Being out of position means to be in an earlier position than your opponent. When you are out of position, you have to act first on the flop, turn, and river rounds. Your opponent gets to act last on all three streets.
Being out of position is a significant disadvantage in poker, because your opponent gets to see what you will do before choosing what he will do. Additionally, the player who is in position can dictate how a hand plays, because they will frequently have the opportunity to check behind, allowing them to control the size of the pot if they feel their hand is weak or needs to improve. On the other hand, some bluffs work best while out of position, like donk bets. It’s easier to check-raise from out of position.
Unfortunately, the ability to check-raise does not overcome the insurmountable advantage gained by being in position. Universally, statistical sampling has shown that every single player, no matter his level of skill, wins more money on the button than he does from early position. Being in the blinds put you in a double disadvantage, because you have the worst position at the table but are still forced to put in a bet.
For this reason, over a very large sample, most people lose money when they are in the blinds. The better players simply lose less money. Overall, being out of position simply means you should play tighter, both preflop and postflop. It’s rarely wrong to not play a hand out of position, folding whenever someone in position raises.
Learning about positioning is a key factor in learning how to be a successful poker player in the long run. Knowing what positions are best to play what hands and which ones are worst to play others is absolutely key to becoming profitable at this game. There are hands that don’t matter where you are because they are so good, but you already know what those are and are going to play them anyway.
When you are first learning poker, people will tell you to play tight which means that you don’t play anything but the best hands. Better advice would be to play even tighter when you are in early position. Decent hands, even some pocket pairs, should be folded if you are in early position and there are many people left to play after you. A call from early position can run into some trouble and you may find yourself having to call something even bigger or folding when you called. This is a waste of money.
Understanding position is absolutely key and knowing that you should play aggressive when acting late and play super tight when acting early is absolutely key to being a profitable player in the long run while playing poker. This doesn’t just to apply to Hold’Em, but all forms of poker from Omaha to Seven Card Stud to Razz.
Additional Out of Position Terminology Questions: