When you’re in middle position, you’re sandwiched between the player under the gun and the player in the cutoff. You have position on three opponents–the small blind, big blind, and under the gun – and the rest have position on you.
You can play a bit looser from middle position than you’d be able to from the blinds or under the gun. You’ll still want to play mainly for value and avoid marginal spots. Players to your left will always have more information than you in any given hand, so it’s best to stick to a solid game when in middle position.
Preflop Range in Middle Position
Your preflop range should be weighted towards hands with showdown value. Broadways, pocket pairs, and high Ax hands are your bread and butter here. A solid MP opening range looks something like this:
Keep in mind that it’s okay to play marginal suited connectors, but keep in mind that it’s situation-dependent. For example, it’s probably not a great idea to reraise a nitty TAG’s UTG open when you have 56s, since you’ll be up against an extremely value-oriented range. 56s won’t flop a strong-value hand often enough to justify battling UTG’s hand, which is probably pretty good.
Note – Do you notice how I use words like “probably” a lot in these articles? It’s not that I am scared to have opinions, it’s just that poker is a game of incomplete information. You never know for sure what an opponent has and you’ll never be correct every time. The only thing you can do is play with probabilities and try to be right more than you are wrong. If you learn to analyze every situation like this, you won’t be able to help but to make a lot of money in poker.
Stay Aggressive in Middle Position
As with most other positions, aggression is the key to staying profitable in middle position. If you’ve got a hand, you’ll generally want to open raise and pump the pot for value. Foregoing an open raise with a strong hands is almost always a mistake and will prevent you from maximizing your winnings in middle position.
There are some situations in which you’ll want to limp rather than open raise preflop. If the player in front of you (UTG) decides to limp and the game is passive, for example, you should consider calling with marginal hands that are suited for multi-way pots.
For example, 56s and most low pocket pairs are great hands to limp with, provided UTG limps before you. Limping here gives players behind an incentive to join the pot, and encourages huge multi-way showdowns. These are great for speculative hands like 56s because they offer huge potential value for a relatively small price.
Abuse Your UTG Opponent When in Middle Position
When you’re in middle position you want to keep a close eye on your opponent under the gun. Pay especially close attention to his preflop tendencies. Does he tend to limp preflop? Does he tend to limp-fold to raises behind him? Take notes and use whatever information you get to your advantage.
Having a chronic limper under the gun is great when you’re in middle position. You can raise him to death, either isolating him for heads-up play or taking down the pot preflop. Either case is profitable, especially when your opponent is bad.
Keep in mind that although you want to abuse an under the gun limper, you shouldn’t play like you’re on the button. Remember that you’ve got players behind you who might have good hands. Open up your range a little bit when abusing an under the gun limper, but don’t open it up so much that you’re stuck with 27 offsuit when the cutoff decides to 3bet.
Don’t like being stuck in middle position? Then steal it! If you have a tight opponent to your left, you can often steal late position with a simple preflop raise. I wouldn’t go around doing this all the time, but it’s good to know. If you get the cutoff and button to fold, you’ve just bought late position.
It is risky to attempt to steal the button when there are two players to act behind you, so use this play sparingly. The good thing about raising from middle position is that your raises get a little more respect than raises from late position. People do not automatically assume you’re trying to “steal” something when you raise fro middle position.
Once you effectively have late position, you can mess with your opponents more. They are all in early position (relative to you) so you can get away with more bluffs and you can figure out ways to extract money from your made hands. Just remember to practice a little restraint with this tactic. The last thing you want to do is turn into a spew-monkey from middle position.