Lesson 10 – Playing From Middle Position

Home Poker School Lesson 10 – Playing From Middle Position

As we get further away from the “button”, the number of hands that can be profitably played decreases. My definition for “Middle Position” (MP) is the two or three (assuming a 9- or 10-player table, respectively) players who act before the two LP players. In the numbering scheme I’m using, where the Button is 0, the MP players are numbers 3 to 5; thus Late Position player # 2, the Cutoff (# 1) and the Button act after them; plus the Blinds, of course, in the pre-flop betting. Because of the possibility or even likelihood of being raised by these “late” players, the minimum starting hands of Middle Position players must be fairly high. That begs the question: Should the hands for player # 5 be stronger than those of # 3? In a perfect world, the answer is “yes”, but the average poker table is not a perfect world. Because some of the MP players are likely to fold, the starting hands I give you will serve well for the range of positions covered by the designation “MP”, but if the player to your left (who acts after you) is inclined to raise a lot of hands, I’d definitely tighten up my starting requirements. And I’d probably do it by playing only with the EP opening hands, which will be covered in the next lesson.

Before I present the MP minimum starting hands chart, let me add my usual comments about how this will fit into the “Hold ’em Poker Basic Strategy Matrix” we’re building here. Like all of the other sections of the matrix, this one will show you which hands you can raise or reraise with, which hands can call raises and which hands should call unraised pots only. Again, I want to stress that this listing of minimum hands is based upon simulation, which in poker is not an exact science. Also, these recommendations assume a limit Hold ’em game at a table with 9 or 10 players and if you use them, you’ll come across as a somewhat “tight” player simply because you won’t be playing a lot of hands. However, this chart does have some flexibility that I explained in the previous lesson, so I won’t bore you with that here. As I also said in Lesson 9, the # 3 player could almost be considered as a Late Position player, but I’m going to err on the side of conservatism; you might decide differently, which is fine.
Okay, here’s the chart for Middle Position play:

Minimum Hands for Limit Hold ’em Poker, “Middle Position”
Re-raise/ Raise Call one raise Call only
A-A, A-Ko/A-Qs A-Js A-10s
—-/K-K K-Js K-Jo
—-/Q-Q Q-Js Q-Jo
—-/J-J —- J-10s

Notes and comments

Much like the other charts I’ve presented up to this point, the chart above will eventually become part of my “Hold ’em Poker Basic Strategy Matrix”. Rather than listing each separate hand, I’m once again showing the minimum, based upon the high card in the hand, so any hand that is better than the minimum may also be played. For example, in the case of a Queen the minimum to raise is Q-Q (no re-raising!); the minimum to call one raise is Q-Js. The minimum to call, otherwise fold, is Q-Jo. (Remember all the symbols? Here’s a quick review: “s” means suited and “o” stands for off-suit or unsuited). Any other hand with a Queen as the highest card should fold, raised pot or not. Okay with that? Obviously, if a hand can raise or reraise, it may also call any number of raises. Now, let’s look at the pairs. I included the “big” pairs here, but the rest are covered in the pairs chart you’ll find in Lesson 7. In Middle Position, you should raise with A-A, K-K, Q-Q and J-J, if your bet is the first one of that hand (I’m ignoring non-pair hands here). If someone acting before you raised, then re-raise with A-A, otherwise just call. Should someone acting after you re-raise an original raiser and you don’t hold A-A, just call with K-K through J-J. And be careful! Unless you’re playing against maniacs, a pot raised two or more times will usually have a lot of Aces and Kings in the hands of those still remaining.

Because the format above does not have a “call all raises” column, it’s in a bit of conflict with the matrix I presented for playing Pocket Pairs in Lesson 7. The mathematics show that it’s marginally profitable to call all raises in MP with a pair of 9s or higher, but it’s really a judgment call. Betting on a hand that basically will earn you nothing – but won’t lose anything, either – will increase your bankroll swings (“variance”), but it has the advantage of portraying you as an “action” player, which helps to offset the tight image this chart will give you. However, playing “iffy” hands requires considerable discipline: if you don’t flop a set with pairs of 10s or 9s, you must fold. Even if you do flop a set, you may well be up against an even bigger set, so beware of those flops that have overcards to your set and slow-play them with the old “check and call” strategy.


Reproduce the chart above an start working the strategy into your game. I think it’s fair to say that playing from Middle Position is not a world apart from playing in Late Position, but the key is to make sure you’re playing hands that can withstand a raise, especially if someone to your left is an aggressive player. But remember that “aggressive” doesn’t necessarily mean “smart”.

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