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Early, middle and late in poker lingo

10 December 2004


Dear Mark,
You briefly mentioned in a past column the importance of position in Texas Hold'em. What did you mean by that? Dale O.

What position is NOT, Dale, is your bun-warming seat assignment in a game. Position refers to your place at the table relative to other players who are active in a particular pot. The early positions in an eight-handed game like Texas Hold'em are the first three players to act on their hands; the middle positions would be the next three, and the late positions are the last two. Late position is the superior position for you, since you have the advantage of knowing what your opponents have done. Unless game rules force you to act first, you always have position over anyone sitting immediately to your right, since you act on your hand after the player to your right takes action, quite likely giving you useful information.

Also, Dale, you will hear announcers on the World Poker Tour confide that a player just made a position bet. What he means is that a player made a wager more on the strength of his position than on the strength of his hand. Many players, myself included, are more liberal about the hands they will play from a late position. For example, a pair of deuces or a suited ace/deuce as a starter hand in Texas Hold'em would warrant some action in late position. Yet, if I were in early position, and though the hand initially looked appealing, I generally wouldn't play it.

Dear Mark,
Please settle a dispute I have with my wife. In video poker, which start-up hand is more valuable, one with an ace or one with a jack? My wife believes neither as you get your money back with either once paired up. I believe the jack is because you can make more paying hands with it. Also, what about two aces versus two jacks as a starter hand? Steve S.

In Jacks or Better video poker, Steve, a lone jack is worth more than an Ace. True, paired up after the draw they are hands of equal value, but thinking of straights and straight flushes, a jack is a better starter card than an ace. The jack can be part of a 7-8-9-10-J; or 8-9-10-J-Q; or a 9-10-J-Q-K, straight flush, whereas, other than sharing a mutual royal flush, the only other straight flush an ace can make is an ace-2-3-4-5. The same reasoning applies for straights.
By and large, two jacks as starters are worth exactly the same as two aces in Jacks or Better video poker. Both hands return your money if you draw no supporting cards. The same value holds true for three jacks versus three aces, and a four-of-a-kind for either hand. However, video poker also offers various "Bonus" games where four aces pay quite a bit more than four jacks do. On these bonus games, a pair of aces would definitely be worth more than two jacks.

Dear Mark,
I have played video poker for a long time, successfully I might add, but one hand keeps hexing me. Anytime I get three-of-a-kind with a need to draw two cards, I rarely get a full house or a four-of-a-kind. I figure the odds of getting either hand are not overwhelming, but I was wondering what they actually were. Calvin H.

Cursed or not, Calvin, drawing to a full house or a four-of-a-kind should happen more often than once in a blue moon. In your case, when you discard the two cards of little value, for instance, you keep three aces and throw away a nine of diamonds and a five of clubs, odds are you will improve your hand to either to a full house or four aces 10.4% of the time.

Gambling quote of the week: "You've seen my horses. They only need a driver who is worthy of them." Lew Wallace, Ben Hur (1880)

Early, middle and late in poker lingo is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.