pre-flop strategy

Pre-Flop Strategy

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There is a lot more to poker than going all-in as soon as you discover you have a pocket pair. Whilst there will always be a few fish who bet like loonies with 22 in the hole and just happen to get lucky, long term success requires you to adopt a much more logical strategy based on sound odds and the conditions of the game you are playing. The number of players you are facing, the way they play (tight, loose, etc.), how much you have, where you are sitting in relation to the big blind and how you personally like to play are all things that need to be taken into consideration.

The number of players
The number of players in a hand is directly related to the chances of someone having strong hole cards. The more players there are, the more chance there is that someone is sitting on something special - or something that could be special after the flop. This means that you need to play more conservatively pre-flop in a 10 handed table than you will in a short-handed game.

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The way they play
After playing a few hands you should have a good idea of whether you're playing with loose-aggressive maniacs who raise everything or with rocks who like to play slow and trap their opponents. Your strategy should be adapted to your opposition. If you are ever in any doubt, err on the side of caution and play tight with hands you can have some confidence in. Poker isn't a lottery and if you rely on blind luck you will lose in the long run.

How much you have
If you have a mammoth pot then you can afford to play a little looser. For example, you could call a small bet to see if you can come good on a flush or open straight draw. But if you're short-stacked the situation is totally different, and you should look for a hand you can play with maximum aggression, going all in before anyone has even seen the flop. If your opponents fold then you'll have increased your stack. If they call you'll have a fair chance of doubling up. What you mustn't do is play the same way all the time as if your stack was irrelevant, because that's not the case by any means.

Relation to the blind
The earlier your play position, the less you can influence the pot, because there will still be plenty of players yet to make a decision. Late position is the best for influencing the pot because you will have seen many or all of your opponents. This being the case, the strategy table below provides pre-flop play suggestions based on where you are sitting in relation to the big blind.

When consulting this table please bear the following points in mind: "under the gun" means that you are the first to act, "button" means you are dealing and the letter "s" in hole card abbreviations means "suited" (for example, A-Ks = Ace and King of the same suit).

Hands Can be played at position

A-A, K-K, Q-Q,

J-J, A-Ks

under the gun, early, medium, late, button

T-T, A-Qs, A-Js,

K-Qs, A-K

under the gun, early, medium, late, button

9-9, J-Ts, Q-Js,

K-Js, A-Ts, A-Q

early, medium, late, button

T-9s, K-Q, 8-8, Q-Ts,

9-8s, J-9s, A-J, K-Ts

early, medium, late, button

7-7, 8-7s, Q-9s, T-8s, K-J, Q-J,

J-T, 7-6s, 9-7s, A-Xs, 6-5s

medium, late, button

6-6, A-T, 5-5, 8-6s, K-T,

Q-T, 5-4s, K-9s, J-8s, 7-5s

medium, late, button

4-4, J-9, 4-3s, T-9, 3-3, 9-8,

6-4s, 2-2, K-Xs, T-7s, Q-8s

late, button

8-7, 5-3s, A-9, Q-9, 7-6, 4-2s, 3-2s, 9-6s,

8-5s, J-8, J-7s, 6-5, 5-4, 7-4s, K-9, T-8


How you personally like to play
Poker is a game that can be played in different ways depending on your personality, and this is one of the things that makes it so enjoyable. If you want to play aggressively, you can wait for prime pocket cards and raise pre-flop. If you want to play cautiously, you can slowplay your hands, either calling or making just a small bet in the hope of building a larger pot. If you want to play tight you can focus on playing the hands exactly as recommended in the previous table. If you want to play loose, you may choose to ignore position when you are able to limp into a hand by making a modest call. However, just remember that changing your style of play can be a useful strategy in itself, so don't get so hung up on "playing tight" when loosening up would help you to surprise and get an advantage over your opponents.

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