Pre-Flop Strategy in Texas Hold’em: What Does Every Player Need to Know?
Posted on September 14, 2020 | 3:49 pm
The status of Texas Hold’em as the world’s favorite variety of poker has been confirmed the world over. Top tournaments are televised, some of the game’s most charismatic players household names – sometimes it seems that everyone on the street not only knows the basic rules, but the basics of strategy as well!
The sad truth, though, is that the fine points of Hold’em strategy are woefully misunderstood. One of the most crucial, and least understood elements is proper pre-flop strategy.
Decisions at this phase of the game often get short shrift…
…they don’t usually make the TV highlight reel, and lack the drama of a final card reveal.
Nonetheless, they often make the difference between a winning and losing session.
Though this will be especially important to beginners, players of all experience levels should know that there’s always more to learn about poker. Especially if they’re serious about winning.
Some key elements of smart tactics before the communal cards have come out:
Know When to Fold ‘em
After determining where to play, by far the most important decision players can make pre-flop is whether to be in the hand at all!
Almost all beginners fall prey to the age-old trap of playing too many hands. Those who exercise discipline and don’t throw their money away on poor hands will have a massive advantage over those who do not.
Just imagine a poker table where your hand would always be a premium one? That’s the reality for those who are able to throw away poor and medium-quality cards before the flop.
More than this, it’s incredible how much money can be thrown away on calling pre-flop “just to see.” Those with more experience know how to bet newbies off pots in situations like these, and without a decent hand, it’s hard to retaliate.
Another classic trap awaiting newbies is the tendency to think too much about the cards in your hand, and not nearly enough about table position.
Sitting “on the button” provides a tremendous advantage, because in all betting rounds after the flop, all opponents will be forced to act first. This means lots of free information!
This makes it easy to “buy” hands will a well-timed bet, or to avoid sticky situation with multiple raisers. Therefore…
…one can and should bring a much looser approach when seated in late position, and a much tighter one in early position.
How to Bet with Premium Hands
Most people know the importance of raising pre-flop when they have a great hand.
But not all premium hands are created equal!
Some hands, like AK, KK and QQ, do very well heads-up, but tend to fall behind when multiple players are in the pot.
Other holdings, like suited connectors or lower pocket pairs, may not yield much when going two-handed, but have the potential to yield a huge payday when lots of people are in the pot.
This is because they’re much more likely to make sure winners – straights, flushes, three-of-a-kinds, or full houses – than other hands.
Therefore, pre-flop raises should generally be larger with the kinds of hands that excel against one or two other players – higher betting will drive out more opponents. AK, AQ, KK, QQ, and JJ fall into this category.
However, when hole cards favor larger pots, pre-flop raises should be more modest. In these cases, players should want their opponents to call, so as to create a large pot that can be won when straights, flushes, and full houses are made. Hands that should be bet this way include suited connectors below KQ and pocket pairs below eights.
Pro tip: it’s easy to see how certain hands fare against others with this neat app available at our sister site, Wizard of Odds. Simply plug in hand values and watch which do best with one or two opponents, and which favor party pots.
Don’t Be A Calling Station
Poker is filled with paradoxes, and one of the least well-understood is this:
It takes a better hand to call than it does to raise.
Most players, especially beginners, do exactly the opposite. When they see a decent hand (say, AJ suited, in middle position), they will happily call a raise, thinking a medium-quality hand like this is “worth seeing the flop.”
The decent hand has mostly likely become a losing one, and good money has been thrown away in the bargain!
Especially before the flop, the best policy is usually to raise or to fold.
Raise because the hand is good, or fold because it isn’t. Someone who is “just calling,” unless they’re concealing monsters like pocket aces or kings, will be astonished at how quickly their bankroll dwindles away.
When it doubt pre-flop, just fold! It often costs nothing.
Then, when a monster hand arrives, there will be more chips left to go forth and multiply.
These pre-flop guidelines may seem basic, but players shouldn’t be surprised if their bottom line is transformed by observing them.
And don’t forget that some of the most important decisions an online gambler can make take place before sitting down at the table: where the best bonuses might be found, white kind of betting action is most appealing, and more.
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