What Is “Under the Gun” in Poker?
Being largely a game of skill, poker demands a strategic approach involving much more than assessing the potential value of your and your opponents’ hands.
One of the critical aspects each player should be aware of is how their position, i.e., the betting order affects the gameplay.
The position we’ll discuss today is “Under the Gun“, or UTG for short. The term is used to signify the first player to the left of the Big Blind.
Under the Gun puts a lot of pressure on the player, as it demands that they make the first pre-flop bet with little information, hence the name.
Under the Gun Explained
Under the Gun is a position in a poker game for a player who places the first bet before the flop, that is, before any community cards have been dealt. If you’re just beginning to learn the ins and outs of poker, this may sound a bit confusing, so let’s review the basic poker rules.
In a typical flop poker game like Omaha or Texas Hold’em, one of the players gets the Dealer button. The first two players to the left of the Button position represent the Small Blind and the Big Blind. They have to place the mandatory bets before any of the cards have been dealt. In other words, they go in blind, thus the name.
After that, the dealer or the player with the Dealer button hands the players two cards each. Now that everyone has their cards, they must place their first bets. Since the Blinds have already gone through this step, the person to their left will now be the one to start betting. This player is in the Under the Gun position.
Disadvantages of This Position
Before the first community cards are revealed on the flop, players have to place their first bets. Each participant wants to make an informed betting decision based on their two hole cards and the perceived strength of their opponents’ cards. The way to judge the strength of a hand is to keep track of whether the person has called, raised, or folded.
When you play from the Under the Gun position, you are the first one to place the bet, so you don’t have any information on other players’ cards. In poker terms, you play out of position. What’s more, the bet you make will give others an upper hand, as they will be able to draw conclusions about your cards.
Obviously, this makes Under the Gun the most unfavorable position in a poker game. However, this doesn’t mean that players in this situation are always doomed to lose. If you’re aware of how it affects your strategy, you can make better decisions and have very good chances of winning the game.
How to Play From Under the Gun
In light of what we know about the disadvantages of this position, it is obvious that determining the right poker strategy can be tricky.
For instance, if you raise, the confident players behind you may reraise, which can put a serious dent in your budget on the following betting rounds. Limping is not an option either since calling the Big Blind with a strong hand will only reduce your equity in the pot.
Of course, the opposite may also happen — all other players may have weak cards and decide to fold, which means you get to collect the blind bets. Besides, if you raise in this situation, it will increase your equity in the pot. That said, there is still a big chance of at least one player having a stronger hand than you.
Therefore, making bold moves from Under the Gun should not be your playing strategy, especially if you’re a beginner. Due to your unfavorable position, you should stick to a tight range of hands. On the one hand, you won’t have any problems remembering your range, but on the other, you’ll have limited options.
The hands you want to play from Under the Gun should be pretty strong, such as suited high cards like KJs and KQs, strong suited aces like AT, AJ, AQ, and AK, strong unsuited aces like AQ and AK, and pocket pairs starting with 8s.
The safest approach to betting from this position is to play conservatively on the pre-flop and flop and then more loosely on the turn and river, as you’ll have more information about other players’ hands.
As you gain experience, you can start playing riskier, weaker hands like smaller pocket pairs, TKs, TJs, and maybe even T9s. If you have a reputation as a tight and conservative player, you can use this to your advantage. For instance, you can raise on the pre-flop, which may scare off other players into folding and help you collect the blinds.
Playing from Under the Gun may be the most disadvantageous position in poker, but it can become your strong suit if you know how to do it correctly. Remember to stick to a tighter range of cards and only play your strongest hands. Making bold moves is usually not rewarded in this position, so concentrating on long-term strategy should be your main goal.