Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2004.
This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.
Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 18: Choosing profitable seating
When I first started out as a student at MCU, learning the basics of poker, Mike had asked me a question that I really hadn’t thought a lot about. I didn’t think it was that significant a point. He wanted to know what I looked for in a seat. How do I go about choosing a seat for the best profit?
What difference could it truly make? This had to be a trick question.
By poker standards, action usually progresses in a clockwise motion during a poker hand. By that I mean that action usually approaches you from you right and flows to your left. The players to your right will always act before you do, except when dealer position ends the action. Players to your left will usually play after you.
So, you have players sitting on your right. They have to make a decision about how to play a hand. Then you have players on your left. They, too, have to make a decision about how to play a hand. You’re going to be playing before and after someone always. Right? So what possible difference could your seating make? Maybe it was a question relating to superstition, although Mike had made it known to me that he wasn’t superstitious. You never know with most poker players, who have their little superstitious quirks.
I shrugged, and declared all too proudly, “Your seat doesn’t matter. There aren’t any lucky seats. All seats are the same. You have players before and after you. Why should any one seat be luckier than the other?” That wasn’t the right answer. He informed me rather quickly that he wasn’t talking about lucky seats, but profitable seats. He assured me that seating does make a big difference in how much profit you rake in.
Then he went on to explain one of the most profitable concepts in poker. Now I’m going to share that with you.
It is to your advantage to be able to see what your opponent is going to do before you make your decision. In poker it is better to act last. You’re in a more favorable and profitable situation when you can act last than when you can act first. Mike says that on average, players acting last will win more money than those acting first. If you’re not a superior player, you can expect to lose money when you act first. The disadvantage is too much to overcome.
Okay, I saw that, but — going back to Mike’s question — how was choosing one seat any better than choosing another? You’re still going to have players acting before you and after you, players on your right and players on your left.
Mike has hundreds of millions of hands through computer simulation that shows you can make more money when you’re sitting with loose players to your right. That’s because you can take advantage of them by letting them come in with weak hands and raising when you have superior hands. If they were on your left you’d have to raise first and you’d most likely chase them out. They’re willing to be reckless, but not that reckless.
Another important thing about seating is that you would prefer players on your left to be tight and non-aggressive. That’s because, although they have a positional advantage over you, they’re less likely to take advantage of it. They’re seldom going to challenge you.
So, what we’ve learned today is that it really does matter where you sit. You want loose players to sit on your right, so they can act first, and you can take advantage of them.
You want tight non-aggressive players to your left, where they’ll be less likely to take advantage of you. If you follow this advice you’ll make more money. — DM