When you first start playing poker in home games around dining room tables, there’s a good chance you’ll fear the dealer button.
Being the dealer means you have the pressure of shuffling the deck and dealing the cards correctly. Also making sure everyone acts in turn, and handling the barrage of complaints that inevitably come your way when you indiscriminately deliver a brutal bad beat on the river.
But ‘the button’ is actually considered the best position at the poker table (particularly when you’re playing on PokerStars or at a live event and the cards are dealt for you!).
Let’s find out why, and how you can use it to your advantage.
What is the button in poker?
At a nine-handed poker table, there are nine different positions. These are:
Under the gun (UTG)
The dealer (a.k.a. The button, or BTN)
The button rotates around every player at the table and indicates who the dealer is for a particular hand.
In a live game, in which where players are dealing the cards to one another, the player with the dealer button in front of them is responsible for dealing the cards for that hand.
But if you’re playing online on PokerStars or at a professional live tournament, like a European Poker Tour (EPT), for example, the cards will be dealt for you. In this case, the button acts more as a positional reminder.
Often the quickest way to figure out which position you’re in is by scanning for the dealer button. If you’re sat to the left of the button, you know you’re now in the small blind. Sat to the right, and you’re in the cutoff, etc.
You’ll also notice that in our list of the nine table positions, the dealer button position comes last.
There’s a good reason for this.
Is the button the best position in poker?
The button is considered the best position in poker for a few reasons.
Perhaps the most obvious is that you now have an entire round of play before you have to post the blinds again. This is great news particularly if you’re short-stacked and waiting to pick up a good hand so that you can go all in.
But the button’s position in relation to the blinds also makes it the most powerful position.
The under-the-gun player (the player seated to the left of the big blind) has to act first pre-flop. Then every player, in turn, acts next. The button is the last player to act before the action reaches the blinds, and because of that it gives them a big advantage.
The button gets to see how every other player acts–aside from those in the blinds–before they have to act. This gives the button a lot of information that a player in middle position, for example, doesn’t have.
Let’s say under the gun opens and middle position decides to play aggressively and three-bet (i.e. raise the original raiser) with a weakish hand, hoping everyone including the original raiser will fold. The problem is there are still lots of players left to act. One of them might wake up with a very strong hand. If the middle-position player’s raise then gets raised (i.e. four-bet), they’re in a tricky spot and will probably have to fold.
If you’re on the button, however, and it folds around to you, there are only two more players left to act behind you. This gives you a bit more freedom with your actions. There are fewer players remaining in the hand and it’s less likely someone will have a strong hand.
Now let’s say everyone folds and the action is on you on the button.
You are now in a great position to raise with a wide range of hands as you have a shot of winning the blinds and antes if both of the blinds fold.
Moreover, even if one of the blinds does call, or even raise, you can play more comfortably knowing you’re guaranteed to be “in position” (i.e. the last player to act) post-flop.
What are the advantages of the button?
The positional advantage is the biggest reason the button is considered the best poker position.
It’s expected that the player on the button will open and three-bet with a wide range of hands, and so on the occasions when you do inevitably pick up a monster, you have a better chance of getting action from your opponents.
But the importance of being “in position” cannot be overstated.
Unlike chess, in which all the pieces are in front of both players, poker is a game of incomplete information. You don’t know what your opponents are holding, nor do you know what cards are going to fall on the flop, turn or river.
But by being in position, you have more information than your opponents as you get to see how they act first before you need to do anything.
Now you know why being the dealer and having the button is the most powerful position on a poker table.
- You get to see how most of your opponents act before you have to
- If it folds to you, you can apply pressure to those in the blinds
- You can play a more aggressive strategy from the button than any other position
- If you choose to play the hand, you’re guaranteed to be in position on every street post-flop
So the next time you’re playing in a home game and it’s your turn to have the dealer button, don’t be scared. Cherish it, because on that hand you have the best seat in the game.
Check out: Understanding ‘The Hijack’ in pokerBack to Top