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Middle Position Starting Hands

Middle Position: Pre-Flop Basic Openers

By now you have read lessons 1 and 2 and have learned the basics of how to play early position in a Freeze Out No Limit Hold'em tournament. This third lesson will talk about middle position play pre-flop, and will discuss basic openers in this position.

Once again, I remind you to keep in mind that survival is key in tournament play. As you go through these lessons, realize that there are many, many hands and therefore many things you can do in any given situation. I could never cover them all, but I can give you a foundation from which to start.

Though there are other areas in the school that state that you may play more hands in middle position than I suggest here, this is a beginners lesson. Therefore, the thing we want to focus on is chip management, conservation and with a bit of luck, growth of your stack.

Reiterating, the following advice is not set in stone. There are so many variables that might allow a player to do something different than follow these basics. As you improve and develop more skills, you will understand this statement. You will also find articles and advanced lessons in the school that outline more liberal play for Middle Position. Remember, in a freeze out tournament, you cannot go back for more chips. Once you are are out!

Recap from Lessons One & Two

Positions: The blinds will always be the first to act except on the first betting round. The blinds get an option to act last on the first round of play. They were forced to bet in the blind to begin the action; therefore, they have an opportunity or option to raise after all the other players have acted.

These are the positions Pre-Flop:

  • Early position: commonly referred to as the first 3 players after the big blind.
  • Middle position: commonly referred to as the next 3 players after the early position players.
  • Late position: commonly referred to as the player immediately before the dealer and the dealer (player with the dealer button).

Note: After the flop, the early positions change just a bit.

  • Early position Post Flop: the small blind, big blind and next 3 players. After the flop, the small blind now becomes under the gun (the first to have to act.) There are 5 players in the early position, 3 in middle position and 2 in late position.

Pre Flop Basic Openers by Position

Now, let's address Middle Position Play:

The hands a player should consider playing are limited because the middle position is still vulnerable, but not as much as early position. There will be a few more hands added because your positional disadvantage has decreased from early position, depending if you are in position 6,7 or 8.

Seat 1 and 2 are the blinds. Seat 3, 4 and 5 are considered early position pre-flop. Seat 6,7 and 8 are middle position. There has been a blind bet in seat 1 and 2 and seat 3, 4, 5, have acted. You are in seat 6, 7 or 8. You can play many more "marginal" hands in these positions; however, here are some things you need to be watching for:

  • If there is no raise in front of you, pocket pairs may be played all the way down to a pair of eights. This is of course according to how you have observed your opponents playing. If it is a loose and passive game, meaning that players are playing almost any two starting cards pre-flop yet they are not doing a great deal of raising, then any pair is playable (call these small pairs, do not raise with them).
  • If the pot has been raised before you and you hold AA, KK, QQ, AKs or AK, it is appropriate to re-raise. Be advised to keep a heads up on the players before you. Do they usually only raise with premium hands or do they raise with anything? Do you have a feel for their play?
    • They could have a pair and would be a slight favorite over you if you have an AKs or AK.
    • Raising with QQ would be a hand-defining move. This would hopefully thin out the field behind you and find out exactly where you are with the original raiser. If the original raiser were to re-raise, you would have to put them on AA or KK or AK. You might be aware that this player often raises on less than your QQ. It is a judgment call whether you wish to look at the flop for a call or come over the top with another raise. If you do and don't hit, and there is a bet, then you must lay your QQ down.
  • If you are the first to enter the pot after the blinds and you hold AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AKs, AQs, AJs, KQs and AK, you should raise. Again, depending on the type of players in the game, you could raise with 99, JTs, QJs, Ats, KJs, and AQ. These are marginal hands and until you get more experienced, these last cards will put you in a much more vulnerable position if you get raisers behind you.
  • If there have been several callers before you, it is wise to only call with the last group (99, JTs, QJs, ATs, KJs, and AQ). There are these things to consider when you are coming in with these marginal hands in middle position:
    • It is good to know how these players play. Hopefully you have been taking notes on their playing habits (as suggested in lesson 2) and may discern whether you are up against a good hand or not. Think about whether you want a lot of callers, as these hands typically play better against fewer players than not. However, they are marginal enough that you might be getting yourself into trouble with them if you have several callers.

      For example, you call with QJs and a QQ5 flops. You think you are in hog heaven, having flopped a set. If someone else stayed with the AQ or KQ, you are sitting in second position.

    • If you have the JTs, you might want many callers. This hand typically plays well against many players.

Starting Hands in Middle Position

s = suited ns = non suited

Re-raise AA, KK, QQ, AKs
Raise if no one has called before you AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AKs, AQs, AJs, KQs, AK

Marginal hands - 99, JTs, QJs,ATs, KJs, and AQs

Raise if 1-3 Callers before you AA, KK, AKs, AK
Call if 1-3 Callers before you QQ, JJ, TT,99, 88, AQs, AJs, ATs, KQs, KJs, KTs, QJs, QTs, JTs
Raise if more than 3 callers before you AA, KK, AKs,
Call if more than 3 callers before you QQ, JJ, TT,99, 88, AQs, AJs, ATs, KQs, KJs, KTs, QJs, QTs, JTs

In addition to the above list – 77, 66, T9s, 98s, 87s, J9s, J8s, T8s, and AXs (X=any rank)

Fold All other hole cards

In 7th or 8th position, when and if you elect to play suited connectors, remember that they play well in multi-way pots only. If you have many callers before you, then it is worth the call. You will most likely need to make a straight or a flush to win the hand.

Big cards play well in pots with few players. Suited connectors play well in multi-way well. Nothing is for certain.


  • When you are in middle position there is a false sense of security and you can easily get lulled into playing more hands than you should. If you are going to err, do it in favor of being conservative at the beginning of your poker playing career. Don't believe you have a lot more latitude to play "any ole cards" just because you are no longer in the early position.
  • One of the major mistakes that causes freeze out tournament players to lose is that they try to win the tournament too early in the game. If you play too many hands and gamble too early you are taking a huge risk of bombing out.

    You cannot force a marginal hand to be good. The pros allow themselves to be patient and wait for lady luck to help them. Middle position players are in a situation where they have information regarding several players, but still have the late players and the blinds to contend with.

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