In Hold’em poker the position of dealer (marked upon the table by a small puck called the ‘button’) rotates in a leftward direction on each new hand. This is important since the button position is the most powerful for each hand. Why?
- The Dealer/Button is the last to receive cards
- The last player to bet is the Dealer
- The Button can learn about all players’ strengths
- Dealers have the most time to observe others
- The Button has more time to figure out pot odds
With these advantages, you may wonder how a Dealer can use the position to gain the most edge for the hand, control the action and ultimately benefit the most from a possible if not most likely win in this position. The following are the main tricks a dealer can pull off best:
To the left of the Dealer there is the Little Blind and then Big Blind (each having to make mandatory bets). For all other players to the left, the dealer can gauge their confidence based upon how they bet on the 2 two hole cards dealt to each face down. Of course, any player might be bluffing during the first round, yet the dealer will see the full story in bets during the post-flop stage also (when 3-5 community cards are in view).
Getting a sense of the probable strength of other players’ hands is just one of the powerful advantages of the Button, which should be combined with the other things we’re going over here. The synergy of all these special forms of information is the key to success.
Show and Tells
The Dealer has as much time as anybody else for observing adversaries closely, however this time comes at more useful moments, and with an up front vantage on players’ faces with an extra license to look at them closely. The Button gets to watch the others look at their private cards, and, to make their bets: at all times, valuable information will be revealed in their ‘tells’ (body language and unconscious habits and tics).
And, after witnessing each competitor, as well as the total scene at the table, the Button position gets the huge privilege of having this full picture in mind when betting last in each round. Really the only challenge to the Button’s superior positioning may come from the player sitting to the right, second to the last to bet, since this person can try to bump out the Dealer with a strong raise.
Time to Think
Focusing outwardly upon opponents is one essential task, however, the other crucial thing of course is to analyse your own situation, which means your hand in relation to others and the pot odds overall. Now, assessing the odds of a winning hand in relation to others’ likely hands and the size of the pot takes some amount of time. It’s different for every player, depending upon how experienced one is, how good at math, how easy they read other players (and, how OCD one is!) and so on.
No player but the Dealer has as much information for as long a time in order to make their decisions on how to play out the hand. Players who take more time to do their math benefit more by having the button. On the other hand, since the rules of the game are nicely balanced so that nobody has too much of an edge, the Dealer must be responsible for handling the cards and monitoring action, which takes up part of one’s attention.
To maximize advantages of being the Dealer, obviously you should practice your card handling skills and guidelines for player management, not to mention the rules. That way these tasks do not distract from more important tricks.
Steal the Blinds and Pot
Probably the most specific, most concrete and dramatic way to use the button spot to one’s advantage (although not necessarily with the largest payoff) is known as stealing the blinds. What happens is that the Dealer starts by observing that most players merely call or they fold. It is important to add other information to this fact like tells and others’ habits.
Unless those who just call are reverse-bluffing in hopes to draw somebody to pump up the pot over confidently, including encouraging the Dealer to try stealing the blinds, then the Dealer is in the best position to just scoop up the money supplied by Blinds and players who called. The way it’s done is simply to raise hard so that others fold at that point, forfeiting the undefended pot to the Dealer.
Putting it All Together
Lastly, we will just say that although the Dealer will find minor successes by using these advantages individually, the most powerful and highest paying way to win from the button seat is to draw out the hand as long as possible, increasing the pot, then going in for the kill. The Dealer has the power to set the bar and tone for hand’s action, as well as observe opponents, psych them out or manipulate their perceptions of one’s strength. The button only comes around in turn, so, it’s best to make the most of these benefits.