it to you. You need to bet out in this situation with a continuation bet, of anywhere between 3/4 to full pot. You will take down the pot in this situation more than enough for it to be a profitable play. Your opponent thinks you could have just about anything. You've represented a strong hand. You could easily have KK, QQ, AA, KA, etc. Unless he hit the flop hard, he won't be able to call. If your opponent does call or raise here, you will have a decision to make.
OK, now knowing that, you need to understand that better players will abuse the button, and will almost always raise it up when they have the button, in order to try and steal the blinds. Let's say that you have a loose, aggressive player on the button with a big stack, and you are in the BB with 66. It is folded around to the button, who puts in a 6xBB raise; a pretty obvious steal. You currently have about 24BB in your stack. In this case, I am pushing everytime. You are most likely ahead of any holding that the button may have. If he calls you, it is a likely race, but there is also a good chance that he will fold. You need to be wary of button raises, as they often times have garbage behind them.
The last concept is: early position steals. Some of the top players online will often use this move to accumulate chips. They are spinning the concept of positional strength on its head. Let's say that the blinds are 300/600, and you have an UTG players push all-in with 5600 chips. You think, wow, they must have a good hand, to be pushing all-in from early position. Maybe they do, or maybe this is just an advanced, gutsy steal. They want you to think that they have a very strong hand, so everyone folds. If a player had AA, would they really push all-in and try and force everyone out? Good players will use their knowledge of position to represent hands in order to accumulate chips as well. The UTG steal is so useful (but gutsy) because you are obviously representing a very strong hand. Not for the faint of heart though.
If you can master one concept when it comes to poker, it has to be position, and how important it is. It can't be underestimated.
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